Yosemite Valley

Sunday was my last morning in Yosemite (insert face of extreme sadness), so I decided to treat myself (since a mini-vacation isn’t treat enough) to breakfast at the Ahwahnee Hotel (Majestic Yosemite officially, but whatever). I will likely never have an extra $400-$600 a night to stay there, so I will peasant sneak my way in with breakfast reservations. I said goodbye to my little cabin in the woods:

And headed to breakfast:

I was there at eight, so it was still pretty quiet and uncrowded which was lovely. They sat me right by a window and I enjoyed chatting with the two servers in my area for most of the meal. People always have the neatest stories of how they ended up working in National Parks. Maybe that will be me one day. I enjoyed some delicious $15 pancakes which would give my dad a full-blown seizure to know (which is why our family never eat a meal there). Ambiance ain’t cheap.

I spent about 30 minutes walking around the hotel exploring before heading out for the day. When I left, there was almost no one out and about, so it was easy to stop and take a billion photos on a whim. I was initially bummed at how cloudy it was, but it turned out to be a totally gorgeous morning for pictures.

And I drove up to Tunnel View for one last look because I was having a hard time motivating myself to leave.

I decided to extend my trip slightly by stopping at the Hetch Hetchy reservoir. I have never been in that area as the road has typically been closed due to snow when I have visited Yosemite in the past. I also always had a sour taste in my mouth over it because I had a high school coach who was OBSESSED with hating it. He was a running coach, so he often ran with us and talked incessantly about how angry it made him all the time and how they had destroyed a national treasure by flooding the valley. Then, of course, there were the indigenous people who were either killed or run out of the area after thousands of years of habitation and careful cultivation of the valley grasses and meadows. So, I was interested to see this place that had sparked such ire.

Before:

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After:

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It’s still a beautiful area, but what a loss.

I drove back to Sacramento after eating lunch at the dam, and got back to reality on Monday (against my own wishes). All I want is to be a full-time lady of leisure in the mountains. Is that too much to ask??

Vernal and Nevada Falls

On Saturday, I had initially planned to hike to Cloud’s Rest from Tenaya Lake, but after talking to a park ranger who told me that she thought it was too slick (there is a narrow rock ridge with steep drop offs that you have to pass which is apparently quit iffy when wet) to chance it, I opted out. My second choice was the Upper Yosemite Falls trail, but I spoke to a different park ranger who said he thought it was worse than Half Dome and you are pretty much hiking in direct sunlight the entire way (it’s the zig zag trail in the photo yesterday). Ew.

He and another park ranger with him both recommended the hike to the top of Vernal and Nevada Falls via the Mist Trail, so I decided on that. I took my sweet time getting going on Saturday morning and started the hike at nine. I walked the mile from Camp Curry (Half Dome Village *eye roll*) to the John Muir trailhead at Happy Isles Bridge, then walked on it until I got to the Mist Trail. It was a glorious morning – low 30s and sunny.

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The hike was beautiful and on a nice path for the first mile or so. I was a bit chilly in my fleece, but it was really nice weather for hiking. I’d certainly rather be too cold than even slightly warm.

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After about a mile or so (I have no sense of distance when walking), I started climbing steps and was able to view the Vernal Fall. It was so beautiful even though it was a fraction of the size it is in spring or summer.

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If you look closely, then you can see the tiny people on the rocks. Some idiots were actually swimming in the pool which is incredibly stupid considering it drains right into a fast moving river of giant boulders. I will never understand how people can be so careless around water. More people die on the Mist Trail than anywhere else in the park because of that current. I don’t go anywhere near the edge of the river, the pools, or climb around the rocks near the river – too many people slip, fall, and go over that way.

Anyway, after viewing the waterfall and judging careless people, the real steps began.

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Endless steps. My pedometer registered 100 flights by the top. I had a hard time on them because they were very steep and I kept making the mistake of looking down and getting light headed. Then there was this:

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Thank God for the hand rail because it was slick. I finally made it to the top of the fall and rested while watching natural selection in action. More idiots. Maybe I grew up with overly cautious parents, but never in my life has climbing over a fenced area on the edge of what is essentially a cliff seemed like a good idea. As children, we were never allowed to get off the trail, climb on things that were fenced off, or disobey the signs and warnings in the park. Maybe I’m a boring person, but I prefer safe and responsible adventuring.

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A view without foolish folk:
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I was going to turn around at this point and head back, but I fought against my inner lazy lady and kept on hiking toward Nevada Fall. It was an easy walk in the shade to the base.

