TL;DR | Unbelievable mountainous landscapes, and Carolyn joined! The hikes were a short but strenuous 15 miles over two days, the water scarce (CA drought), and the bees the most frequently viewed wildlife.
Apparently the bears in Yosemite were hiding this trip, but we encountered many a mule deer and swarm of bees. The scenery is beautiful, and on the National Park system’s 100 year birthday the park had free admission and a rash of tourists to go with it.
While leaving San Francisco we stopped once more at Ike’s Place for their famous Menage a Trois sandwich and hand delivered them to Stephen’s sister Carolyn, who we picked up at the airport and who owned the backseats of our car from Yosemite through Los Angeles.
After a quicker-than-expected 3+ hours to reach our Crane Flat campsite, we set up the tents (Carolyn borrowed the backpacking one) and headed towards Yosemite village. Like everyone, we stopped for photos of El Capitan along the main road and then sat on Sentinel Beach – accompanied by an all-too-comfortable-with-humans mule deer – to eat our imported SF sandwiches.
The following morning we made breakfast while battling the hoard of bees which swarmed our egg scrambles. We visited Bridalveil Falls, which at first confused us with its meager mists of water but later we recognized as a vista nearly identical to a bride’s veil per the waterfall’s name. Thanks to the drought currently plaguing California, there is also very limited water, making many of the famous falls of Yosemite almost non-existent. The trail is a whopping 1,000 feet, but we scrambled up the rocks a good ¼ mile to get a better view. We next headed to Upper Yosemite Falls, a 3 ½ mile hike with significant elevation that overlooked the entire valley. Throughout the hike we were confused about the location of the waterfall to which the trail led. Turns out the waterfall was visible nearly the entire time we were climbing, yet had such a tiny trickle of water emanating from the top (our hike’s destination) that we didn’t even notice it when we reached the summit without explicitly trying to find the fall. Summer is a wonderful time to visit for many reasons, but considering the aforementioned drought, it can also drastically change the landscape of the park. Oh well; the vistas were magnificent! Homemade red beans and rice capped off a tiring but rewarding hike, and we lit a big fire and played cribbage and casino with the new board and cards Carolyn generously brought as a gift.
Day 2 we ventured to the Northeast of the park to visit Tuolumne Meadows, rolling along with long strains of yellow grain. We chose Cathedral Peaks for that days hike, which brought us 3 ½ less-steep miles each way to a large lake overlooking the mountains. Compared to the prior day this one felt easy, and on our return we made use of the tire inner tubes we’d recently bought to float around and perform some semblance of bathing in Lake Tenaya. Since Stephen mistakenly failed to book that night’s campsite, we found a new site south of the park by Wawona and made camp before heading back to the coast.