Hiking Yosemite in Autumn

Sentinel Dome, Roosevelt Point and Bears!

Hiking Yosemite in late Autumn means golden woods, fiery fall foliage, clear blue skies with crisp temps and for us bear sightings!

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This weekend we went on a quick, whirlwind hiking trip. Here are some highlights….

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Golden twilight in Yosemite Valley

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The Hiking Route

Trail Head At: Sentinel Dome and Taft Point

Length: 6 miles

We began at the Sentinel Dome and Taft Point trail head. We did a counter clockwise loop hiking to Sentinel Dome to breathe in the glorious views of Yosemite Valley, El Capitan and Half Dome. We stopped here for for a quick bite of lunch as well.

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We continued along the trail, and just before Roosevelt Point we saw THE BEARS! I was strolling along the path when I saw movement through the firs coming down the mountain. And then I a saw a huge fluffy butt rumbling down the mountain and my mind jolted awake. I said to Brad – that is a damn bear! And then a few moments later I saw that she was followed by her baby! Insert moment of terror followed by a joyful and frantic, albeit silent happy dance. We have been dying to spot a bear in the wild.

We stood stock still, allowing the bears to continue their path down the mountain. They walked across a granite plateau, looped around us and stopped in a meadow right in front of us to graze on berries. The mother bear acknowledged us, and continued. We were in bliss.

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Happy dance because we saw BEARS!!!!

We continued on to Roosevelt Point  to check out the spectacular panoramic vistas. We marveled at the sheer cliff faces, towering firs and winding rivers bathed in golden sunlight.

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We continued on to Taft Point, which had slack liners and a big swing set up. Jesus. That is not something I ever want to do. One of the slack liners was seated on the line thousands of feet over Yosemite Valley, just chilling. For any fans of Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows duology, I whispered to Brad, that woman is Inej.

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NOPE

After the Hike: The Dawn Wall and Curry Village Pizza

After the hike, we drove through the glorious valley and hiked about a mile to the Dawn Wall, which is a section of El Capitan, because THAT DOCUMENTARY YOU GUYS. If you have not seen it – check it out now. It’s about a superhuman of a man who scales impossible routes up the sheer rock face of El Capitan and it is extraordinary. For dinner, we stopped at Curry Village for pizza and beer (bubbles for me, obvi) and lounged near the fireplace.  

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The Dawn Wall – we had to go touch it and imagine the sheer terror of summiting it and sleeping on a portaledge
The Dawn Wall :)
Happy Brad, because I walked with him to the Dawn Wall, even though I REALLY just wanted some pizza and a warm fire place

The Next Day: Hiking Hetch Hetchy

The next morning we drove to Hetch Hetchy for an easy hike with gorgeous views. We took the Wapama Falls route which during the summer season takes you past three gushing waterfalls. There was no water this time of year, so we picked a spot on a plateau for sweeping views and relaxed in the warmth watching the sunlight glint of the water. We plan to return mid July 2020 for a backpacking trip to see all the waterfalls.

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More Yosemite Hiking Photos

 

Next up in our hiking adventures – Point Reyes beach backpacking and hiking Eagle Creek in Lake Tahoe.

Into The Wild: Backpacking Young Lakes Yosemite

Highlights Of Our Yosemite Hike:

  • The Alpine Meadows!
  • Glorious, sweeping views over both lakes – lounging above the cloud line
  • Falling sleep under a sky slowing filling with stars and the glittering Milky Way
  • Deer prancing up to our tent, ground hogs playing

In July, I went on my very first back packing trip to Sunol Regional Park, and in a surprising turn of events fell completely in love with it! I went on this trip to prepare for an upcoming four day hike to Young Lakes Yosemite. I wanted to give myself a taste of what I might be taking on. 

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On Friday, we took a half day at work, and drove to Tuolumne Meadows (stopping at In-N-Out for dinner  – oooh), and camped at the Tuolumne Meadows Campground so that we could spend the first evening at elevation adjusting. We woke up early Saturday morning, picked up our permit and were at the trail head and hiking by 8:30am.

Details: Young Lakes, Yosemite National Park

Trail Head At: Tuolumne Meadow

Length: 13.2 Miles Give or Take,  6.6 Miles Each Way

Elevation Begins At: 8,584 

Top Lake Elevation: 10,218 

First things first – this hike is insanely gorgeous

Really, about every two miles or so, you are rewarded with the most stunning, take your breath away, panoramic views.

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The first half mile is a steep ascent, (keep in mind that this is a pretty high elevation, especially for a newbie, so I was absolutely dragging ass). When we came across this magnificent meadow, we knew it was the perfect break spot. Surrounded by verdant pines and snow capped mountains, a crystal clear rushing brook, violet wildflowers and a light breeze, we dropped our packs, collapsed and lounged in the grass, listening to the wind through the pines.

