Yosemite – Backpacking, Rafting and Road Trip!!

So this 4th of July long weekend myself & Maris did a road trip to Yosemite, CA to spend the weekend backpacking with my sister – Vaidehi and her friends Siddharth and Abhinav.

Vaidehi and Siddharth have never backpacked before they were little hesitant to join but I convinced them that this will be easy, fun and I can help them get the required gear. Here is an interesting picture of all that we packed and also how I communicated to Vaidehi and Sid what to bring :).

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We decided to backpack John Muir Trail from Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite Valley, 21 mile route has 1400 ft of total elevation gain and is very scenic – perfect for a comfortable beginners backpacking trip of 3 days! Yosemite park requires a permit to backpack and for the John Muir trail all the permits were sold months in advanced. However there was an option of walk-in permits which are issued 24 hours in advance, so myself and Maris decided to drive to California a day in advance so that we can get the permits for the long weekend. The drive to Yosemite was relatively swift we kept ourselves entertained by exploring the powers of my newly bought iPhone 3G-S and Maris knitted a yet to be named crochet concoction.

Let me digress – I was really impressed by the things you can do with the iPhone in fact we bought a few audio books from iTunes and it made our trip a pleasure. I discovered a really cool American author Jack London, we heard his short story – To Build a Fire. We also heard Mark Twain Sampler and numbers podcasts from NPR and Travel and Leisure themes. One word of caution though, a few books I bought new downloaded even though i was charged for them!! Its kind of lame of Apple to not prioritize the paid content for delivery through the carriers. Note that these books where less than 10 MB (one cant download anything more than 10MB through the AT&T cell network, you need to be on WiFi or dongled to a computer).

Anyhooo… we spent Thursday setting up our tent in the backpackers camping ground in Tuolumne Meadows and driving around the park. We kept our car on the other side in Yosemite Valley so that we have a transport when we get out of the trail on the other side. We took a rather comfortable $8 shuttle/ YART Bus back to Tuolumne Meadows from the Valley! Vaidehi and Sid joined us late on Thursday night.

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Backpacking Day 1

After a great breakfast at the Tuolumne lodge we started our hike up to the Cathedral lakes. This was the toughest part of the backpacking trip in 3.5 miles we gained 1400ft. Vaidehi and Sid did very great on the way up, we were really impressed by them even though this was a first backpacking trip for them. In fact we took 0.5 mile detour to go look at the lakes and join Steffen & friends (we pleasantly ran in to them at the Tuolumne lodge, Steffen took some great pics with his new camera so we have to wait for those pics).

IMG_3416 IMG_3417However the lake was infested with Mosquitoes (apparently the Mosquitoes as in high season until 3 weeks after the snow melts). Vaidehi got really pestered by the mosquitoes, her newly bought hiking shoes had silently troubled her as well.

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When we got back to our trail we figured that Vaidehi in fact has sprained her ankle and the new shoes were biting her. Given that this was her first backpacking trip, trucking a sprained ankle for almost 17 miles ahead of us would be no fun, we made a call that she should go back. Sid graciously decided to accompany her. Myself and Maris then thought of finishing the trip in two days rather than three and meeting Sid and Vaidehi back in the valley for Day 3.

It was almost 4:30 pm, so Maris and Myself continued hiking and reach our day 1 camping spot – Sunrise high camp at about 6:30pm covering 10 miles in total since our start at 11:30am. This camp was infested with Mosquitoes as well so we decided to hike a little further along until we find a nice spot. We went about a mile ahead and camped in a very cool spot with great views, at about 9700 ft. I went down to the swamps and found a small stream and filtered some water for us as a swarm of mosquitoes feasted on me.

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Backpacking Day 2

We woke up about 7am on Day 2 and started our hike at about 8am after an oatmeal breakfast prepared my our chef de excellence – Ms. Maris Lemba. This was a relatively easy day as we had about 13 miles ahead of us but it was all downhill. We hiked down to the Sunrise creek and had lunch there. Surprisingly I had cell phone coverage there, I called Vaidehi and told her that we will be down to the valley around 4pm. On our way down from Sunrise creek we passed the great half down trail, from a near wilderness experience we suddenly were amidst hoards of hikers. The trail from here became steep and the continuous downhill pounding troubled my knees quite a bit. We reach the lower Yosemite valley around 2:30pm and I decided to take a dip in the Merced river it was awesome!! This originally was our day 2 camping spot.

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From there on we continued our journey downward seeing couple of falls. We camped at the backpackers area in the North pine camping ground in the valley. We met another backpacking couple at the camp and chatted about great hikes and climbing areas around the valley over a bonfire and some wine :).

Highlights of the trip

Here are pictures of some interesting flora and fauna we saw on the trip.

Fauna

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Flora

Unknown flowers

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Day 3 – Rafting

The third day we were again joined by Vaidehi, Sid and Abhinav. We spent sometime sight seeing the valley and then did an awesome lazy rafting trip through the Merced river in lower valley!

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Towards the end of the day Vaidehi, Sid and Abhinav went to the Glacier point but for some reason we took a wrong turn and never made it there. On the way to point we witnessed some forest fires (the first I have seen).

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This was an awesome trip, thanks to Vaidehi for suggesting it.

Road Trip Back Home – Scouting the route for riding to San Francisco

On our way back to Seattle we continued with the iPhone books :). But we had another project as well to scout the route for my bike trip from Seattle to San Francisco. It was great to see the number of bikers on highway 101. Our original plan of 95 miles a day seems a little too ambitious now that I have seen the terrain, off to re-planning it now :)!

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