YOSEMITE November 4-7, 2013

With nice conditions and an early fall, I chose to make this hiking trip. With some ambition, I hoped for a peak and 7,000 feet of gain. This turned out to be a light hiking trip with fall colors.

Unable to secure any reservations on Monday morning for that night, I got a low rate for two nights at the hostel in Midpines, CA. I'd have to camp or lodge for Monday night, with no set plans. This wouldn't be too hard for this time of year. Up early, I managed to leave by 8:30 a.m. Taking U.S. 99 southbound, I then took J7 east. Making my usual stop in Oakdale, CA, I checked my device for news and traffic conditions. The sun wasn't directly ahead, and then I wished to have set my camera to run video. I made good time going up the Old Priest Grade, then made a quick rest stop in Groveland.

The Rim of the World vista point allowed for panoramas, then I shot video as I motored along. It seemed that there were more dead trees this time than in September. There was oncoming traffic, so I put down my camera as I saw cars approaching. Some snow on the side of the road. I did self-video at the entrance sign photo op, then flashed my pass at the park gate. With more video plus a stop at the Half Dome view, I finally came to the Valley floor.

I then set my camera on my rear view mirror, to video the sights ahead. Good color, and it was captured well. Choosing to head south on CA 41, I stopped at Tunnel View. Bus and tourists. There is pedestrian right of way, but I'm burning gas. Inconsiderate people crossing in front of me as if I wasn't even there. I did my camera work, then headed on south. Taking the Glacier Point Road, I had info that it had reopened. Watching for any ice, I saw none on the road. It was mid-afternoon. Getting a parking spot at the Sentinel Dome/Taft Point trailhead, I used the restroom.

Warmly dressed, I started my hike to the top of Sentinel Dome (8,127'). Frozen snow patches on short bits of the trail. Soon past them, I saw that a fallen tree branch had been removed. Continuing up on the trail to the top, with the last cross-country rock slabs up the dome proper, I topped out and started with photos and video. Doing a summit twirl, I relaxed and sought to enjoy the vista. A couple other hikers came up, but quickly left. I wanted to get the view from Glacier Point as well, so started down.

Motoring over to Washburn Point, then Glacier Point, I sought to do a panorama and saw that the sunset might be nice. I rested my camera on a rock and did video to be speeded up later. The orange light and shadow crept over the peaks, and even some mists drifted over. I recorded my doing the video with another camera, and then it was finished.

I looked at my maps once back to my car, figuring on where to stay tonight. The ranger had said that camping wasn’t usually full up this time of year, and that I should be able to get a spot. I wondered about the casino south along CA 41, and saw the room rate was too high for me. No economy chain motel in Oakhurst, either.

Driving then back to the Valley, I cruised the Upper Pines campground to see there were plenty of spots. I went to the Lodge, and had a nice meal, waiting with a non-alcoholic beer. Securing a campsite, the kiosk was closed. No way to pay by self-serve, and I’d have to pay a ranger the next morning. They don’t go on duty till 8 a.m., at the earliest. I lay in my sleeping bag in my car seat, with no signal at all.

Tuesday, I awoke early. Condensation, but no frost. It was still no good signal, so I motored over to the Village parking lot, to get soda from a vending machine, and to enjoy four bars of 4G. Getting most of my Net news, it was then time for the cafeteria to open, 6:30 a.m. I had some coffee with food, and took my time. Over then to Curry Village, I paid the camp fee, took photos, then visited the mountain shop. Inquiring about the mountaineering school, it was still in operation, and I’d like to support some guides with a winter peak ski, if at all advisable. I bought some items, and then started my hike for the day.

Walking over to Happy Isles, I did video of the emerald green waters of the Merced River. Anointing by washing, my dirty camera lens, with the pure water of the river, I started up the trail to the Vernal Falls footbridge. I took my time, and schoolchildren passed on by. The restroom there was closed, then I took the Mist Trail, a old bucket list hike that I had turned back from when I was a kid. The falls weren’t throwing spray over the trail, so I shot video as I climbed up the rock stairs. Some people were about the rocks in the river, and somebody had disappeared here last summer.

Topping the falls, I rested with a hiker coming by to chat. This took my time that I might have used to ascend Liberty Cap, my initial plan. I had taken too much time, so it was just as well. After utilizing the restroom here, I took the trail to Nevada Falls, new for me, and did more camera work of Nevada Falls. Watching the time, I came to the top of this second fall, used the restroom there, too, and did more photos and video, then took the John Muir Trail on back. There was ice, with workers doing something on the trail, and I shot more video of myself stepping by the ice, on rocks.

Then, some frozen snow lay on bits of the Muir Trail, and I sauntered down, doing photos, and rushing a bit to beat the darkness, just in case of some unexpected delay. I came to the bus stop and waited for the pick-up, then the shuttle came by. I arrived back to my car in time to view the alpenglow on Half Dome.

Motoring to the Lodge, I had another fine meal, tipping well as before, and taking my time. I had a dorm bunk reserved in Midpines, CA, so finished, and drove there, along CA 140 westbound, in the dark. I got to the hostel office, and checked in. The dorm was with one other guy, and we chatted, all interested in being in Yosemite. I got to my hardware battery charging, and was able to get a good Wi-Fi connection. With a cold shower, I didn’t find my toothbrush, so had to go with some forgetfulness. Tired, I got to sleep, with another fellow coming in.

Wednesday, I was up early. Looking about, there was no soda vending machine. No way to get caffeine, so I suffered. I surfed, and tried to doze back off, and then the cafe opened. I got my coffee, with a breakfast burrito.