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The First Lake

We carried on to the bottom lake, where we perched on a rock by the water’s edge and stopped for lunch. PB + crackers for me,  salami and cheese for Brad. In and of itself, this lake is a gorgeous sight, but Brad insisted the upper most lake was even more gorgeous and so off we went.

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The Middle Lake

We forged on to the middle lake. By this time we had walked about 6 miles, most of it steep. We stopped to choose a place for a tent, when mosquitoes swarmed. It was pure carnage. We had been attacked each time we stopped for a rest along the trail – and those little assholes bit me on every inch of exposed area, including through my pants, but we had managed to continue hiking. This time, it was a total massacre. There was nothing for it – we frantically put up the tent as we were covered by grey buzzing swarms and leapt inside. I tried not to cry.

While we rested in the tent, snacking on dark peanut butter protein bars and wondering what in the hell we were going to do, a massive doe ambled up to our tent, staring curiously at us with her golden eyes. “Hello, beautiful,” we whispered.

Shortly following the deer, two hikers tore by, shouting out that mosquitoes were much better if we could manage to make it to the topmost lake. Originally, we had planned to stop at the second lake, spend the night and hike the last precipitous mile to the top lake in the morning. We chose to trust the hikers. While Brad frantically dismantled the tent shouting “go, go go!” I hurtled up the mountain, scrambling over rocks and waterfalls, pulling myself up by handholds.

The Topmost Lake

When we first glimpsed the meadow, I gasped, overwhelmed by the natural beauty. This  was some angels singing, Lord of the Rings magic, alpine beauty. 

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Alpine Meadow – first glimpse. Go on – tell me magic doesn’t exist!

As we breathed in the alpine air and basked in the beauty of this secluded lake, we quickly realized the mosquitoes were still attacking, and scrambled up another rock to the most glorious, sweeping views overlooking both the lower lakes. We found the perfect place to pitch our tent and lunged in.

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Twilight at Young Lakes Yosemite
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Exalting in the views  – we made it to the top lake!

Once inside the tent, we finally relaxed. We made dinner, and shared chocolate mint Cliff Bars (which I highly recommend) while we reveled in Yosemite’s exceptional beauty. We sipped Kahlua and hot chocolate as the sky slowly filled with stars and fell asleep under the glittering Milky Way.

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We woke up in the morning to fluffy ground hogs scampering and playing near our tent. We sipped Kahlua coffee’s (we needed to fortify ourselves you guys) and decided there was no point staying at the top lake, breathtakingly gorgeous as it was, if we couldn’t leave the tent. We put away our things and hurtled back down the mountain.

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The Descent

The hike down was tough. We were exhausted and achy from the seven mile ascent the day before. Climbing down the waterfall was trickier than going up, and stopping for breaks was nightmarish because of the mosquito swarms, but during that final descent of switchbacks before reaching the car I felt a surge of adrenaline. This is why people fall in love with hiking, this feeling of accomplishment. You just hiked a mountain. You are strong, and capable and perhaps even a little badass. At the very least you have earned the title of Outdoorsy AF. And the first sip of icy cold diet coke once we reached the car was incomparable.

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I HIKED to this gorgeous place! (Notice the outfit change. Yep. I’m wearing Brad’s pants and top. Take that mosquito f**kers.)

 

 

Final notes

I am a car camping kind of gal. We usually go about 5 + times a year. We have our favorites:  a very specific, stunning campsite at Henry Cowell in the Santa Cruz Redwoods with panoramic views, and Samuel P. Taylor under towering redwoods next to a a little running creek. We can leave work and have our campsite set up and toasting bubbles by sunset. We have our menu set, and there is something so fulfilling about watching the embers die in your campfire, while sipping vino and watching the stars populate the sky. We are also comfortable campers – we have a tent large enough to stand in, we have a blow up bed, it’s glorious. So when Brad first suggested backpacking I was very skeptical. I fancy myself outdoorsy, I love nature and wildlife, but I also like to be cozy. I want a soft bed. I want a restroom. I don’t want to do a massive amount of work. So, the idea of trudging up a mountain hauling over 20 pounds on my back sounded less then ideal. Shut that beautiful fucking mouth, was actually what I believe I said to Brad when he first floated the idea. Turns out, I was completely wrong. Yes, backpacking is tough. Yes, several times during each trip I thought – why am I doing this to myself?! But the feeling of absolute freedom gazing over a panoramic sweeping view above the cloud lines, knowing that you survived the trip is empowering as hell. 

May the adventure continue! Stay tuned for more backpacking and hiking trips! Coming up – Hiking in Lake Tahoe and Beach Backpacking in Point Reyes.