Sunday, July 19th: To Tuolumne!

We made our way towards Tuolumne Meadows, planning originally to climb West Crack, a 5-pitch climb on Daff Dome.  We stopped for coffee at the small “Tuolumne Meadows Grill,” and checked the posted weather report.  The sky was already showing signs of rain to come, large puffy clouds and flat grey clouds in the distance.  The posted weather confirmed our thoughts, so we knixed West Cracks, and decided to find something small and with a shorter approach.  We settled on Northwest Books, a 2-pitch, 5.6 climb on Lembert Dome.  The dome was right next to the parking/picnic area… perfect! 

Clouds moved in while we climbed.

After some wondering the wrong way, we found the start… and a guide with a group of three just making their way up the 3rd class scramble to the start.  As we geared up, Dave realized he was missing an important piece of gear… his harness!  Back to the car he ran to retrieve it.  By the time he returned, the group was making their way up the first pitch.  We sure hoped we could easily pass them at the belay, because they were moving very slow.    As the second to last climber started the pitch, we made our way up the scramble to the start.  As we talked with the last climber, we found out he was originally from Pennsylvania.  Even better, he was born in Reading!  Crazy how often we run into people from near home!

The guide yelled down to us, asking if we wanted to pass his group.  Perfect!  Dave gave the last climber some space before starting his way up the pitch, setting up a belay on another ledge near the guided group.  Alex followed quickly, and before long they found themselves at the top of the climb, with a short scramble to the summit.    We were both over joyous that we were climbing and not baking in the sun!  We pulled apples out of our daypacks to eat as we made our way down the walk-off. 

We made our way towards the visitor center, with a stop the Tuolumne Lodge to score some showers.  As we made our way towards the visitors’ center, we noticed that the Tuolumne Meadows campground had spaces available.  After some quick calculations, we realized it would be cheaper to camp for $26 than to pay gas to drive back and forth from our previous camping spot.  After investigation, we found that Porcupine Flat campground just down the road was only $12 a night.  It was cheaper since it did not have running water… but neither did the spot we had been staying.   Our minds were set… this is where we were going to stay!  Tuolumne Meadows is awesome!  It wasn’t hot, there wasn’t traffic, there were plenty of people around, but most were more of the outdoorsy type (backpackers, climbers, fishermen) than what filled The Valley at this time of year.  It was 68 degrees at noon instead of 98!  We started planning a backpacking/climbing trip for when Doug arrives.  We were happy, smiling, talkative, and rejuvenated, despite the now falling rain.  We didn’t realize how grumbly the heat and crowds in The Valley was until now!  This seemed like the best day ever! 

Once we picked out a campground spot, Dave walked up to the payment box, while Alex waited with the car, and unloaded their food crates into the bear box.  Soon Alex heard Dave yell, “Alex! Come here!  Quick!”  She knew from his tone he found something exciting.  She turned to see him walking with 8 gallons of water, and a young boy down the road behind him with box of fire wood and a propane tank.   Alex relieved the boy of his heavy load and they both thanked him.  Turns out his family packed up camp and had lots of extra water, and some firewood.  His mom offered the stuff to Dave, and he graciously accepted.  We spent the remainder of the evening reading and looking at maps and guidebooks, as we lounged in the refreshingly cool air in our quiet little campsite.

Marmots are such creepers!

Thursday – Saturday, July 16 – 18: Back to The Valley… Off to Tuolumne

Thursday was a day of laundry, errands, repacking the car, a quick run and making granola with Theresa.  When Justin got home from work, he cooked a great meal of BBQ chicken and vegetables on the grill.  After dinner, it was time to part ways… probably until next summer!  By 8:00PM we were on the road, making our way back to our camping area outside of the park. 

Friday morning, we made our morning commute into The Valley, with plans to climb El Cap Tree.   Before we were even out of the car, Alex came to the realization that she would need to “lower-out” a section of the climb.  This was something new to her, and she was expecting to practice with ground under her feet first.  Dave didn’t think it was a big deal, and didn’t understand why Alex was concerned about it.  After back and forth discussion, and strong emotions from Alex, they decided they would eat breakfast, and then climb the Pine Line on El Cap instead.   After Dave led the climb, Alex jugged up it to save Dave some effort.  On the large ledge at the top of the climb, we practiced setting up the lower-out, and Alex was much happier with the process. 

