Lake Tahoe to Yosemite Valley
We grabbed a flat white from Starbucks and then started on the road toward Yosemite in earnest. Van had her first go behind the wheel for the trip and was lucky to get some varied single lane driving through M*** Pass for a couple of hours. At Mono lake we stopped for a little ice-cream and switched drivers with Matty taking the Tiogo Pass leg. At the entrance to Yosemite National Park there was a kiosk where we had to pay a $30 vehicle entrance fee. Matty tried his luck with using the Half Dome cables pass for entrance but was unsuccessful with the friendly ranger chap at the desk.
Our first stop in Yosemite was to grab some lunch. We pulled over at the Tulomne Meadows grill and had ourselves some (not so healthy) double cheeseburgers with wedges and salad. We also had our first wildlife encounter, with a woodpecker landing on our picnic table to say hello. With our bellies full, we set off again. The way that we entered Yosemite (starting from Lake Tahoe) meant that we began northeast of Half Dome before crossing to being north west then looping around to be basically right at the southern foot of the monolith we would attempt to reach the next day.
The approach to Yosemite Valley saw us pass the impressive El Capitan. We looked up to see if there were any climbers on the face but (from our viewpoint at least) couldn't see any. Before we headed for the campground we stopped in at the Yosemite Village store and stocked up on a few supplies - NY Strip steaks + salad for dinner, ingredients for salami and cheese bagels for tomorrow's lunch and of course a few beers. Once we'd rolled into the Upper Pines campground and set up the tent, we realized we needed to get a tag for our vehicle, so Matt set out to do this and purchase firewood while Van got the lunches and breakfasts ready for the next day. The campfire cooked steak turned out a treat and then we capped it off with some smores. With our gear all ready for the next day's hike we played a few hands of cards (blackjack and crazy eights) before turning in for the night to get enough rest ahead of the 4:30 am start.
Half Dome Hike Day
Van's alarm clock tune "Send me on my way" woke us at 4:30. We got our backpacks on, had a couple of peanut butter sandwiches and got ready to start on our way toward Half Dome. While Matt was away at the bathroom, Van encountered some kind of creatures eyes in her headlamp. It seemed like a large cat but could have been a bear - we'll never know. The hike started in the Happy Valley Isles, then to the Mist Trail, John Muir trail, then on toward Half Dome. Yosemite is absolutely stunning and we say a raft of wildlife on our hike; including a ringtail, squirrels, chipmunks, lizards, deer. We passed a lot of folks that had started ahead of us, feeling the fitness we had gained from the recent weekend's adventures in Banff.
When we finally reached half dome and the cables, our early start paid off and we didn't need to wait for anyone on our way up the cables, which was a little strenuous but nothing too tricky. A few people came by that had been up there for the sunrise which would have been epic but would have involved a very early morning. From our campsite and with a couple of rests, the 1400m elevation gain / just over 10km hike up took us a little over 4 hours. We took a few photos and sat around at the top for around 45 minutes before hepading down. On the way down Matt went for a swim in emerald pool, but Van couldn't since she didn't have her bikini, booooo. When we got back to the Valley, first thing on the agenda was to go to the supermarket and pick up savoury snacks and beers (after sweet energy treats on the hike we were both keen for savoury and got some tostado scoops and 5 layer dip which was demolished). Once we'd re-fueled we were both absolutely w***ed so had a one and a half hour nap in the afternoon heat. Next. we went back to the supermarket to grab more beers and dinner supplies, then stopped by the housekeeping facilities to take a much appreciated shower. Feeling clean and still rather tired, we cooked our franks for dinner, had a couple of customary s'mores, then turned into bed a little after 9:00 PM. With it being pretty much completely dark by 8:00 PM and having had the 4:30 AM start, we found it easy to get to bed fairly early by our usual standards, for our last night on this trip in a tent!
Off to Carmel-by-the-Sea
The alarm clocks went off a couple of hours later than the previous day, with a 6:30 AM start. We made efficient work of packing up the tent and then had our third consecutive peanut butter sandwich breakfast before setting out on the road. We stopped briefly in Yosemite Village to pick up a coffee from Deanna's deli. The next mission was to go check out the Tulomne Sequoia grove. The Mariposa grove, which is usually the main one of three groves visited by tourists, was undergoing a restoration project and so we weren't able to visit that one. To get down to the Tulomne grove involved a 1 mile walk down a section of the "Big Oak Flat Road" which used to be the main access road to Yosemite Valley for tourists. The sequoia trees were very impressive owing to their age and size.