Good Times, Great Oldies in Yosemite!
During my time off the PCT, I took some time off writing my daily recaps as well. But I thought it’d still be fun to do a brief run through of all the fun activities we got into!
Ok, so maybe not so brief…
Early morning rise, then breakfast with Snickers at Jack’s Restaurant. We were the first customers in the door. I went for the cinnamon french toast and was not as impressed with this second visit to the restaurant. Still a classic though.
Next, I walked down the street to the Enterprise Rent-A-Car arriving at 8:00am as they were opening for the day. We didn’t make a reservation prior and at first they were too swamped getting cars in and out to deal with me. Then, after some frustrations trying to add two free rental days from reward points I’d acquired throughout my work travels, I succeeded in obtaining the silver fox, a stylish little Nissan Versa.
It was later in the morning than we’d hoped at this point, but our spirits were still high. We checked out of the hostel, said our goodbyes to Snickers who planned to rest up for some time in Bishop, then drove down to the grocery store (Vons) to get some snacks for the drive. It was weird to drive after having not for so long.
After stocked up on some tasty things, we started out again only to stop a few hundred yards north to pick up two PCT hitchhikers. I forgot their names, but we had some good convo while squished in our little car. They hoped to make it up to Reno, NV and find a snow free section of trail as well. We brought them as far as we could, to the small town of Lee Vining, then we turned left up the Tioga Road, to cross the Sierra and enter Yosemite Valley from the mountain range’s west side.
Unfortunately, we were just late of missing the 10:00-11:00am opening when they were letting vehicles pass through. Bummer. Again, it didn’t bother us too much. The next opening was 3:00-4:00pm, and so we turned around to check out what we could near Lee Vining!
To keep things shorter, I’ll summarize by saying we hung around town, had lunch, did some exploring of Lake Mona, and then made our way to Yosemite Valley! Once there, we just barely made it to the visitor center before closing and got the info. about where we could stay. Next, we set up our tents in the backpackers camp, an area set aside for those about to set out on a backpacking trip or who just returned from the wilderness from one. As PCT hikers, they very nicely let us stay here a night (it’s super busy and hard to find available space to stay in Yosemite Valley apparently)!
The rest of the night was getting our first feel for this amazing place! The views are stunning. Everywhere you look you’re surrounded by steep, drastically high mountain cliffs, including the striking feature of Half Dome!
Lake Mona, Tufa, and Craters…Tufalicious!
First Glimpses of Yosemite NP, it’s wildlife, and Lower and Upper Yosemite Falls…
I was up before the girls and so walked towards one of the food spots in the valley, Degnan’s Kitchen. A coffee and doughnut did the trick. Like I said already, its amazing just walking through this place. I had a new friend nearby to share my breakfast with as well…
Our plan for the day was to try and get a permit to hike to the top of Half Dome. Unfortunately, we hadn’t acquired any of their lottery picks that Cheer had applied for and so we went to the Wilderness Center to see what we could do. We spent a good couple hours there, and eventually came away with a permit, but not for Half Dome. Instead, it would be for one night in the backcountry starting tomorrow for an Eagle Peak and El Capitan expedition. We were excited for it and glad to have a plan. They also said we could camp another night at the backpackers area!
Cheer acted as our tour guide throughout all this since she’s been to the park before and could show us around! So for the afternoon, she led us on a day hike along the very beginnings of the John Muir trail to see Vernal and Nevada Falls! It was all-around a fantastic experience. Amazing volumes of water tumbling down, huge granite domes (Liberty Cap), and our first bear siting!
As Donna and Tom Haverford like to do on occasion, this morning we decided we’d “Treat Yo’ Self!” (ourselves) to the famous breakfast at the Majestic Yosemite Hotel aka Ahwahnee Hotel. All the names of the places in the valley have been changed in the last couple years, something Cheer was quite upset about, and Calzone and I agreed with her on. Seems dumb to change the history of it all. But the breakfast was indeed superb and felt like we were eating in the Great Hall of Hogwarts. To top it off, our amazing host/waiter ended up generously waving the steep price of the buffet for us! Most amazing trail magic I’ve experienced yet!
Afterwards, we prepared for our Yosemite backpacking experience! Then, set out for the Camp 4 trailhead to Upper Yosemite Falls! We joined the crowds going up. And up it was! Super steep switch-backing trail. But, we succeeded in conquering the waterfall, then continued on to defeat Eagle Peak! Some of the very best views I’ve ever seen looking down on Yosemite Valley and seeing not only Half Dome, but Upper Yosemite Falls and Nevada Falls too. Truly amazing experience getting to camp up there with Calzone and Cheer. The tough climb was worth it!
The next morning, I attempted to do a time lapse of the sunrise, but it didn’t turn out great. I took some pre-sunrise photos though! Then, Calzone and I went for an expedition to tackle El Capitan. Yes, thee El Cap from Free Solo and Alex Honnold’s unreal ascent! We like to think of ourselves as free solo backpackers. In reality, it was a fairly easy 4 mile roundtrip to the “top”. We actually climbed down a bit too to find the actual edge of the straight cliff! Yikes!
Cheer would have liked to join, but was having some pain from the day before and so said she was quite content to spend her morning at our campsite. Thus, we also did the hike without all our gear in the packs, which was super nice. We were back around 10:30am or so, then packed up, and made the steep walk back down. Head phones with tunes for all of us during the worst switch-backing touristy areas. Still, we had some good times on the way down too!
Back down in the valley we had a restful afternoon and evening! And got to experience this fun-loving young bear chasing after some ducks (please ignore my commentary)! Are you kidding me Yosemite?
Our last day in the park started with the same walk to the coffee that’d I’d done earlier. I enjoyed getting to chat with my siblings via the cellular telephone as well! I eventually saw Cheer and Calzone at the coffee spot as well. Then, it was packing up and heading out. We were right in the line of cars ready for the 10-11am opening of Tioga Road. It’s an amazing drive if you ever get the chance. And I hope my photos and video will be a plug for you to make a trip to the valley as well!
Once back over to Lee Vining, we made a pit stop to pick up a fellow PCT traveler….Snickers!!! Actually, we’d been communicating throughout the week and he had taken more time to rest his knee than originally planned, so it worked out great for our team to reunite and go north together! The rest of the day was spent driving up to Chester, CA together. We stopped near Carson City, NV for In-N-Out (finally experienced this animal style I’d been hearing about and the neopolitan shake) and for resupply at Trader Joe’s and Walmart.
We got to Chester pretty late and after checking out the motel selection opted for the Best Western. We split a room together, got some groceries for dinner, then ended the night with a very relaxed hot tub!
Tomorrow, I’d be getting up earlier (around 4:30am) to drive to Reno, Nevada to catch my flight to Denver, Colorado and start Trailcation #2 with the fam! The rest of the team planned to hang at least another day in Chester, than get back on the PCT! So, this was goodbye for now. It’s a long way to Canada, and I believe ours paths will cross yet again😊