Already tired of the wind and heat that was baking us on the granite wall; we decided to head down out of the sun.  The remainder of the day involved cooking, walking around the park, and attending a film and presentation by Ron Kauk at the Yosemite Theatre.

Royal Arches 

Saturday, we made our way to El Cap Tree.  The climb was on the base of El Cap, a bit past Pacific Ocean, (the first climb we did in The Valley).  This time, however, instead of hiking straight up the heinous talus field (a task neither of us wanted to do again), we hiked along the base of the cliff.  This approach was steep, still involved talus, was a bit longer… but was a bit better than the Zodiac Talus Field.

When we found our climb, with the climb’s namesake dead at the top of it, neither of us were very excited about it.  We were sure that this was it, but it just looked… ehhhh….   The pendulum and lower-out were small, and looked completely avoidable, and the rest of the climb did not look that enjoyable.   After spending some time staring at it and contemplating it, we decided to go climb the first pitch of North American Wall.  We found the climb fairly quickly, but could not locate the anchors.  This made us wonder if we had the right spot, but some landmarks around it made it undeniable.  We’ve had no problems spotting any anchors so far, so we were wondering if this pitch did not actually have bolted anchors (it is part of a big wall climb).  The climb looked like a blast, but not so much that it was worth losing gear on.  At this point we were hot, grumbly that we still hadn’t climbed anything, and there was no way we did that approach for nothing.  We resigned ourselves to doing an 11a bolted slab climb… on top-rope.  Dave scurried up the side of “The Footstool” at the base of Jersey Turnpike, and set up the anchors.

Standing at the base, Dave said “Great, just my favorite time of climb! Nothing like 11a slab!”  This statement was laced with heavy sarcasm.  Alex had the pleasure of climbing first, and did enjoy it… though she tends to do much better than Dave with delicate, balancey, slab climbs.  Despite his grumbles, Dave found himself enjoying the pitch as well.  Both realized they had not been climbing on small crimps in quite a while, and by the time they were done had fingers that were sore inside and out. 

After climbing, we retreated to the car, and decided to drive to the Village Store to grab some from veggies for dinner.  What a HUGE mistake!  We landed ourselves in traffic on a one-way park road.  We literally sat in traffic in Yosemite Valley for over 2 hours!  If we would have just walked or took a shuttle we would have been fine, but from where we parked that morning the park hadn’t looked too busy.   When they say Yosemite is the most visited National Park in the country, it is certainly true, but sadly that also means traffic in The Valley can be horrendous on weekends.  

After sitting in traffic, we had no intent of getting right back in it.  In our hungry, grumbly state, we decided to just get a pizza instead, and wait out the traffic.   We also decided that we needed to get out of this heat and craziness.   We decided that the next morning we would drive to Tuolumne Meadows, about 1.5 hour drive into another area of the park.  Tuolumne sits at over 8,000 feet, so the temperatures there should be much more moderate than the 90-100 degrees we were dealing with each day.

Wednesday, July 15th – San Francisco by Storm

Justin took the day off, and Theresa made a master list of “things-to-do” some of which were the typical things, and some of which were oddities.  We all hoped in the car mid-morning, and drove north about 50 miles to San Francisco.  Dave and Alex looked out the window with shock… “What is that? Is there a fire?”  The response from the front seat, was a very relaxed, “Oh that… those are just clouds.”  It looked like impending doom coming to eat us from over the mountains… but apparently it was no big deal…

Our first stop was Lands End Lookout, with a walk along the Coastal Trail, taking pictures along the way, to the Labyrinth.  Once we located the actual location of the Labyrinth, we all wandered our way circuitously from entrance point to center.  After this, we worked our way back towards the car and headed towards “The Spire.”  

Alcatraz Island

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.  

