This trip we were going to get into the backcountry of Yosemite as a first priority and visit two places new to Jackie. After that we would decide whether to head north on the eastern side of the Sierras, or go to warmer climes a bit south of Mono Lake and beyond. It would depend on the weather. (The map shows our actual route and detours as it turned out.)
The first big leg of our trip then was to get to Yosemite to climb Half Dome and then press on to Cloud's Rest, both of which offer outstanding views of the high country, and also the valley itself. Several months ago we were lucky enough to get a backcountry permit, including climbing Half Dome on the first day the cables were scheduled to be up for the season. We packed our bags and flew uneventfully from Ottawa through O'Hare, and landed in San Francisco later in the afternoon. We arrived to gorgeous sun with a bit of a cool breeze to freshen things up.
We were very lucky to get into Fremont just in time to make it through the door of REI (mountain equipment store) before they closed at 5. After quite a bit of shopping there, we had pizza for dinner. Outside, a Red Bull truck had parked. International Harvester makes some interesting vehicles that's for sure.
The campsite was officially "Full" according to the signs, (almost always it says that), but about a third of the campsites were empty. So either a lot of people were planning to arrive early the next day before their entire reservation was cancelled, or they decided not to come because of quite cool weather in the forecast.
The next morning, more yellow paint. This time it's a stretch Hummer in the motel lot, something to do with a Reality TV series. I'd love to see this go up California Street.
Getting an early start we visit Safeway because it's close, and my discount card still works after being away for 14 years. In the parking lot a license plate catches my eye, and while taking a picture, Mike and his children arrive. Being a big climbing fan, he's close to one of the best areas of the world.
Giant car sale along the Interstate
...and creative art on freeway walls, at virtually no cost. Why do so many other cities insist on "flat and even Tasteful Corporate Grey" when they could do things like this to cheer people up?
Now we're into the foothills.The four huge penstock tubes carry water to the Moccasin powerhouse near the bottom of the Priest Grade.
Eventually we pass through Groveland with fairly little traffic, which is a bit surprising given the weather today.
Our first view of Yosemite Valley shows Bridalveil Falls straight ahead. The road cut is visible on the left. Many years ago the Old Big Oak Flat Road went this way before sections of it were erased with landslides and the road rerouted to its present path. Half Dome and El Capitan are both hidden on the left, around the bend.
As I mentioned earlier, we were very lucky to get from the airport into Fremont just in time to make it through the door of REI before they closed at 5. Otherwise it would've meant going Sunday morning at 11. Lucky we did, because leaving early Sunday morning as it turns out, we got to Yosemite and made it in the door of the backcountry office to get our permit just a few minutes before closing as well!
Anyway, it turned out that the Half Dome cables were only going up the coming Friday, but the original plan was to climb Half Dome on the second day of our hike before continuing our backcountry trek around and up to Cloud's Rest. We were able to switch the order of things and put this climb last on the itinerary- so the new plan was to visit Cloud's Rest first and then tackle Half Dome early on the first day of the permit season (Saturday).
After setting up camp, we made a visit to the trails at the bottom of Yosemite Falls. The stonework is very artistic and dramatically enhances the pathways. Trees are pretty popular with some of us as well.
On the way back along the cool and windy trail, Jackie spots a Scorpion right out in the open. It pays to keep eyes wide open!
Back at camp we start packing for a morning start. Everything gets pretty quiet once darkness falls.