Upon arriving, we realized we had seen this when we drove into San Francisco with Kevin and Sam, but at the time had no idea what it was. The Spire is a 90ft tall art installment of cypress tree trunks, created by Andy Goldsworthy. The 2006 piece is meant to celebrate the aging grove that was originally planted in the late 19th century.
The Wave Organ was next on our list. After parking the car, and making our way through a yacht club marina area, we found ourselves at the acoustic art sculpture. The Wave Organ was created in 1985, using PVC pipes and concrete, on a jetty constructed of granite and stone from a demolished San Francisco cemetery. The pipes are located at varied depths to allow a variety of sounds to be created from the waves crashing against and into the pipes. The ideal time to visit is high tide, and although that did not coincide with our visit, we were still able to hear the sounds from some of the pipes.
Since it was getting later in the day, we had to cross somethings off our list since they would no longer be open. We decided that a stop in Golden Gate Park and a drive over the Golden Gate Bridge would round out our day.
Back in the car, we headed south towards San Francisco, stopping before reaching the Golden Gate Bridge to take some pictures. Once in the city, we found a place to park, and spent some time in the Prana store before heading to Roam Artisian Burgers for a delicious lunch. Alex suggested taking a walk to see the “Painted Ladies” which were about a mile away. After taking some pictures, we settled in the grass of the park across the street to figure out what to do with the remainder of the afternoon. We decided to move the car closer to the Pier 39 area. Securing a parking spot, we meandered around the shops and San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. We decided to walk through the crazy masses of people in the “boardwalk” type area towards Pier 39 to see the sea lions. Sadly, we arrived there to find out it was the wrong time of year… and there were no sea lions to be seen.
We slept in Wednesday morning, and Dave and Alex were surprised at the lack of soreness and stiffness in their bodies. We must be getting used to this! After a quick breakfast, we headed to Housekeeping Camp to do laundry and take showers. Once clean-up was complete, we walked across the street to the Le Conte Memorial Lodge. The Lodge is a very cool stone structure built by the Sierra Club in 1903 as a memorial to Joseph LeConte, an early director who died in the Valley. The Lodge provides programs and information to visitors about Yosemite, the Sierra Nevadas, and the beginnings of the National Park System. After spending some time investigating the wide array of information in the Lodge, we headed towards the Visitors Center to check out the displays and information, as well as a short film about the park. As the lazy day turned towards late afternoon, we grabbed some fresh vegetables from the Village Store to add to our sauce and pasta to make our evening meal.
Around 7:00AM, Kevin was knocking on our tent, asking if we were awake and ready to get up. The rain was falling steadily, making it perfect sleeping weather, and we thought he was being ridiculous. We told him to go back to bed, but he said he and Sam were antsy and sick of laying in the tent. He said that he had a new plan… since it seemed as if it were going to rain most of the day, and climbing was going to be out of the realm of possibilities, we should head to San Francisco today. We said we thought that was a good idea, and then curled up to sleep. We could here Kevin prancing and humming outside our tent…. We asked him what he was doing… and he asked us what we were doing and why we weren’t out of our tent yet. “Uhmmmm… it’s RAINING!” We had no intentions of getting out of the tent until the rain slowed or stopped. We wanted to know why Kevin, who normally wanted to nap, was sooooo awake right now! We told him he should go to the camp store down the road and get coffee for us to occupy his time. We then began to pack up the things inside the tent, and took some of the things to the car. Donning our rain coats, we made a trip to the restroom, and on our return, found Kevin and Sam were back, but coffeeless… the store did not open until 8:00. We jumped in their car to discuss plans now that we were all awake. We were still telling him how terrible it was that we were not still in our tents, and cleaning them up in the rain. As we all left the car to pack up our tents, the rain began to fall harder. At this point, we were both very giggly about the whole situation, and Kevin and Sam seemed more grumbly about the status of the heavy rain and soggy tents.