Our tummies were beginning to rumble, so we made our way to Roam Artisan Burgers, with a quick drive by of the “Painted Ladies,” or as Dave keeps calling them, the “three sisters.” We had eaten here with Kevin and Sam, and since it was delicious the first time, we had no qualms when Theresa and Justin suggested it.  Last time, we both enjoyed the Tejano made with grass fed beef (something about grass fed beef is oooh so tasty!).  This time, Dave had the Heritage made with beef once again, and Alex had a fantastic veggie burger with Tejano toppings.  French fries!  Can’t forget the fries… they are cooked and seasoned to a delicious perfection!

We moved the car once again, this time towards “The Owl Man.”  Initially we thought this was something we could tour, however, it turns out it is just a window in a private residence filled with all sorts of owl collectibles.  The big find here, however, was NOT on our list.  We happened to park in front of the Bi-RiteCreamery… so why not get some ice cream.  Dave enjoyed a triple dip of cookies-and-cream, coffee, and mint chocolate chip.  Alex enjoyed a scoop of vanilla malt with chocolate chips and peanut brittle and a scoop of chocolate.  Theresa and Justin apparently weren’t concerned about getting kidnapped (see picture below) and shared a cone with a scoop of brown sugar ginger salted caramel and a scoop of chocolate. 

Despite the fact that we just finished eating burgers, fries, and ice cream, we took a walk to the nearby Dandelion Chocolate.   This was an awesome place, and we would have loved to take a tour but the tour was filled for that evening.  Also, we would have loved to have made a chocolately purchase, however, our bellies were still quite full so we only had small samples.

We routed ourselves towards the Bernal Heights Mini-Park Slides.  This mini-park was tucked into the hillside of a neighborhood with a pair of 35-foot long metal slides.  We enjoyed a few trips down the slides before a father and his kids showed up with something to make them even better!  Wax paper!  They rubbed the wax paper all over the slides… WOW!  What a difference!  Now we were really cruising!  Apparently, these are the 2nd best slides in San Francisco.  The best are the Seward Slides, but they were closed for the evening.  There is a gate that gets closed on the slides at 5pm each evening… sadface!

The Mosaic Stepswere next!   The 163 steps in the Golden Gate Heights Neighborhood, were created and sponsored by the community.  The stairs were awesome to see and walk up.  Dave was quite excited to find an entire box of ramen noodles at the top.  We did not take them, we don’t know why they were there, but Dave was stoked none the less.

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.

We headed back towards San Jose, grabbed some pizza, and hung out on the couch watching The Italian Job… the namesake of the Theresa an Justin’s two black cats… Handsome Rob and Napster.

Funny/Not Funny Note:  Justin hobbled around on a probably(definitely) sprained ankle all day.  The injury resulted from falling out of bed in the morning because of a leg that had fallen asleep while sitting in bed.

Saturday, July 11 – Tuesday, July 14 – San Jose, CA

After cleaning up and packing up, the four of us headed to Scotty’s Restaurant for breakfast.  The service and food were fantastic.  Immediately upon sitting, there was coffee in our cups and water glasses on our table.  When we ordered, they even asked how we wanted our bacon prepared…  CRISPY of course! 

After finishing breakfast, we helped Kevin and Sam remove Yosemite dirt and debris from their rental car before we parted ways.  Kevin and Sam were headed to Fresno to catch a flight back to New Jersey, and we were headed to cousin Theresa and Justin’s place in San Jose for a few days. 
We spent the afternoon relaxing on their patio, playing with cats, enjoying grilled burgers, corn on the cob and zucchini.  Later in the evening we met up with another of Dave’s cousins, Jeremey, and wife Shuwei, in Mountain View for dinner.  Initially when Dave and I heard we were going to have “ramen,” we both instantly thought of the good old plastic packages of cheap flavored noodles.  What we found at Shalala, was much heartier and more flavorful than those packets of plastic from our college memories.  After dinner we enjoyed a walk up and down the streets lined with shops and restaurants.
Sunday morning, the two of us woke early for a run on the nearby Los Gatos Creek Trail.  Despite all the hiking and climbing we have been doing, we found our runs (6 miles for Alex and 8 miles for Dave) on flat ground to actually leave our legs feeling tired.   After returning and showering, we enjoyed homemade waffles thanks to Justin, with an incredible amount of topping selections… of which Alex took some of each!  We took a walk to a nearby farmer’s market in Campbell, where we all purchased some local fruits and vegetables to use over the next week.  Alex was jonesing for some iced coffee, and after some searching, we found la PanotiQ Bakery Café, which served up some awesome cold brew coffee. 