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And then it was more stairs – what turned out to be almost 150 flights of stairs. Thankfully, stairs are a lot easier to climb up than just going over rocks. The view was pretty nice though.

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I made it to the top of Nevada Fall after three hours of hiking and it was far more spectacular than I could have ever imagined. I also enjoyed the company of two middle-aged Irish gentlemen who intermittently argued about Monty Python and sang folk songs for about an hour as we ascended the steps. They also shared some of their Whisky with me at the top and we had a lively discussion about the mosquitoes in Ontario versus Texas (one of them spent the past year in Canada). It was a charming way to survive the stairs.

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I relaxed for a half hour on top eating lunch and taking in the scenery.

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It only took me two hours to get back down and it was really easy (as opposed to going down at Mount Tallac). And I saw a little furry friend who was working on getting chunky for the winter:

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I stopped briefly at Vernal Fall again to enjoy the view:

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And I sent my sympathy down to all of the hobbits trudging up from below:

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The trail was certainly challenging at several points, but not miserably so. I didn’t feel like I was going to collapse when I finished and I even had enough energy to walk the mile back to my tent, then went on to the visitor’s center to check some more stuff out. It was nine miles round trip from Half Dome Village and totaled just over 250 flights of stairs on my pedometer, but it was worth every step. Here is a view of the two falls from Glacier Point:

I spent the rest of the afternoon piddling around the village area. One of my students I work with told me to check out the Miwok Indian village behind the visitor’s center, and I didn’t even know that was there. Talk about some devastating history (to be fair, show me some Native American history that isn’t devastating). My student told me that they still use the village for ceremonies today and shared some of their history, so I was glad I had a chance to visit (he’s a member of Miwok tribe in this area).

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Glacier Point to Sentinel Dome and Taft Point

Earlier this fall I remembered that there was a three day weekend around the corner (for Veterans Day), so I decided to spend it in Yosemite since it’s way less crowded the closer you get to winter. I originally planned to camp, but since you can’t reserve the campsites in the off season I had STUPID ANXIETY about it, and chickened out. I laid in bed for weeks completely panicked that I would arrive and there would be no campsites. So, I made other more official arrangements. On Thursday night I drove to Yosemite View Lodge in El Portal (which I highly recommend for off season as it’s nice, affordable, and has a spectacular view of the river) which is just a few miles from a park entrance. I woke up early Friday morning and drove into the park. I stopped about 57 times to take pictures of leaves.

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The really fantastic thing about traveling alone is that you can stop at every overlook and pullout to take 578 pictures of every leaf, stream, and mountain you see. And NO ONE is there to complain about it. ’Tis a dream. When I got into the park I stopped at Bridalveil Fall since it is so hard to access in the summer. I parked right next to the trailhead and there were only a few other cars in the parking lot.

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The fall isn’t as raging as it is in spring or summer, but I don’t care. It was still lovely and totally uncrowded.

I then drove up to my favorite view of the park – Tunnel View. Unfortunately, it was still early and was extremely cloudy, so the view wasn’t as over the top as usual, but it was still beautiful.

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I was going to hike Four Mile Trail up to Glacier Point because Glacier Point Road was closed earlier in the week, but on Thursday night the Yosemite National Park website had an update that the road was open again. I don’t know why I would walk up a mountain when I could drive up it, but I suppose there are probably some weirdos who feel differently about that. Even with the clouds, the view was still breathtaking.

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I ate a sandwich at Glacier Point, then on my way back I noticed that several cars were parked by a trailhead on Glacier Point Road. Since I had zero plans for the day, I hopped out of my car and decided to check it out. I ended up taking the 5.5 mile loop to Sentinel Dome and Taft Point. I am so glad I did because they sun came out and the view was insane. Sentinel Dome is a big granite dome that offers an almost 360 view of the area. The hike to the dome was short and easy, then you just had to make your way up the actual dome part which was steep, but not massive (like Half Dome). Rain was rolling in from one side, while they other was bright blue skies.

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The historic Jeffrey Pine used to stand on top of Sentinel Dome and was made famous by the Ansel Adams photograph in 1940, but it died in 1977 and fell over in 2003.

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I walked down from Sentinel Dome and took a loop trail over to Taft Point. You can hike to either Taft Point or Sentinel Dome in less than a mile or you can take a loop that is quite beautiful for a total of 5.5 miles and see both. At that point on Friday I was planning to do the hike to the top of Yosemite Falls on Friday, so I took a few pictures of that route.

