Yosemite Hike October 2009 - Uphillhike
post-template-default,single,single-post,postid-12,single-format-standard,qode-quick-links-1.0,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,,qode-title-hidden,qode_grid_1300,qode-content-sidebar-responsive,qode-theme-ver-11.0,qode-theme-bridge,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-5.0.1,vc_responsive

Yosemite Hike October 2009

I was in San Ramon, California on a business trip to meet the people who worked in the Voice Mail Tier I/II support center who I had just been assigned to manage. Since I was conviently close to Yosemite, I stayed over an extra week to backpack through the wilderness for 8 days. My first day of backpacking was on October 17th, a little late in the season with many facilities closed or cut back in an area famous for its heavy snowfalls. The positives was were vanished crowds and plentiful hiking permits.   I finished up and began my return trip to the Oakland, CA airport on the 25th.
The following is my journal, but first, here are a few extras.

  • Bear tracks in the snow headed toward my planned camp at Givens Meadows.
  • A deer with huge rack standing in the middle of Yosemite Village, people crowded around, a woman throwing her bannana to or rather at the buck. Others admonishing her, saying, "Deer don’t eat bannanas". All standing way too close to the beast.
  • Leaving the valley toward the Reflecting Pool a sign reads, "Don’t let young children run ahead" and explains that they can be snatched by wildcats. It goes on to explain what to do in a wildcat encounter. Essentially, one shouldn’t run away, rather act agressive, make oneself look bigger, and fight back like mad if attacked. Also, most importantly, don’t travel alone. I had just completed a 5 day segment without seeing another human being and I was getting ready to enter an area where the trail wound through rocky overhangs which I easily imagined would be ideal country for wildcat dens and perfect launching pads for a cat to spring onto my back.
  • Sign at Curry Village, "Don’t feed the squirrels", with further explanation that they lose fear of people, become fat, and attract wildcats.
  • My food. Usually, I had a choice of mashed potatoes or dehydrated dinner for supper. Poured olive oil over the top. Always had oatmeal with vanilla whey protein for breakfeast. Lunch was always 2 tuna fish wraps. I had almonds, craisins, and a few chocolate covered almonds along with 1 Granola bar per day for a snack. Pretty simple. Pretty much the same every day.
  • The cold. Not too bad. My new 10 degree down bag had me sweating most nights. I learned to unzip it and lay it over the top of me to keep from sweating. If I was cold, it was usually due to the dampness of the perspiration. The night after it snowed was the coldest with water bottles partially freezing in my tarp, probably the middle 20’s. Usually it hit about 30 degrees at night and one night I don’t think it dropped below freezing. The first night spent in the Valley’s lower elevation, it didn’t get near freezing.
  • Finding the trail. It was tough from Givens Meadows to beyond Merced Pass to Lake Ottoway and return. Probably about 4 miles. No tracks. No people here since at least a week. I looked for a slight depression in the snow that marked the bed of the trail. I looked for indications of water runoff dams on the trail and I looked for saw cuts on fallen trees where they had been cleared for the trail. Along rock face walks (many of these) rocks had been lined up along the border of the trail.
  • Pack weight. About 29 pounds starting out. Usually, I am at about 23 pounds. The bear cannister added 2.5 pounds and I had some extra clothing for warmth. My sleeping bag actually saved some weight since the 10 degree bag weighed 2.5 pounds, the same as my 40 degree down bag and much less than my made in China 0 degree bag

The purple line traces the first 5 days of my hike going counterclockwise. The little purple squares are my camps. I resupplied in the valley. The Orange/Yellow looking line traces the last 3 days of my hike going clockwise. The little orange squares are my camps.

Day 0

Took the train from Jack London Square in Oakland to Merced. JLS is on the waterfront with cool shops, marinas, and restaurants. The station is a sort of dividing line between a run down drab area and the trendy waterfront. I settled down in a comfortable single row window seat and took in the scenary. We tracked miles along the bay where wood debris from the recent storms had been carried down hillsides into streams and on to the bay. Fishermen lined the shore with one brave angler hip deep in an attempt to gain a choice position. The rails of course were lined with the dirtiest of industry, heaps of abandoned junk and occasional graffiti. The bay had areas with forests of rotting pylons. This bay has an industrial history. Beyond the shores we entered agriculture. Some vegetables, but mostly silage and miles of fruit trees. Once in Merced, I wandered and asked directions until I reached the fast food district. After eating, I relaxed at Starbucks, stealing wifi and recharges. Back to the train station and YART shuttle.