After returning to their place, we ate some lunch before heading off to visit some wineries. The first winery we pulled into did not last long; we quickly decided the vibe from the place was very much not what we wanted.  Without being a member, you could not enjoy their supposedly beautiful grounds, but instead had to remain in a nearly windowless tasting room.  We left their parking lot full of fancy cars and headed just up the road to the Burrell School Winery.  The employees here were very friendly and we enjoyed our tasting sitting on a porch overlooking their vineyard. 

Our final stop for the day was the Winchester Mystery House, a 160 room mansion formerly owned by Sarah Winchester, heiress to the Winchester Repeating Arms Company.   The house is an astounding maze of rooms, staircases, and oddities.  For example, there is a stairway that goes nowhere, ending at a ceiling, and a door that opens to the outside with nothing but a fall if you stepped through it.   38 years of 24-hour per day construction, funded by Mrs. Winchester’s fortune, ended only after her death.   It is believed that Mrs. Winchester continued this construction in order to keep on the good side of the spirits of those killed by Winchester rifles.  Though the advertising, gift shop, and entrance to the house see very much a tourist trap, once inside the house and on the guided tour of the grounds, it is a very interesting.

Monday was a welcomed, lazy day.  Dave did some school work, we played with cats, we ran some errands, and made chocolate truffles with Theresa.  There are no pictures of the truffles… because we ate them all.  There is, however, a picture of the awesome salad we made.  “YAY!” for finally eating “real food” on a regular basis again!

Tuesday, we visited the San Jose Municipal Rose Gardens and Japanese Friendship Garden.

Friday, July 10 – Muir Woods National Monument and San Francisco

6:00AM alarms rang, and we all crawled from our comfy beds (the first real bed Dave and Alex had in weeks).  Once dressed, we hopped in Kevin and Sam’s rental car, and made our way towards Muir Woods National Monument for some hiking.  Along the way, we made a pit-stop at a roadside coffee and bakery to fuel our adventure.

After driving up the long and winding road to the parking lot, we quickly found a place to park in the nearly empty parking lot.  After Sam helped Kevin prep his feet for the day, we started to hike along of the paved paths in the cool, damp air.  The weather was a welcome change from the scorching heat and sun of Yosemite.  We pieced together several different trails to form about a 6-mile loop around the park.  We enjoyed a leisurely hike, drinking coffee and snapping pictures along the way.  When we found ourselves back in the parking lot, it looked vastly different than it did when we left.  The lot, as well as the extra lots, were now completely full of car and tour buses.  As usual, we were thankful we chose an early start!

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.

The Painted Ladies


We all decided we were ready to head back to the car and head back towards the hotel.  Unfortunately, we were hitting rush hour traffic.  As we moved along, we started to think about dinner.  As we all began searching, Alex suggested a Mexican restaurant, Taqueria La Bamba, that was about a mile away.  Fortunately, the needed exit was just ahead, but involved crossing 5 lanes of traffic.  Thanks to evasive driving maneuvers by Dave, we made it off the exit and into the parking lot.  The building was not much to look at, but inside we were served delicious vegetarian burritos and the best shrimp quesadilla we ever had!  With full bellies and leftovers for later, we headed to the car and back to the hotel.  Kevin and Sam would be flying home tomorrow, so we spent the remainder of the evening packing up and relaxing.  

Wednesday, July 8 – Thursday, July 9 – Rest Day and Heading to San Francisco

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.

After dinner, we made a camp fire from a combination of found fire wood and scavenged downed branches from the woods.  Somehow, Kevin found a way to get another injury.  As Alex and Sam washed the dinner dishes, Dave and Kevin were breaking down some of the larger pieces of tree branches. Dave set aside some pieces he deemed too large to kick in half.  Kevin looked at them and said, “Obviously, you didn’t take enough karate lessons…” and proceeded to begin kicking the pieces in half.  After a few successful breaks, Kevin managed to end up with an unbroken branch and one large scrape up the back of his calf.  After cleaning up the scrape, Dave helped him do a thorough job of bandaging the wound.  
Now that the fire was built, and burned to a nice set of coals, we were able to enjoy our s’mores and the fire.  After a few hours of conversations and laughs, the last few pieces were all but done burning, and we were all ready for bed.  A few good drenchings of water left us satisfied that the fire was out, and we headed to our tents, planning to do some climbing in the morning on the base of El Cap.

