Daily Archives: September 20, 2012

Yosemite – (Yoh–sem–it–ee: For Mom/Madeleine)


Ok, so we had a beautiful drive into Yosemite, with great views of all the peaks and down into the valley.

The view over Yosemite valley, with the Half Dome in the distance

Once in the valley we hit all the information and wilderness offices to arrange the required permits to go backcountry hiking and camping for the next few days. Thankfully we managed to arrange a permit that would also allow us to climb the Half Dome, otherwise we would have to enter a lottery as there are only so many permits issued per day. Once we had all of our permits in hand we headed to the campground reservation office to arrange a site for the night. The ranger there was nice enough to let us know that everything in the valley was 100% full, so our only option was to sleep in our tent at a walk in only site. We weren’t keen for an extra night in the tent, but the only other option was to drive out of the valley again (at least an hours drive). As we were about to leave the ranger mentioned that we could put our names on a list, in the hope that we might get a site from a cancellation or no-show, but that the list already had 35 names, so would probably be a waste of time for us… Yippee, we were the second last to get a site! This was great because we really needed to get organized for our next 2 nights in the wilderness.

The next morning, Saturday, we emptied Ginger of all bear enticing food (everything!) and put it in the numerous bear bins around the trailhead parking lot. They show you lots of pictures of bears that tore through cars to get to food! The bears just peel the door from the the top of the window like a tin of sardines. We were pretty sure we’d be OK but wanted to make sure Ginger was safe while we were away.

We started trekking straight uphill for the next few hours with our packs. We thought we were making great progress until we got to a sign that said 8.4 MILES (not kms!) still to go to Merced Lake – and this was after already climbing for 3 hours! We didn’t make it to Merced Lake where we were to camp until 6pm, and were both dirty and completely pooped. When we double checked the map we had hiked 20km and climbed well over a 1,000 metres. We managed a wash in the freezing creek and a decent pasta dinner before flopping into bed. Despite the tough day it was a beautiful walk through steep sided glacier carved canyons with beautiful waterfalls and streams.

The valley we hiked up

Dave with pack on

Christine enjoying breakfast

Hiking back down the valley

We had a slower morning the next day and decided to go back the same way we came as the rivers on the other side of the loop we had planned were all dried up. No water to drink is not so cool. We had a really nice leisurely walk back to the bottom of the big Half Dome hike that we were anticipating so much for the next day. We had a wash, dinner and then hung out by the communal campfire and met some really friendly and interesting fellow hikers. Especially the entertaining Wisconsin guys!

Chilling at the camp site

We were up pretty early on Monday to start our ascent of the famous Half Dome.

Great views on the way up

Dave – still climbing

We made it to the bottom of the really steep cable climb by about 10:30 (after an introductory steep and scary part).

The view up to Half Dome on the way up

Zoomed in on the ‘U’ you can just see the climbers on the cable way

After watching some others start the climb and then give up we both decided that we were happy not to go to the top and chickened out. Too freakin steep and scary!

Looking at the cable way

After an early lunch and observing the cables we both reconsidered and found ourselves at the bottom scrummaging through all the discarded gloves looking for a pair that would do. After we fitted ourselves out we started the steep and horrifying ascent, almost straight up (well it felt like it!). Slowly, slowly we pulled ourselves up and eventually made it to the fantastic and well worth it summit.

Christine coming up to the top

Looking back down the cables

Great views over the valley

Christine on top of the dome

The obligatory couple photo

Great views from the top

After all the photo ops were exhausted we started climbing down, which Christine thought was much more frightening than going up. Dave helped guide Christine down as did the many fellow climbers who could sense that she was a having a bit of a freak out.

Christine on the way down

But all is well that ends well and we both made it down safely!

VERY happy to be down

Except we still had 5+ hours of hiking down to do. It was another very long day, but we were thrilled to see Ginger, not bear scarred, and looking like a palace. So happy that we had reserved ahead at one of the busy Valley campsites, and that we could finally take a hot shower again.

Tuesday we were up early and on the road to the north eastern part of Yosemite – Tuolumne Meadows. Ginger climbed like a champion to a new all time high of 2700m and we got a nice campsite. We took it easy exploring by bike the flat meadows and river area. Then we vegged out at the campsite, wrote this blog, drank some wine and rested our poor feet. A great day!

Christine on Tuolumne Meadows

Dave – just standing

Christine – just standing

Dave very happy to be finished hiking!


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Note: This blog was ready to post last Thursday (13 Sept), but we couldn’t find decent internet access, so it’s going up a week late – Sorry!

We started our California adventure by heading to Lassen Volcanic National Park which is a few hours from the border. But a very mountainous and hilly few hours. And of course we were arriving there late and it was dark and the deer were out in full force. We didn’t make it to our destination and instead parked a few miles short in a campsite along the road for the night. The next morning, after a few more ascents with Ginger we arrived at the National Park entrance and got all the info we needed. We spent the day checking out all the volcano hot spots, literally, and getting ready for our first backcountry hike the next day.

The view from up high on Mt Lassen

Looking down into Bumpass Hell

The steaming vents and landscape at Bumpass Hell

The sulphurous steam at Bumpass Hell

Our backcountry hike was around a couple of lakes, Butte and Snag lake, volcano lava fields and a final climb up and over a cinder cone.

Ready to hit the trail!

The view of the lava field and cinder cone across Butte Lake

It was hard going with the terrain being mostly sand and fine cinder. Christine was not impressed. We saw lots of deer enroute and they even came to visit us at our camp site.

Hiking around Snag Lake

Christine deer spotting

Christine and the friendly deer around camp

A bear also came pretty close and just as we were about to start cooking our dinner. But he pretty much stayed to himself and did a little bit of washing in the lake before heading in the opposite direction of us. Phewf! Before going to bed we tied up all our food and scented things and hung them between a couple of trees a distance away from our camp. We didn’t have any problems and did manage to get a pretty good sleep in our new sleeping bags and matts. And the tent also was a success.

Our new camping gear

The black bear at the lake

Dave remembers that there are Hershey bars in the bear bag!!

The edge of the lave field at Snag Lake

Christine climbing the cinder cone – and hating it!

The lava fields from the cinder cone

The view from the cinder cone, with Snag Lake in the distance

Dave on top of the volcano

The crater of the cinder cone

We made it out of the woods on Monday and headed to a campground to shower, do some laundry and get ready for San Francisco. We’re going into the big city!

Dave, very happy to be finished hiking

We left Tuesday and drove through a fair bit of traffic to land at Glenn and Emma’s, friends of Dave’s from Melbourne, in downtown San Fran. They even were so gracious as to give up there bed to us! And we really appreciated the 2 nights of comfort and space. When we got there Tuesday we went out for a super meal at a Peruvian restaurant. The next day we got up and out and explored the city. Mostly walking and looking at the Golden Gate Bridge, the steep hills, the cable car, the seals, etc… Lots to see and a beautiful day to do it.

In San Francisco, with the Golden Gate bridge behind

The seals at the fishermans wharf

The famous cable cars

The steep streets of San Fran, with Alcatraz island in the background

Dave riding the cable cars

At dinner with Glenn and Emma. Thanks again guys!!!

After a very long lie in on Thursday morning we loaded the bikes back on the van and hit the road again. We are now in an RV park just outside of Yosemite National Park, and will hit the park first thing in the morning.

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