I stepped off the shuttle in pitch dark. I made my way to the backpackers campground, but found it full. Not much choice. It was late and I squeezed my tiny tarp tent into the area. I noticed that everyone had an incredible amount of gear and seemed more like car campers. Asking around, I found out that all were climbers. They stayed here as long as they wanted. I had been directed to the wrong campground. No matter. The next morning, I saw Yosemite for the first time. Stepping out of the food court, warmed by coffee, I looked up and saw the falls, dropping water that soon blew into mist on its long way down.


On Amtrak at Jack London Square starting journey to Merced, California.

Day 1

Too much, so I will try to keep it short. I was awake before 5 am and broke camp before the rangers could come along and bust me. Stealthy dude I am, who moves in the dark. After running all over Yosemite for permits, denatured alcohol, and locker, the shuttle dropped me off at stop 7 near where I had camped and at 10:30 I started my hike. Over the swinging bridge and finally on the 4 mile trail to Glacier Point. Up switch backs that gave endless views up both ends of the valley. I had alternating views of El Capitan and Yosemite falls. Eventually I felt above the falls across the valley and the cars looked like ants. More sights came into view as I climbed. Panorama trail was equal to the valley views with multiple rock domes and Nevada falls and Illoulette falls. The whole day seemed like a Disney made movie. Too many spectaculars crammed into the same view. God didn’t create like this, only Hollywood movie producers. Leaving Panorama trail and heading up Illoulette creek, then toward Lake Buena Vista, I said good bye to my fellow man. I won’t be surprised if I don’t see another soul for the next 4 days. Turning toward Buena Vista, I diverge away from the clear rushing western creek setting and into a hell of burned lodge pole pines. So much dead wood had fallen over the trail it was hard to tell where the trail led. I was hurting by this point. The climb and weight had taken its toll. I hoped that I would reach a creek shown on the map without having to backtrack for water. Finally, I heard water. Made camp, cooked too much food, but forced it down so I wouldn’t have to pack it out. Those last bites of mashed potatoes wern’t appealing. Now there is just a little light in the sky and I lay under my tarp feeling the cold evening breeze kick up and glad to be under my warm down.

My "Stealth" camp at Climbers Campground near trailhead for Lower Yosemite Falls Trail. Set up in dark, broke camp in dark.

Day 2

Should have camped at the spot I had originally planned. A meadow with nice views of domes and a rushing stream.

I had this day to myself. Only evidence of others was the day old snow tracks of a pair that passed the 3.8 mile segment past Lakes Buena Vista and Royal Arch. The other 12 miles hadn’t seen human feet for at least 4 days according to the snow.

At first there was a hint of snow in the shelter of a rock. Then I was walking on snow, later mushing, and soon trudging through endless wet snow and snow melt.

I stopped at Lake Buena Vista and took a dip. I found a sunny spot on the shore that was sheltered from the wind. I spread out, ate lunch, layed in the sun, and took a nap.

After tuening toward Buck Camp, the clouds began to grow. I saw 5 deer prancing across the meadow high above me.

My planned campsite again didn’t work out. Givens Meadows was a wooded area full of deep snow. The creek at Givens was deep and overflowing with snow melt. I detoured through the woods until I managed 2 crossings over large fallen trees. I made my way back up the far side of the creek until I regained the trail.

Climbing out of the snowy woods, I found that the slope didn’t have the deep snow like the lower creek area. I found a sheltered level area om the slope and chose it for camp. Shortly after setting up and starting dinner it began to rain.

Lake Buena Vista

Day 3

I thought I had walked through snow yesterday, but it didn’t compare to today. Shortly after leaving camp, I entered snow often sinking to mid calf. At Merced Gap it was difficult to pick out the trail. It felt dangerous, particularly when it began to snow. I reached the junction with trail to Red Peak gap, but I knew it was far too dangerous to go to 11,300 feet. .Merced at better than 9000 feet was bad enough. I was worn out with over 2 miles of plowing through the snow. An oatmeal breakfeast followed by water chugging did not agree with the altitude. It made me nauseous. Feeling better, I decided to hike the Red Peak trail as far as lower Ottoman lake. As I climbed it snowed harder. I briefly considered camping at the lake, but thought better of freezing my tail off in a snow storm at that elevation. Good thing because my tracks were already getting buried in the snow. The fresh coat of snow also made it even more difficult to pick out the slight depression that was the bed of the path. At least I had my tracks to return by. Another worry was whether I would be able to pick out the untracked trail once I returned to the junction. Luckily, the snow going down from that point wasn’t as deep as that at Merxed Pass. I looked for log cuts where trees had been cleared from the trail. I also looked for rocks that were typically lined along the border of the trail. These trails don’t have blazes.