With cars now hastily and poorly packed, we set off to get coffee and make our way towards San Francisco. After about 2 hours of driving, we pulled into a Panera to grab some food, and use the internet to figure out what hotel we would book for the next two nights. After much searching, discussion, and rejecting of hotels with horrid reviews or too high of prices, we settled on a hotel in Vallejo, about 30 miles northeast of San Francisco. After checking in to our room, we unloaded cars with the items we needed, and well as the wet items we needed to deal with. We washed the dirt from out wet and muddy tents, and hung them around the room to dry. Next on the agenda was dinner. After reading reviews, we decided on the nearby House of Soul. Though the menu had a decent number of items, the choices were few. Alex tried to order ribs, but they did not have them… so she went with fried chicken. Yes, we do eat fried chicken :o) Summer makes us do all sorts of crazy things… and we need the extra calories! For sides, she asked for mashed potatoes and lima beans… Nope… none of those. Mac-n-cheese and black-eyed peas will work! Everyone ordered almost the same thing, with Kevin switching fried chicken with chicken-fried steak. Despite the limited choices, and not getting our drinks until well into eating our dinner, the meal was delicious and our server was friendly. With full bellies, we returned to the hotel room to relax for the remainder of the evening.
The alarm roused us from our sleep at 3:00AM. We quickly brushed our teeth, grabbed our breakfast and hiking packs that we readied the night before, and jumped in the car. We arrived at the Trailhead Parking Lot around 4:00AM. We had decided that Alex and Sam would hike together, and Dave and Kevin would hike together in case Kevin’s battered feet proved to be a problem. Alex and Sam started off hiking by headlamp at 4:12AM, with Dave and Kevin starting 5 minutes behind them after taping up Kevin’s feet.
Alex and Sam found themselves at the base of the cables at 8:00AM. They were stoked about their progress, especially since Sam’s original goal was to be on the top of Half Dome by 10:00! Hiking in the cool morning air, with no sun on them until they made their way up the stone stairs of the subdome, was a big help! There were a few people already on the cables, and a larger guided group getting ready to start, so the pair took a few pictures and took in the surrounding views before starting on the cables. Within 20 minutes of cable jugging they were high-fiving on the summit. They found a nice big rock to lay claim to, took off their shoes and socks, and began to maul the pepperoni and cheese wraps, apples, goldfish crackers, and pretzels they brought along. As they snacked, Alex checked her phone to see if they had any cell reception and messages from their other halves. Dave and Kevin had sent a message saying they were half way up the subdome! That is AWESOME! Kevin’s battered feet must not have slowed him down! That means they should be here soon!
Around 8:50, Alex heard someone walking up behind them, turned around, and jumped up with happiness that it was Dave. He said he had pretty much run up the cables as fast as possible; to the point that it actually made him out of breath… it was a blast! Kevin was still working his way up the cables, but should be there soon.
At 9:00AM, Kevin made his appearance, looking exhausted and ready to nap. He mumbled a few nearly indiscernible words, mostly about napping, before settling down leaning on the rock the rest of the group was sitting on. However, instead of napping, Kevin pulled out his phone, and realizing there was cell reception, began playing Castle Clash, while the rest of the group giggled at the ridiculousness of the situation. Once everyone had eaten, Kevin was looking human again, and we were done chasing squirrels and marmots away from our area, we took a few pictures before deciding to start making our way back down the cables. It was 9:45AM and we had 9 miles of hiking until we would reach the Valley floor. We were pretty excited about the fact that barring anything going wrong, we should be relaxing by early afternoon.
The hike down the dome went pretty well with only small grumbles from Kevin about being tired and sore. The hike went by fast; on the flat top Kevin maintained a ground eating pace until an abrupt slowdown at Nevada Falls. This is end of the line for the tourists hiking the “falls” trail. This meant we only had 4 miles or about one and a half hours to go. Stumbling and slipping our way down we pushed through the hordes of tourists coming up the hill, but still making good time. With about 1.3 miles to go Dave told Kevin it would take about another twenty minutes at their pace. Kevin was not having 20 more minutes of hiking; he started down the hill in a frisky run. Without pause Dave jumped into running with Kevin plowing the way with excitement. Although hesitant at first, Alex and Sam came right behind running like little lass’s. The remaining mileage was done in no time, but the crew had another .5 miles to the car on a path.
At 1:45PM, the group was victorious at the car. With high fives flying, the group started pealing sweaty hiking clothes and replacing them with “clean” comfy camp clothes. Even Sam changed in the parking lot, hiding between opened car doors, avoiding the occasional bystander. Kevin pulled his sock off and the complete and utter destruction of his foot was apparent. His injury from two days previous was making a second shiny entry. He was so relieved to be done he could not do anything but giggle at the pain he incurred since the start of the trip. Everyone was aching for an iced beverage and eager to destroy some food from Curry Village; there is no cooking on 20+ mile hiking days.
