Faced with a surprise extra day off this week, I made last minute arrangements to pay a visit to Yosemite National Park. I left Alameda early Tuesday with my ever-present cup of Peets and arrived at Hodgdon Meadow Campground just before noon. A quick set up of camp, lunch and then I drove to Yosemite Valley to wander aimlessly for a few hours.
I tend to avoid the throngs and hordes of tourists that invade the park in spring and summer, but I figured that with it being before Memorial Day, I’d be relatively safe. And besides, there is a reason that the park attracts so many visitors.
And since most of the tourists confine themselves to picnic areas, scenic turnouts and Yosemite Village, solitude is easily found on the hiking trails.
For a few minutes, I even summoned some bravery and went to Yosemite Village myself. As I set up camp earlier, I discovered I’d forgotten a few items (paper towels!) and made it out of the store safely, with no bloodshed. I even treated myself to a chocolate Haagen-Dazs bar. Even so, the area wasn’t as bad as I remembered from my previous village adventure in 1998.
I drove back to my campsite for a dinner of ribeye steak and grilled corn on the cob (not pictured). When the sun dipped below the trees and the air cooled I started a campfire, smoked a cigar and waited for the stars to reveal themselves. I retired to my little one-man tent at 11:30 and was up at 5:30 to break camp and return to Yosemite Valley for a hike to Glacier Point via the 4-mile trail. (It’s actually 4.7 miles now, having been lengthened from its original distance).
With Upper Yosemite Falls rumbling from the springtime thaw, I was torn between doing the Glacier Point hike or doing the Falls. Since I’d done the Falls hike twice before and hadn’t done any others, I decided on Glacier Point. And as always, with a Mt. Whitney hike facing me in three months, I can count on it being good training for my legs. Since I got an early start (a little before 8:00), I saw almost nobody on the trail as I ascended.
The above photo shows the first patch of snow I came across. At this point I was at about 7,000′, having climbed 3,000′ from the valley.
I made it to the end of the trail at Glacier Point a little after 10:00, two hours after starting from the valley. The photo above shows Half Dome, surrounding peaks in the distance and Nevada Falls (lower right). Like my trail book warns, the only bad part of the Glacier Point hike is that upon reaching the top, one is faced with a souvenir shop, tour buses and yes, more tourists. There were a good number and several tried my patience, especially the terribly overweight one struggling up a paved access trail complaining to her boyfriend while munching a bag of Doritos. After eating my lunch, I couldn’t get back on the trail fast enough.
I was off the trail by 12:30 and as much as I wanted to stay in the valley, the high country was calling me. The National Park Service had just opened Tioga Road a few days before, and I wanted to take advantage of an early passing through the eastern Sierras via Tioga Pass.