Years ago, Brittany watched "The National Parks: Americas Best Idea" by Ken Burns, on Netflix. She fell in love with John Muir, and the story of him and Teddy Roosevelt camping in Yosemite. She loved how passionate and present Muir was and felt that even 100 years later, so many people could still relate and benefit from his words. So the first time entering the park, and seeing Inspiration Point looming in front of her, Brittany couldn't help but tear up.
Our first day in the park was spent hoofing it around the valley floor. We parked the car somewhere in the "middle" near Yosemite Falls, and headed off to explore Mirror Lake, Happy Isles, the meadows, and then El Captain. The park is really bike friendly ; we wish we had thrown ours in the back of the truck, and will do so next time we visit the park. Mirror Lake was about a 3 mile hike from Happy Isles, and upon reaching our destination, we realized that it was a seasonal lake and was currently all dried up. So instead of gazing at a lake, we ate our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and took in the views of Half Dome. Having arrived to the park in late fall, Bridal Veil Falls and Yosemite Falls were not flowing as strong as they do in the spring, but were still quite beautiful. With dusk starting to descend, we began the 16 mile drive up to Glacier Point, hoping to catch some sunset views.
After our first day in the park, Brittany was determined to backpack for couple of days on the John Muir Trail. A Park Ranger encouraged her to head on up to Clouds Rest, first stopping at Little Yosemite Campground. Looking up the route online, blogs echoed the stories of bears visiting the Little Yosemite Campground. Nick was already worried about her heading out by herself, and Mr. Safety was not happy to hear about bears being a common occurrence. Disappointed, Brittany instead found herself a tent site in the valley for a couple of nights.
The first night went great, she walked most of the valley again during the day, lamented on the backcountry, met a new friend, and then read John Muirs writings until she fell asleep. Wednesday morning, she awoke to a heavy rain outside her tent. Waiting for it to die off around 10 am, she got up and started to plan her day, noting that a weather app called for on and off rain and thunder storms. Luckily, there were a couple of museums and theaters in Yosemite village, and she was able to find some things to do under shelter. After exhausting her indoor options, she started to head back to her tent on foot. Following her were deep rolls of thunder, threatening more rain. Quickly racing towards her tent, she ran into a couple more friends and they planned to meet up for a campfire if the rain ceased. Reaching the tent, she realized that a pool of water was forming around the base. As this was her first solo trip, she decided to wait it out and see if the rain was going to stop, or if she needed to move it. The rain continued to pound down and soon the tent footprint was floating on water. Begrudgingly, Britt went out to examine the situation and a nice Canadian man passing through confirmed her decision to move the tent to higher grounds. It continued to storm for four hours and thankfully, her little REI tent kept everything dry inside.
Once the rain stopped to a drizzle, she ventured out to make her dinner. It was a freeze dried delicacy of eggs, peppers and hash browns that she had been saving for her last night. After pouring the water into the plastic pouch, she started to clean her camp as it "cooked". Turning her back to put her jet boil in the bear box, she heard a rustling noise and shined her head lamp on the picnic table. Sitting on the table, trying to open her dinner, was a large raccoon. Knowing he had been discovered, he grabbed the bag in his mouth, dragging it in the dirt as he ran off into the woods. Luckily, Brittany had packed extra ramen noodles just in case.
The next morning, she packed up her gear and campsite, making breakfast as she went. The raccoon must have let the forest know she was a easy target, because she soon discovered a coyote was casing her campsite. She kept an eye out, not too worried, and soon set out to meet a friend at Bridal Veil Falls. The shuttle system changes schedules at the end of summer and no longer offers routes to destinations farther than the central Valley. Unaware of that minor detail, Brittany set out to catch the bus and learned that she would have to hoof the last 4 miles in an hour, with her overweight backpack, in order to meet her friend in time. Thankfully Yosemite Valley has cell service and her friend caught up with her after the first 2 miles, and drove them both on up to Taft Point to hang.
The next day, after arriving home, Brittany and Nick woke up at 7 am to catch a shuttle up to Glacier Point. From there, we hiked the 9 miles up, across and down to the valley. The Panoramic Trail took us up close and personal with Vernal Falls, Nevada Falls, Illiloutte Falls, Half Dome, Emerald Pool and had awesome views of the Valley. Since Brittany never got to properly hike the Muir Trail, we chose the slightly longer route back to the valley via the John Muir Trail.
After a day of rest, Brittany was going to meet up with a friend over in the Hetch Hetchy Valley (dam) and check out Muirs most favorite spot. The day soon turned into rain storms, and thus snow storms up in the higher elevations. Tiago road soon closed, and our chances of exploring further than the valley floor lessened. Waiting out the weather for a couple of days, we headed 2 hours south to Kings Canyon National Park. Kings Valley floor was also shut off due to snow, but it was fun checking out the giant groves of Sequoias higher up. One of the trails took us right by a sawdust pile from a 1920's lumber mill.
While we wish we could explore more, we still need to get to Breck by December 1st, so onward to snow and Tahoe!