Once in the village, tasks were divided to gather food and beverages. Kevin was the only one to bring a credit card, so he was forced to be in charge of getting food. Sam, armed with cash, was charged with going to the camp store to gather four iced victory brews! Dave stood with Kevin as moral support, Sam running to the store, but actually getting side tracked holding down the table with Alex. Alex, Dave, and Sam each feasted on chicken fingers and fries, while Kevin had a much grander feast. Kevin wanted a hamburger, hot dog, AND a grilled cheese sandwich with tomato and onion. He though this might be a bit much, so Dave offered to help eat the grilled cheese.
Once back at camp, a second hammock was hung, food thrown in the bear box, and tired hikers retreated to resting areas. Alex and Dave swung gently in hammocks, while Kevin and Sam crawled into their tent. After about a 2 hour nap, the sleepy hikers roused from their sleep for more food. While snacking on various items from the bear box, one of the members of the “noisy neighbor” party asked us if we would like “s’more cones.” We said “We think so…” He explained that they were sugar cones filled with mini marshmallows and chocolate chips, heated over the camp fire. “YES! We definitely would like those!” was our response. This was a genius idea; all the goodness of a s’more, minus the oooey gooey mess. We talked with them for a while before sleep became imminent, and then thanked them again for the delicious treat, before heading off for a good night’s sleep.
We decided that Kevin both needed and deserved a rest day before we hiked the Cables Route to the top of Half Dome the following day. After a pancake breakfast, we drove through the park, via Tuolumne Meadows, and out Tioga Pass to the Mobil Station. It is an enjoyable drive with great views. We stopped at the Mobil, and Kevin got the hot dog that he had been craving, and fries we all ate. We charged our electronics, updated the blog, and watched squirrels and seagulls scavenge for food. An employee came over to our table with a pizza tray with two pieces of pizza on it, and said that the family across the yard couldn’t finish it but didn’t want it to get wasted. He asked if we would like it. OF COURSE! It was the perfect snack… and it was still warm! We must have acquired that climber/backpacker dirtbag look.
Dave lead pitch 1, Alex led the fun low angle hand jamming pitch 2, and Dave lead the final pitch. On pitch 2, Alex spied a piece of gear of stuck gear, and yelled down to Dave, “Looks like we have another piece of booty ahead!” The new looking Metolius #2/3 offset cam and shiny new carabiner made the 5th piece of found gear this trip… the cam was a $65 purchase itself. As Kevin made his way to the top of the climb he wasn’t looking happy. He yelled up, “I ripped the skin on my hand!” Somehow, he actually burned his hands on the hot granite. By the time we all simul-rapped to the base, he a had a blister on each of his palms, one of which was opened.
Dave lead pitch 1, Alex led the fun low angle hand jamming pitch 2, and Dave lead the final pitch. On pitch 2, Alex spied a piece of gear of stuck gear, and yelled down to Dave, “Looks like we have another piece of booty ahead!” The new looking Metolius #2/3 offset cam and shiny new carabiner made the 5th piece of found gear this trip… the cam was a $65 purchase itself.
As Kevin made his way to the top of the climb he wasn’t looking happy. He yelled up, “I ripped the skin on my hand!” Somehow, he actually burned his hands on the hot granite. By the time we all simul-rapped to the base, he a had a blister on each of his palms, one of which was opened.
Feeling bad that we had seemed to torture Kevin on his vacation, we took him to Sugar Pine Pizzeria for dinner… and he was smiling again! Later that night back at camp, Dave helped perform “minor surgery” on Kevin’s battered feet.
After breakfast at camp, we drove into a VERY busy park; but what else would you expect of a holiday weekend? After finding a place to park, we navigated the shuttle system to the trailhead of The 4-Mile Trail. The 4-Mile Trail is actually 4.8 miles long and takes you to the top of Glacier Point. The trail makes its way up the side of mountain, on what Alex and Dave viewed as a gradual “rest day” type of hike… Kevin and Sam may disagree. Before long, Kevin was drenched in sweat and looked like he wanted to die. Despite his “slow” pace, which still involved passing “regular people” on the uphill portion, Kevin’s pace turned to race pace as he hit the flatter ground near the top.
We made a quick stop at the Village Store to pick up a few veggies before heading back to our campground. We feasted on delicious chicken quesadillas cooked up by Dave that night before we all headed to bed. Overnight, Alex awoke to hear thrashing a few campsites away. A bear must have wondered into camp and must have been looking for food. Bears are very common in the park, and because of this, each campsite has its own bear box. They are black bears, and more often than not are not aggressive towards people. They have just learned over time that campgrounds are a great place to find food.