Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite National Park, California

September 2, 2015 Categories Camper Van, Road Trips, Travel, USA

Miles driven: 616.7 (last 3 days)
Miles hiked: 9.2

The last few days have been tiring. First, Szilvia decided to split off and go separate ways. We stayed near Reno a few days ago and on the way there she was talking about how she originally wanted to go to the Burning Man festival and on the way to San Diego she sat next to a guy who was going and said he had an extra ticket. Since we happened to arrive in Reno while the festival was ongoing, she decided to message the guy who had an extra ticket and go to that instead of continuing the road trip (the festival is about a week long). It was nice having someone to share the gas cost with, but I’m also glad to be alone again.

Since the route we were taking was designed around some of the things Szilvia wanted to see, I no longer had a reason to stick to it. I really didn’t want to go to Vegas (again), the Grand Canyon (again), Phoenix, or back to San Diego to drop her off. Granted, since she announced her decision that morning, I didn’t really have time to think of something else to do and I drove as if nothing had changed and went down to Lake Tahoe. It wasn’t as I had imagined it’d be (being able to just show up and go to the beach). The road I was on was high above the water and the one place I pulled off at wanted $10 for parking and I’m too cheap for that. I managed to get a couple pics of the lake and that was about it.

The day was essentially a complete flop. I kept on driving until I got to a town called Sonora on the West side of Yosemite National Park. I stopped there because that was the closest town to the park that was more than just two buildings on the mountainside; plus it had a Walmart, where I camped at. The only thing I’m happy about was I got to drive through two National Forests: Toiyabe and Stanislaus.

I went to Yosemite yesterday, to check things out and try to get a feel for the park. On a map, Sonora looks a lot closer than it actually is to the park. It took me about two hours to drive into Yosemite that morning; Yosemite is deep in the mountains and the road in was quite winding.

After getting a park map and looking at it for a bit, I decided to head into Yosemite Valley, as that’s where most of the well known stuff appears (Half Dome, El Capitan, Glacier Point, JMT trailhead). The park is quite large (over 40 miles across, not sure how tall) and most of it is all wilderness. It was possibly ten o’clock by the time I got into the valley and parked. I immediately headed to the visitor center to get postcards and a park token as my souvenirs.

Once I was squared away, I thought it’d be fun to hike up the Four Mile Trail to Glacier Point. Since I already had a parking spot and the trail didn’t look like it was that far from me on the map, I thought I’d try to walk over to it. A good hour or more went by while I just crisscrossed around the valley area trying to match the map up with the roads and landmarks and none of it was making sense. Even when I thought I had it right, I’d see a sign for something that should have been nowhere near where I was. Being a typical guy, I’m far too stubborn to just go and ask for help, so instead I gave up and just got in my car and figured I’d drive there.

Turns out, the first direction I was walking was the right way, but there’s a sign for Yosemite Falls and it completely threw me off because Yosemite Falls should have been North of where I was. Anywho, after driving around the loop in the van, the parking area in front of the Four Mile Trail was packed and I couldn’t even stop there. It was close to 11:30 by this point and I was just irritated at how much time was being wasted. I left the valley and drove Tioga Road across the North end of the park instead. At one point, I picked up a backpacker who was hitching and she told me she just came from Kings Canyon (where I wanted to go to next) and there’s so much smoke in the area that it’s impossible to really enjoy anything. I guess there’s a fire there (not sure if it’s a controlled burn or not) and she was complaining about difficulty breathing in the area and could barely see anything around her. Today I heard it was actually the Sequoia National Park that had the fire, so I don’t know which is true (the parks border each other, so it’s all the same area). Regardless, it kind of rules out those two parks being my next stops.

I didn’t find Tioga Road very interesting, probably because I was still irritated about not getting to hike, so yesterday was mostly a flop as well. After that, I left the park. It turns out the Four Mile Trail was closed yesterday, so even if I got to it, I still wouldn’t have been able to hike it.

And now we finally get to today. It was another long drive into the park, but I arrived at the Four Mile Trail a little after 9am and started hiking around 9:20. Frankly, that trail is a beast to climb up. From the valley floor, you have to climb up 3,200 ft over the course of 4.6 miles to reach a final elevation of 7,214 ft. The entire trail is up. No up and then down; no up, flat for a bit, then up some more; it’s just up, up, and more up. Around 2.6 or 2.7 miles in, there was a locked gate across the trail saying the trail was closed until 1pm on Sep 1 (yesterday) because crews where spraying some chemical due to risk of people catching the plague. And yes, you read that right – the plague. Talk about a motivational booster to make you wanna keep on hiking! By the way, if I die anytime soon because of the plague, blame Yosemite. Anywho, I called the park rangers to make sure it was alright to go ahead and they said they forgot to open the gate, but the area was for sure open for hiking so I continued on. It took me almost exactly two hours from when I started to reach Glacier Point at the top. From there, you get a really good view of the entire valley and a great view of Half Dome.

Oh, and Half Dome… grrr! I talked to the park rangers yesterday about hiking it and apparently it’s by permit only and to get a permit, there’s a lottery. It costs $4.50 to apply for the lottery online, and then IF you get selected it’s another $8 per person for the permit. Oh, and you have to apply two days before you want to hike it. You’d think I’d look this stuff up before I go to parks, but I don’t. I honestly just show up and figure it out when I get there. So, needless to say, I was a little disappointed.

The hike down the Four Mile Trail was easy, since gravity did most of the work, but it was still tiring on the feet. I was happy to finally get a good hike in, but I was so thrown off from the past couple days that I left Yosemite and drove pretty far, not intending on going back tomorrow. Only now did I realize that I didn’t even hike any portion of the John Muir Trail, which I wanted to do while there. Mainly because he’s the reason we have National Parks, but also because he’s from Portage, Wisconsin – a town I once lived in long ago. Oh, and I drove through the Sierra National Forest on my way out of Yosemite today, so that was fun.

I’m not too sure what I’m doing or where I’m going next. I’m debating on going back to Wisconsin to make some changes to the van and pick up some of the things I left there, but if I do that, then I wanna take Route 66 for most of the drive back. At the same time, there’s a job I inquired about in Utah when I was still there to work for a company that builds tiny houses – which I think would be awesome, as both a learning experience and because tiny houses rock. I’m not sure if the job is still available, but I can hope. I have other ideas, but those are the ones I’m leaning towards. There’s a good chance I’ll (try to) do both. I’ve also thought about taking 18 months off from doing any travel and going to UTI. I have no intentions of ever being a mechanic or working in the automotive industry in any way, but I am interested in the extensive knowledge they can offer. I’ve torn apart and rebuilt small engines, but never a car engine.

So many choices. I wish I could do it all at the same time, as well as intern or work as an apprentice for six months as both a plumber and an electrician. I only know the basics about plumbing (PEX, copper pipe, and PVC assembly), but I’d like to learn more. Same with electrical; I know basic household electrical things (breaker install, wiring, amp limits, outlet/switch install, etc), but I’d like to learn more about the National Electrical Code (NEC) without having to read some boring book.

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