Friday, July 20, 2018

California Road Trip: Yosemite National Park

Tunnel View

So Cody and my journey to Yosemite National Park started 4 days before we got to the park. We planned out a week long road trip that included attending a wedding for my colleges friends, and on our way back up, we would swing by and camp in Yosemite for 3 nights before driving the rest of the leg back to Seattle.

4 Days Before Yosemite
Cody and I packed up the truck and hit the road on Wednesday June 27. While packing the truck, Cody was worried with how much stuff we were taking, and of course, I told him not to worry about it, we would figure it out! We had to pack for a 2 part trip afterall, part 1 was for the wedding, and part 2 was for car camping. So a lot of luggage was involved. His worry was the fact that, on our way back, we were bringing 2 more people back with us, and they had luggage too... it's ok, I am not the type to stress about these things, as I happily loaded the car with 2 full sized pillows lol.

Our 1st destination was Ojai, CA, but my friends, Alexis and Will, were not expecting us until Thursday afternoon. So we had about 25 hours to get there. We pretty much drove straight through the night, with one longer stop at a rest area, where I happily fell asleep in the driver's seat of the parked car for an hour and a half. We pulled into Santa Barbara in the morning, had time to kill, so we swung by El Capitan State Beach to meet up with a friend of mine who was camping and ate breakfast with him. While at the beach, I somehow managed to run into my family too. Small world.

Anyways, off to Ojai we went after the beach, where we stayed with one of my best friend's from high school for the night. We hung out, grabbed dinner, and called it a night. Friday morning, we got on the road around 6:00 AM and headed for a quick stop in LA. The quick stop in LA involved bugging my dad at work, eating a Taiwanese breakfast with my uncle, and picking up a giant carpet vacuum my uncle was determined to give me. (Yes, this is me accumulating more stuff for an already packed car. Yes, me taking this vacuum and putting it in the car stressed Cody out....(and the story of a packed car is to be continued...)

Then we were on our way to San Diego for a 3:00 PM wedding! I have this tendency to pack a lot in when I am in California. So many people to see.... We got to the wedding on time, hung out with my college friends, had a blast, kicked it with more friends Saturday, and now we were finally on our way to Yosemite Sunday!

Some photos of my time in California with my friends:


1st Stop: Tunnel View
Sunday July 1, 2018
Our official journey to Yosemite begins. First we had to pick up Euzel and Sarina, both flew into LA from Seattle for this trek of our trip. After cramming them two plus more luggage into the truck, we were on our way!

We made one last stop at a grocery store in Fresno before entering the park. This point of our journey was also when the car was the fullest it could ever be. We had to buy 3 days worth of groceries for 8 people... When we got to the car with our groceries, we had to start pulling food out of their packaging so we could fit it into the car lol. It got that bad. But we did it! We had everything we needed!
Everything fit!

Our first stop in Yosemite was Tunnel View. If you haven't been to Yosemite before, Tunnel View is a must see! No effort needed to make it to this viewing point. Even with a million people milling around, the view is breathtaking.

We pulled into Lower Pines Campground around 7:00 PM and Kaelee, Chels, Hillary, and Sergio were all there to greet us. After that long drive, we all decided to take it easy our first night. We made some dinner and called it a night.

(Here's a link to a previous post I wrote about reserving campsites (& hiking Half Dome) at Yosemite. Plan ahead!)
 Thanks for the bunny ears Cody!
Lower Pines Campground Site 23 (near toilets and the amphitheater, plenty of space!)

Monday July 2, 2018
This was our big hiking day. We all had submitted for the Half Dome lottery, but none of us were successful in getting a permit. You could submit for another lottery 2 days before you want to go, but we ended up not wasting our money and settling to hike Clouds Rest. Which, if you don't score Half Dome permits, Clouds Rest is a great backup! I climbed Half Dome in 2015, and I do think the trail to Half Dome is a little more interesting than Clouds Rest, but the view on top of Clouds Rest challenges that of Half Dome.
 The girls of the trip on top of Clouds Rest 
Scoping out the views, I think it might be better than Half Dome ;)

Clouds Rest Trail Stats:
Start:Sunrise Lakes Trailhead near Tenaya Lake
Miles: 14 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: 2600 ft
Tallest Point: 9931 ft
Time it took us: 9.5 hours

You can technically hike to Clouds Rest from Yosemite Valley, but that hike is over 20 miles R/T. So we opted to drive over an hour from our campground to start our hike at Sunrise Lakes TH. The trail is easy to navigate. I read this guy, Josh's blog before going on this hike and found it very informative!