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Not sad to have skipped that zig zag trail for miles. If only Rickon had run like that trail. Anyway, I enjoyed a peaceful walk in the forest on a nice dirt trail.

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After an hour or so I reached Taft Point and the Fissures. I was walking along not paying attention at all and almost fell in one because there were so many bushes around it.

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That would have hurt. This one was a bit more obvious.

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The view from Taft Point was also incredible (there is no bad view in Yosemite). Taft Point was named for President William Howard Taft who allegedly “came across” the point when touring with John Muir. He had intended to explore the area up from the valley by horseback, but alas, his girth was too much for any equine to bear. So, instead, his staff set out a fried chicken lunch allegedly near this spot. That’s some classic American President nonsense for ya. I DISCOVERED THIS. IT WAS ME. Regardless, Taft Point is the point pointing out there.

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It’s only a little over a two mile round trip to either Taft Point or Sentinel Dome, so it’s an easy and quick jaunt if you only have time for one. I highly recommend both.

After exiting Glacier Road, I stopped at Tunnel View again, then made my way down to the meadow by Half Dome Village for sunset.

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Le Magnifique as the French say. I then went to check in at Camp Curry (or Half Dome Village officially, but WHATEVER). I rented a heated tent which seemed super great until I had to find it in the dark. It was CREEPY. Everything was kind of orange from the lights and the white tents just seem like they are made for MURDER as they glowed in the darkness. I survived the night and was actually quite pleased with experience in the light of day. My cabin had a double bed and two twins, and was surprisingly spacious. I didn’t love walking to the bathroom in the cold darkness, but I had a headlamp on and I was motivated to hustle. The village got really quiet around 10 pm and I slept without interruption (I was really worried about noise) thanks to the hum of the heater in my tent and my earplugs.

There is really nothing like waking up in Yosemite Valley. It is just too beautiful.

Mount Tallac Trail

I was disappointed with myself over the summer because I only managed to go hiking twice. I hate that I live so close to so much awesome nature and I am not taking advantage of it. I intended to go more often, but work was busier than I expected it to be and I was super tired by the weekend. My boss is currently in China, so I made plans that coincided with him being abroad to actually get out and do something this past weekend (since I was fairly confident that I wouldn’t have to work unless there was an emergency). October is a great time to visit Tahoe because it’s between the super busy summer and winter seasons. And AUTUMNAL BEAUTY is around every corner.

Ridiculous.

Anyway, I drove up to South Lake Tahoe on Friday night so I didn’t I have to leave Sacramento at 4 am on Saturday. It was 27 degrees when I woke up and I wasn’t even sure I could get out of bed. I made it to the trailhead just after seven and there were only a couple of other cars there already. I had everything ready to go, but as I put my backpack on, I hit my elbow on the car door.

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I laid in my backseat with my backpack on for about 20 minutes because I thought my elbow was broken. I hadn’t even started and I was already injured. The damn thing is still swollen and it hurts to grip anything when my arm is bent at less than a 90 degree angle. It was not a great start. I eventually forced myself to get going, but I was not happy about it. It was a beautiful and clear morning, so the outstanding views eventually overtook my bad attitude.

 

There was also snow which I hadn’t really expected. I had stalked location tags on Instagram and NO ONE had any pictures of snow, so I was bit surprised to see so much of it on the trail.

As you can imagine, the higher I got, the more snow there was. As several of you suggested after my hike at Loch Leven Lakes, I purchased hiking poles and I was glad to have them despite my wonky elbow. There were several times that one of my feet completely slipped out from under me and the poles kept me from falling and busting my face.

It was a lovely hike with a casual uphill on a good trail until I reached what I consider to be a rock slide. My sister’s boyfriend says it’s actually a “scree” or “talus” field and that it is the norm for hiking in the Sierras, but WHAT DOES HE EVEN KNOW?? I didn’t have a good sense of where I was going, so it didn’t seem that bad when I was going up it.

Those pink dots are two people who screamed “BABE” at each other the entire time they were climbing. Then the guy would yell “POOP” and the woman would scream “EWWWW” every time they saw animal droppings. I hated them.

In an effort to put space between us, I took several breaks to enjoy the view:

I eventually got to the top and was rewarded with more gorgeous nature:I couldn’t see the trail because of snow, so I just kept following the footprints.