Now I am sitting by a campfire with my wet things drying. Just before sunset the skys cleared to a full globe of blue.  I am not to hungry. The exertion and altitude killed my appetite.

Lower Ottoway Lake, the high point (elevation) of the trip at around 10,000 feet. Snow storm moving in.

Day 4

Didn’t sleep well. Water condensed on my tarp turning to ice and causeing the tarp to sag from the weight. Any move and my sleeping bag would get wet. I was warm enough, but always thinking about keeping the bag dry. Next night I will ventilate the tarp better.

Not far to go today. Just to the edge of the "no camping" zone surrounding the valley. Did not start until 11am. Built a fire and dried things out on the sunny rocks. Took a heart stopping morning dip in Illilouette Creek. Ice was melting off the creekside rocks and running into the stream. Based on the degree of freezing of the 2 liter while inside the tarp,  I guess it was in the low 20’s last night. This creek was easily the coldest water into which I had completly submerged. I held a rock ledge, lowered myself in, ducked my upper body and head, and quickly pulled myself onto the rock.

Eating lunch. Serving up tuna fish wraps on my granite countertop. I don’t think many could afford the typical $40 per sq ft for this slab of granite. It covers the hillside. Why don’t we make our countertops with natural unpolished granite? It’s uneven surface and rough grain seems so friendly. Not so, the highly polished glossy granite slabs of showpiece homes.

Saw a gossamer white string about 4 inches long float along. It was vertically aligned. A seed of some sort? It lifted off and rose staight up into the sky. I could follow it a great distance. Mystery.

Well that was my typical lunch. In the sun with the sound of Illiloutte Creek and view of Mount Star King to the north. Last night, the North Star was over Mt Star King. The 3 domes, Illiloutte Creek, and Polaris line up in a north south straight line.

Hiked to Mount Star ‘King and camped on an open hill just beneath. Great views all around from this hill. Slept with my head out the open end of the tarp and was rewarded with the "Tonight Show" appearance of stars, aircraft lights, milky way, and shooting stars. Again I did not sleep well. Congestion gave me a headache for the 2nd night in a row. I am fine during the day, so I am not really sick. Made some phone calls home. Had a nice call to Maura. She had a choral performance tonight.

Most scenic campsite yet found at base of Mt. Star King. Spotted about 10 shooting stars as I lay in sleeping bag with head out of open end of tarp.

Day 5

Out on the trail at first light. It was 7 plus miles to the valley and I wanted to get there before 10am when permits could no longer be had. The 10 am deadline is actually for permit reservations, not permits. I actually had until 4:30 pm. At any rate, I was in the valley at 9 am. I got my permit, took a shower, ate lunch, and resupplied. I only bought a box of granola bars, can of almonds, and bag of craisins. I had so much food left over, it was a I needed. I haven’t had my usual hiking appetite.

At Curry Village a squirrel tried to join me in dining on my
blueberry muffin. He ran up my leg. There were even squirrels running around inside the dining facility.

About 3;30 pm I  started the Snow Creek trail. It winded straight up the wall with uncountable short steep switchbacks. In the afternoon sun I was soon soaked. At the top, even though I put on fleece and jackets, the wet shirt underneath gave me chills as the evening temps dropped. Later I took off the wet under layer and replaced with dry. Once chilled, it is hard to warm up. I did pushups and ate hot chicken and rice to speed the warming process.

For the first time I have company. At least 2 other groups are camping up here. They would be hard to notice since this flat area around Snow Creek is so big.

Nevada Falls seen during quick 7 mile hike to Valley from Mt. Star King. Slower hike leaving Valley with the switchbacks climbing up Snow Creek Trail.

Day 6

Seemed like I hiked toward or around Mount Hoffman all day. I loved May Lake. I stopped to soak my feet, soak up the sun, eat, and take a nap. I spotted some trout in the crystal clear water.  I can see why they put a High Sierra camp there. I used my map and compass to locate some of the mountains these new vistas revealed. At near my northern most point I was able to see mountains far to the north such as Petit Peak, Western Peak, and Regulated Peak. They looked like the Alps.

