Monday, September 24, 2007

Destination 2: Yosemite

After getting settled at our first home base in Fresno, we set out for Yosemite National Park. This would actually be our third visit, though frustratingly we've never made it there when the waterfalls were at their peak. Regardless, our plan was to camp at Crane Flat and to hike up in Tuolomne Meadows.

We snagged a great campsite and then made the long way up Tioga Road to Lembert Dome. This was listed as one of the best day hikes in the Tuolomne area and given it was only a few miles round trip, we figured it was a good way to acclimate ourselves to the elevation (9,450 ft).

We were definitely hurting on the way up due to the elevation (sea level to 9000 feet is always a bit harsh in one day), but the views from the top were worth it. Though the top was a bare face, it was an easy scramble up until the final 30-50 feet. Julie decided to skip it, but I was never one to let a 45 degree sheer face deter me from a marginally better view! Ok, so I have this thing about actually summitting - must, (imagine the squaring of the shoulders) just be where I am used to being... :)

Pardon the California late afternoon smog by the way - you just get used to it after awhile. Besides that we had a wonderful day - even above 9000 feet is was still decently warm out in late September - a situation unfortunately that was not going to last long.

After a truly gourmet meal of hot dogs, we settled into my favorite part of camping - having a beer around the campfire. Combined with seeing the stars this is what makes up for sleeping on the ground and dealing with crappy campground bathrooms (in this case portable toilets only - no fun). Anyhow, after we put the fire out we truly felt how cold it had gotten - the temp was quickly plummeting toward freezing. Time to bundle up!

The next morning found us not yet frozen and on our way to hike out to North Dome. The bummer was that the weather had turned over night - a winter storm was moving in with snow forecast around 6500 feet and above (not great when you are camping at 6200 feet). We decided to worry about camping later, bundle back up, and get out on the trail. The hike to North Dome was a great hike - mainly through the woods with moderate elevation gain and loss. When we got out to the dome though - renowned for having great views as it is right across Yosemite Valley from Half Dome - instead of looking out across the valley we were looking right at smoke - lots of smoke. The forest service had decided to do a controlled burn on the valley floor which left the whole valley shrouded in smoke.

The second picture shows half dome - tantalizingly close, but indistinct due to the smoke. In both pictures you can also see the heavy storm clouds moving in. Given the cold temp and the high likelihood of rain and possibly snow, we decided to bag the rest of the trip and head back to Fresno. On the way out we did manage to catch one more great view of the valley - thankfully free of smoke.

A nice way to end a good, if unlucky, trip to Yosemite.

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