We headed to the trailhead in 2 cars, Cody's truck which was the boys and me, and Kaelee's rental which had the rest of the girls. The lot was full when we pulled up around 8 AM so we parked on the side of the road. Per the blog I read about this hike, it said you might need to ford a river. But when we went the water was low and there were rocks to walk on over the water. The trail is relatively flat for the first 1.5 miles, then it goes up and down, and then it just goes up lol.

I, personally, was not feeling the greatest on this hike. Cody said it was probably due to us having been on the road now for 5 days, not getting the best sleep, and I think the heat got to me too. At one point, on the flatter parts of the trail, I was hiking with my eyes closed lol. I was feeling a mixture of exhaustion and being slightly nauseous. I was probably dehydrated and running on minimal food too. I'm slow as it is, I was even slower this day I felt, but I made it to the top eventually. Once I drank more water and put some calories in me, I felt a lot better.

Getting to the top of Clouds Rest can be scary if you don't like heights, but the path is wide enough where I thought it felt safe. Cody made it to the top too! He's definitely scared of heights. After a while at the top taking photos and refueling, the group started heading down.
 Trail up to Clouds Rest 
Cody heading up the trail
Gotta love Sergio!
 Final push to the top of Clouds Rest 
 For people who are scared of heights, these 3 did amazing!
Cody looking classy with his tie on the top of the mountain 
 Scoping out the rest of the mountain
Sergio running down Clouds Rest 
 Wild lupine, my fave!
 Sunrise Lakes
 Nature's StairMaster
Last water crossing closest to trailhead

The Trip Mishap
As we were hiking down, the group of us split into 3 groups, Kaelee, Sergio, Euzel, and Chels in the lead, Sarina and Hillary in the middle, and Cody and I bringing up the rear. With no service or walkie talkies among the group, we had no idea how far the other groups were ahead of us.

As Cody and I exited the trail towards the parking lot, we didn't even think to head to Tenaya Lake since we finished last. But per the itinerary I sent everyone, I had finish at Tenaya Lake as the finisher. As we got to Cody's truck, we noticed Kaelee's rental was gone. With no note, and no sign of the 2 guys that came with us at the trailhead, we assumed everyone had just squeezed into the rental to head back to camp. Cody and I left the trailhead by ourselves around 5:45 PM.

As Cody and I were driving, we mentioned in passing how it was strange no one left us a note about leaving, but we didn't put much thought into it. I eventually picked up phone signal an hour after we left trailhead, and the first person I called was Sarina. She told us they were entering the valley and heading to the store, and I told her we were entering the valley too, right behind them. I contemplated about heading to Glacier Point with her, but her car didn't want to go. So I said I'd think about it and hung up. As a quick afterthought, I called back within seconds to make sure she had everyone with her in the car.... in which... they did not. They had left Euzel and Sergio at the lake...


I wish I hadn't had that afterthought to call back lol.

Cody and I immediately flipped a U-turn and started heading back up the road. Cody and I played through all the possible scenarios of what the boys would do, would they hitchhike? Would they start walking the road? Would they contemplate hiking Clouds Rest again to get to the valley since it's only 11 miles away from there? Would Euzel try to call an Uber? Are they still sitting at the lake? Why didn't we go to the lake?! Why wasn't there a note?! Why didn't we bring walkie talkies?! All the questions and what ifs....

(On our way back up the road, we saw our 1st bear in Yosemite btw! A bunch of cars were pulled to the side of the road, so we stopped too. The bear was hungry and looking for food)

By the time we got back to the trailhead, it had been over 2 hours since we finished the hike and of course the boys weren't there. We first checked trailhead, then headed to the lake, then back to trailhead, then to the exact spot where we parked the car... no sign of Euzel or Sergio. Did they get eaten by a bear? JK, that thought never crossed our minds. We did come across a ranger at trailhead though, and he said they most likely hitchhiked, not uncommon in Yosemite. The ranger told us not to worry unless they didn't show back up at the campsite later into the night.