Around 3:30AM some rain began to patter on the fly of the tent and thunder rumbled in the distance.  We zipped shut the rain fly to keep out the rain, and quickly returned to a deep slumber.  Sometime later we were awakened by the BEST thunderstorm ever.  The deep thunder was the loudest and most intense either of us had ever heard, and we loved it!  The rolling booms sounded as if they were echoing against the granite all the way down the valley, and reverberated in the ground under our backs. 

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.

Tuesday, July 7 – Cables Route Hike

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.

Monday, July 6 – Tioga Road and Tuolumne Meadows

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.

We stopped in Tuolumne Meadows on the way back, and took a short hike to Soda Springs.  Soda Springs is a naturally occurring carbonated spring.  The springs were believed to have healing properties by the people who visited them long ago.  We tasted the water, as you are told you can do at your own discretion, and it tasted…. Interesting…

After returning to the car, we made some quick stops at the camp store for some butter and cream cheese.  Back at camp, we made mac-and-cheese for dinner, and readied our breakfast for the morning; bagels and cream cheese.  We headed to bed early, knowing that we were waking at 3:00AM to hike the Cables Route to the summit of Half Dome.   Unfortunately, we went to bed early, but we did not get to sleep early.  Next to us, were two families camping together who had some VERY loud voices that were talking until around midnight.

Sunday, July 5 – The Grack and Mariposa Grove

We made oatmeal at camp before heading to Curry Village to fill up our water containers and get some coffee before heading over to climb The Grack again. After climbing it the other day, we decided this would be a good first climb to take Kevin and Sam on in Yosemite. The approach isn’t bad, and the 3 pitches of climbing are pretty mellow and fun.

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.

Back at the car, Kevin summoned some much needed rest, laying on a sleeping pad next to the car refusing to eat or drink. The remaining three of us made and ate PB&J while we cleaned up gear and prepared to drive to Mariposa Grove of Giant Trees near the Wawona entrance to the park. After parking, we jumped on a shuttle for the 20-minute ride to the trailhead. By now, Kevin was sore, tired, demoralized and had ripped up hands and feet. We would only have about 1.5 hours before the final shuttle would leave the trailhead, so the bus driver suggested everyone only go to the “Grizzly Giant.” She said this was about an hour round trip. She mentioned that in the Upper Groves, it was like “Jurassic Park,” but this was a 3 hour round trip hike. Alex knew that once she said this, it was game over and Dave was going to be on a mission. 

We saw at the trailhead, that “Grizzly Giant” was only 0.8 miles, and the Upper Groves were 1.6 miles. We had this… even in flip flops. Alex and Dave took off up the trail, leaving a trail of dust behind them. They made it practically to the museum area before they decided to turn around. The trees were HUGE and amazing to look at along the way, though they waited until the way back to take pictures. They re-joined Kevin and Sam who had hiked to well beyond the “suggested distances” in the allotted time despite Kevin’s battered morale, feet,and hands.

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.

Saturday, July 4 – Hike to Glacier Point

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.


When we reached Glacier Point, we rewarded ourselves with juice bars from the store, and a pretzel with cheese for Kevin. It’s not every day that you halfway through a hike and find a concession stand! We enjoyed our snacks as well as the PB&J sandwiches (while Dave “actively” discouraged wildlife) we had packed before heading over to take some pictures and enjoy the view.

We made our way down the never ending switchbacks to the valley floor. Kevin looked happier, and even told us he was having fun… he doesn’t remember saying this and says he was probably delusional. When we made our way towards the shuttle stop, we found a shaded boulder to sit under as we waited for the bus. Now we saw the extent of Kevin’s pain; the bottoms of his feet were blistered… he said they felt as if they were being burnt by the hot granite on the way down the trail. His little toe also had a large chunk of skin rubbed from the top. No wonder he looked so sad!

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.