One of the most distinguishable peaks in view was Cathedral Peak. It rises like a jagged cathedral spire.

One of the things I emjoy most is coming over a rise and seeing a new vista. it happened a lot today.

Camped along Murphy Creek, just north of Tenaya Lake. I pitched my tent on stone slab. I felt like being in the open. We will see if it is a mistake. I used extra padding underneath the sleeping bag to insulate from the cold stone. Instead of stakes, I used rocks to secure the tent.

Feeling more homesick and lonely today. I guess it was seeing people during my stop in the valley. Made me want more company. I did speak with a nice couple at May Lake. They were the only people I saw today.

May Lake with Mt. Hoffman in the background. My sunny spot for lunch and a nap.

Day 7

Slept well. Clear blue sky day. After walking down Tioga road,  picking up trail, and passing Sunrise trail junction, I began seeing other hikers; mostly day hikers making the Lake Tenaya – Clouds Rest round trip. Met David and chatted for about a half hour. He had section hiked the PCT, summited 80 Sierra peaks, and hiked extensively around Yosemite and Kings Canyon. Hiked along with 3 CA  day hikers, Doug, John, and Mark who appeared to be on some sort of guy’s day out with talk of women, etc.. They had all of the req gadgets and accoutrements including, GPS watch, Blackberry, and bowie knife in sheath strapped to chest; a real man’s outing into the wilderness. A fun bunch, even if a little ridiculous. One talked of hitting strip clubs on the trip home and others speculating on how long before his wife  would leave him. 

Hiked ahead and met young French couple, Francois and Ainiese. Began 5 – 10 minute conversation in French. The CA boys caught up, hearing our conversation as one by one they passed un the uphill slog. Ainiese indicated by sign a person punching out keys as texting when the first passed, Blackberry in hand texting and hiking. After the next passed with dagger strapped across chest, with a look of concern Ainiese asked, "Pourquois est-ce que ce homme-la a un couteau aussi grand?" I simply replied "Je ne sais pas." I later thought about it and decided that it was a guy’s weekend adventure in the wild and he was playing Davy Crockett with his Bowie.

The last narrow ridge of rock climbing to Cloud’s Rest was a little scary for me. I am a chicken when it comes to heights. The view just below of the cables on half dome convinced me that I would never have the courage to attempt that summit. The views from Cloud’s rest were fantastic. I could see most areas I had hiked and beyond such as the Cathedral Range and the Matterhorn peaks.

Other day hikers and over nighters were spread along the top of Cloud’s Rest. Going down the other side, I continued to pass hikers.

A Grouse stood motionless next to the trail allowing me to take close-up photos. Later, while filling my bottles at a spring, without regard to my presence,  a Grouse walked down the slope directly to the spring and began drinking.

Water resupplied, I was able to choose any suitable campsite. I found a nice wooded level spot about a half mile before the JMT junction. Loaded mashed potatoes with olive oil for supper. The warmest night yet. Slept the best yet by unzipping the bag.  Other nights I had a tendancy to altertnate  sweating with a slight chill. The bag never reached its limits on this trip.

Looking down at Half Dome and Yosemite Valley from Cloud’s Rest. To get here it was a harrowing climb over a narrow path of exposed rock ridge with long drops on both sides. Of course, I don’t go for walking on ledges of skyscrapers which is what it felt like.

Day 8

Descending to the valley, always seeing people until past Nevada Falls, it became a steady stream of Saturday visitors. Lower still at Vernal Falls the crowds on the trail sometimes created traffic jams.

Knowing the routine, in the valley I quickly showered and washed out clothes. A breakfast burrito and later a Reuban sandwich, I caught the 3:40 YART shuttle to Merced.

Larry, the local hostelier, picked me up from the YART stop in Merced. I mentioned my admiration of the variety of fruit trees here and how I always had wanted my own orange tree. Larry asked whether I had picked an orange. No. He took me to his orange tree, pointed out a ripe one and told me to jump for it. After several misses, he gave me a foothold boost and I snagged the fruit. It made a delicious breakfast the next morning.

Merced River between Half Dome Trail and Nevada Falls

Travel Day Home –

Breakfast at the hostel. Learn more about the agriculture of the area. Mostly almonds, but also peaches, cherries, apricots, grapes, English Walnuts, and apples. Larry even has a pomegranite tree in the backyard. He presses them for juice. Larry drops me off at the Amtrak station.

North San Francisco Bay from the train. During my flight home, I able to see the train tracks snake along the coast of the bay.