Eventually, I was on my hands and knees crawling up rocks through knee-deep snow. Something seemed amiss. I pulled out my handy AllTrails app and found myself:

I had gone the wrong way at a fork I don’t remember ever seeing and was in some sort of alternate trail hell. Eventually a guy behind me yelled up at me and asked if I was interested in being off the trail with another person because he wasn’t sure where he was either. WHY YES I AM. Feeling lost alone sucks. The only positive was that this trail went along the rim of the mountain, so we had a spectacular view the entire time we were climbing.

We finally crawled our way to the top of Mount Tallac and enjoyed the view at almost 10,000 feet.

It was cold and windy, and I felt like I was going to vomit from the fear of stumbling right off the edge, so I ate my sandwich and moved down to more stable ground quickly. I only managed to rest for about 15 minutes because I was so cold and the sun was way too bright up there. I was also starting to worry about time. Most people seemed to note that the ten mile hike was about a six hour round trip for them. I had already gone six miles according to my Garmin and it took me four hours just to get up the damn thing. So, I found the correct trail, and got a move on. The proper trail was a much better experience.

Look at how you can actually see a trail!

When I got back down to the rock slide, I quickly realized that traversing down it was going to be an actual shitshow. Since it was later in the day, a lot of the soft snow had melted into icy mush and there were a lot more people making their way up. Also, going down SUCKS. I don’t know what I would have done without the poles because it was straight up terrifying. I saw a lot of people falling and I still don’t know how I made it.

It was hard to see because the sun was so bright and was reflecting off patches of snow, and I didn’t think I would ever get to the bottom. It was also at this point that I realized that I was super sunburned on my neck and one side of my face. I wore a hat and sunscreen (which I reapplied several times), but it clearly wasn’t enough. So, that was a fun surprise. Once I made it to the bottom, my legs felt like Jell-O and I essentially just shook and stumbled the last few miles back to the car. BLESS HIKING POLES.

Look at colorful grove of Aspens down there!

It took me about five hours to come back down and my Garmin and FitBit both said I went  just about 12.5 miles in total. I don’t know how that is possible on a 10 mile trail. The alternate trail I ended up on doesn’t look like it was that much extra, so who knows. I wanted to do this trail as a litmus test for a more challenging hike I hope to do in a few weeks in Yosemite (weather permitting). I survived it, but my legs feel broken. It was a total of 3,418 feet in elevation gain and the other trail is 4,101 and is five more miles in length, so I may not be ready for that at this point in time. We will see how quickly I forget the pain and misery of the field of rocks.

Overall, it was unbelievably gorgeous and completely worth it. I would absolutely hike it again, but not after it had snowed. I got home on Saturday evening and proceeded to sleep for the next 13 hours. Being indoorsy is so much less work.

Humboldt Bay Social Club

A couple of months ago I was looking for places to stay for a long weekend up in the Redwoods. I was on AirBnB when I found a really cute cabin on the water in Eureka. After some additional reading, I saw that it was part of a group of cabins called Humboldt Bay Social Club. Jillian and I had been chatting about them coming out again, so I sent her the cabin and they agreed to book a trip for Labor Day weekend. I was really surprised to see that such a cute place was still available over a holiday weekend, but I later learned that they just opened in late July. I expect that it won’t be long before these cabins are hard to book, so I am so happy we got to go when we did. We stayed in Waterfront  #2 on Oyster Beach and it was the cutest.

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It had two bedrooms, one bath, a full kitchen, and a living room space. I felt like Betty Draper on holiday in the woods.

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The view off our back porch was gorgeous and we spent several hours just hanging out by the water. It could not have been more relaxing. I wish I could just spend a weekend up there with a good book and some wine. I wouldn’t ever need to leave.

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The perfect log for Dirty Dancing homages:IMG 4895

We spent some time walking around the property and enjoying the beautiful trees.

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They also have a proper social club space with a bar and games, but we never made it over there even though it looks quite cool. You can also borrow bikes or kayaks and do exercise stuff fi that’s your thing. Additionally, there’s an outdoor bathhouse that is available, but I’m not really down with getting naked with friends. Call me a prude if you wish, but I like my friends clothed. It would be a much better place for lovers or bathing for one.

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I didn’t receive anything for staying there, but i wanted to share what a great experience we had in the event that you are looking to take a trip up the north coast. It was one of the coolest places I’ve stayed and you can really tell they put a lot of care and time into making it a unique place to stay.