The YARTS bus comes by at 8:20 a.m., so I had to skip a third refill, and made ready for another day. Catching the ride, it was more frugal than driving back the 25 miles or so to the Valley. I took video of the Merced River as we rode along, then we came into the Valley, me running more video.

Debarking at the Visitor Center, I was enthralled to speak with rangers, asking about procedures on receiving a notice about a distress signal sent by a personal locator beacon. They stated that they handled it, case by case, each different, with no standard policy, other than with emergency life threatening rescues being urgently required. The helicopters do not fly at night or in bad weather. Essentially, you need to be prepared, and not rely on a supposed rescue in say, 20 minutes, as claimed. Helicopters are not always available, and it does take time to organize a rescue. They claim that it has to be done by phone, with no auto alerts sent out speedily by say the Net or 4G. I asked about specific cases, and they stayed vague. They do not wish to encourage foolhardiness, and told of possible stays out at this time of year, in below freezing conditions, as they decline to risk staff sometimes.

I read of numerous searches, costly and lengthy, with unfortunate conclusions, seeming to be avoidable if the victim had had some PLB or even a cell phone with a signal. I bought mine wishing to avoid this, and to spare SAR from time and effort with a signal sent, upon some misfortune, to locate me within 100 feet. It just seems smarter to spend a now slight amount to even assist on the plight of others as well. I do need a good phone, but I am waiting and looking. The ranger said that some devices send messages, as just getting a signal, may not initiate a rescue operation, by them. The government is broke, and I wish less expense, not more. Contrary to some hiking club philosophies!

Going over then to the market, I got drink and rested. I did another video telling whoever would wish to hear what I remembered that they suggested. Not in the mood to do a big hike, like Yosemite Point as I had hoped, I figured instead to go to Columbia Rock. Relaxing sounded better. I got more drink, then waited for the shuttle bus. It let me off at Camp Four, where I used the restroom one last time, even though I had my pee bottle. Video of some birds picking on a squirrel carcass occupied some time.

Starting up the Upper Yosemite Falls Trail, then, I’d see how far that I got. About forty minutes of slow hiking up, I stopped to rest and drink my soda. Other hikers then came by, and just ahead, they spotted a bear. I got a glance, and it was a nicely furred, healthy looking animal. One hiker showed me her photos, and she was lucky. Many people never see any such wildlife, even with spending thousands to come here to see some. I had seen some deer this morning, but that’s nothing worth much to me, now.

I continued up, then arrived to the rock view in 1:15. I did some photos, and large, black birds flew overhead, playing in the air. I rested for awhile, with hikers coming by. Too late already to go for the top. Going the 15 minutes further to the good view of the Upper Falls, I stopped to use my bottle as another hiker came by, silently. He halted for modesty’s sake, and then asked about how far it was to the top.

Starting down, I spoke with other hikers seeking to go to the top. The trail sign below lists it as 3.4 miles. It took me some 2.5 hours with a heavy day pack when I was in shape, but I advise some 4 hours one way, now. Most hikers were turning back, which is smart with as little gear as they appeared to have. My flashlight had been malfunctioning, so I wished to get back well before dark. I carefully hiked down the rock steps, slippery if you stepped wrong, and never fell or stumbled. You really have to watch this when you get older!

Back to Camp Four, I emptied my bottle into the toilet, and hurried over to the Lodge by the side road across the way. The 4 p.m. YARTS bus, I just missed, but I went to the cafeteria, and had soup and apple juice. The next bus would be along in 40 minutes. I waited, then got aboard with a talkative, friendly driver, almost no one boarding, as this run just goes to Mariposa, versus Merced. We chatted a bit, and spoke about things.

Debarking at the hostel stop, I walked in the dark with another visitor, up the road to the cabins, and we saw a shooting star flash across the sky ahead of us. I showered, got to my messaging, and then relaxed, speaking with the newer patrons. Time for food, they don’t have non alcoholic beer, so I got juice, then noodles. Planning to leave early, I packed up my things, and went to a short sleep.

Thursday, I was up by about 2:30 a.m. I tried to quietly leave, taking little time. Getting to my car, I motored to Mariposa, the nearest caffeine westward at this time of the morning, and got diet soda. Running video as I drove through town, I stopped it, and zoomed on to Merced, where there were detours and road work. Northbound on U.S. 99, I stopped a few times for food, drink, rest, and gas, then took the Crosstown Freeway through Stockton to get to Interstate 5 north. Getting sleepy, I gladly arrived home in the morning in time for work, if I had a regular job.

Hiking then 13 miles with some 4,000 feet of gain, I drove 435 miles. Spending a bit over $216 cash, I charged some $155 for lodging and items for my hiking from the mountain shop. So, about $370 total. I captured 1,540 images and movie clips with two cameras, and a few more with my travel spare.

No one will hike or travel with me, and I can understand. It’s hard to get along. I have my ways, and won’t accommodate fussy or troublesome people. We have to get where we’re going, and stopping every 20 minutes for rest breaks and unnecessary photo ops doesn’t do it for me.

While to be shortly with the best available phone, to join the ranks of the connected, I plan to be sparing and never disturb hikers with my loud conversations on the trail, as others have so annoyed me. No earbuds to drown out the sounds of nature, and no screen to occupy my eyes versus the grand views and sights of the forest. As most people, let alone hikers, wish to be at home, and never to be in Yosemite, I’ll be making plans for more visits, as my hiking basically started here, to be inspired, not saddened, and gleeful, not morose.