So Cody and I hopped back in the car and hoped for the best. As I picked up service again an hour after leaving trailhead again, I started getting calls and texts, the boys had hitchhiked and were back at the campsite. By the time we got back to the campsite, Cody and I had been in the car driving in circles for 3.5 hours. Also Tacoma's are not gas efficient, and gas inside the park was $5.60/gal. Also, we just hiked a 14 mile day... so you might have an idea how I was feeling at this point lol.

I was of course livid at this point lol. There was some heated conversations, but at the end of the day, everyone was safe and made it back to the campsite. No one was hurt or lost. Also, I'm glad it was Sergio and Euzel who got left, if it had been anyone else, there would have been more freak outs lol.

So apparently after Cody and I left trailhead the 1st time, the boys eventually realized they got left. Sergio thought we left them cuz we were mad at them. They stuck their thumbs out and caught a ride in an over packed pick up truck with 2 young guys who had the back of their cab setup with an inflatable mattress. Sergio had to use the rope he had on him to tie the drivers stuff to the roof so Sergio and Euzel could fit into the car. As they made their way down to the valley, the truck ended up getting pulled over because Euzel and Sergio didn't have seat belts on. They ended up getting out of the truck 1+ miles away from Lower Pines Campground and walking the rest of the way.

On top of this ordeal, the group couldn't make dinner because Cody and I had the food/camp kitchen stuff in our car. Once everyone was back at camp around 9:30-10 PM, we made tacos, ate, and called it a night. All probably hoping the next day would go more smoothly lol.
 Bear sighting, only got a photo of 1 of them though
With the 3.5 hr ordeal of a drive, we still caught a beautiful sunset

Tuesday July 3, 2018
We all slept in and had a slow go this day. We even made eggs and breakfast burritos. We set aside this day to do the touristy things in the valley. We walked to the historic lodge, once called the Ahwahnee, now called the Majestic Yosemite Lodge, drove to the visitor center, which was packed! It was kinda awful, we almost gave up on parking. But we eventually all parked, walked around, visited Lower Yosemite Falls, then bounced out to less crowded areas, El Capitan Meadows, and eventually ended up picnicking and taking a swim at Cathedral Beach.

After our swim, some of us headed to Curry Village for showers (which if there is someone manning the booth, I think it's $10 for showers). Then we headed back to the campsite to chill. Our group split into two for evening plans, the girls and Sergio headed out to hike Taft Point, while Cody, Euzel, and I headed to Glacier Point.

Glacier Point and Taft Point are close to each other, and about an hours drive away from the valley. At Glacier Point, we caught a ranger talk on the history of Yosemite, watched the sunset, and even saw a marriage proposal! Then the group got back together at camp, made burgers and quesadillas, rehashed our trip and called it a night. One thing we didn't really need on this trip was campfires. We made them 2 of 3 nights, but it was a lil too warm out to actually enjoy the heat of the fire this time of year.
Upper & Lower Yosemite Falls, looks better from afar away from the crowds
 Missing Hillary, but the gang is mostly here!
 Swimming in the Merced River
 That lovable rascal 
 Sunset at Glacier Point 
We are small specks in this very large world 
Last night in Yosemite

Wednesday July 4, 2018
Cody, Euzel, Sarina, and I packed up camp and left early since we were driving back to Seattle. On our way out, we saw our 2nd bear sighting of this trip. The bear had wandered onto our campground and it was 6:15 AM in the morning. I told Cody to honk his car horn, and that scared the bear away. That one was a lil too close for my liking.

With a couple of pit stops and driver swaps, our group made it back to Seattle by midnight. We were definitely on the road for a total of 18 hours straight.

Overall, even with our mishap, we had a great time in Yosemite! I'm not sure I want to plan another 8 person out-of-state camping trip again, maybe stick to 4 or less people because it is a lot to coordinate, but everyone added something to the trip, and I am glad we are all still friends haha.

Until next time Yosemite!

 Even if I am stuck in the car on my favorite holiday, you bet I am going to dress for the occasion!
I will be back Yosemite

P.S. The carpet vacuum made it back to Seattle with us in one piece.

Miles Driven:2700 miles


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