By now you’ve read about our adventures in the High Sierra’s including King’s Canyon National Park, Sequoia National Park, and Mammoth Lakes. This post is about the grand daddy of them all, Yosemite, the wilderness that inspired a legacy of conservation not only in the US but abroad as well. We started our tour de National Parks here in Yosemite.
While we were traveling abroad we made plans to spend a few days with Ravi’s family in Yosemite for a little reunion. It was our first destination after returning from Fiji and packing up the car, which was a destination in and of itself. Lakshmy, my sister in law, found an awesome vacation rental in Yosemite West. The house had a very “woodsy” feeling with a huge kitchen and dining area, multiple hang out spaces, comfortable bedrooms with bunk beds for the girls, and a nice outdoor space. The property didn’t allow dogs so we had to drop off Duke and Spike for a couple days at a boarding facility in Merced, just west of Yosemite.
Ravi and I arrived first and took over the kitchen preparing for dinner. We picked up a bunch of produce along the way and after we got into the kitchen it looked like a market exploded on the counter tops. Within a couple hours the rest of the family arrived and settled in, the girls Mira and Vijaya headed straight for the bunk beds! We hadn’t seen Padma, Josh and the girls since the wedding last year and had only spent a couple days with Lakshmy, Kumar, and Aditya last fall so we were looking forward to spending time with everyone and seeing how the kiddos had been growing up since we last connected. Ravi’s Dad travelled with us in India in January/February and we were glad he made the trip out from Pennsylvania to join in the festivities. Everyone was pretty tired the night we arrived but we managed to stay up past midnight talking and decided near 2 am that it was time to go to bed if we wanted to get up to see the park tomorrow!
The next day we woke up to Lakshmy making delicious dosa and chutney which powered us up for sight seeing. We packed into our cars and headed into Yosemite Valley to explore the immense granite walls and waterfalls. The girls liked the waterfalls, but would have liked to spend more time in the water I think than watching the water. After a couple view points and short trails we stopped for a picnic lunch with El Capitan as our backdrop. We could have spent all day at the river next to El Cap it was so beautiful and the weather was perfect. But after a few very cold dips into the river we packed up and continued to explore the valley. We made a stop at the visitor center and Josh and I picked up ice-cream and popsicles for an afternoon sugar boost. Our last stop was the lower Yosemite Falls then we headed back to the house to relax and have another fun family dinner. We all ended up in bed much earlier than the previous night!
Ravi and I headed back into the Valley the next morning to pick up a wilderness permit for a 3 night backpacking trip we were planning after the family departed(more on that later). The rest of the crew got ready to visit the Giant Sequoias. Ravi and I easily got our backcountry permit including a permit to hike up half-dome and headed back to the house.
We headed to Mariposa Grove which is a beautiful stand of Giant Sequoias. I had never seen Giant Sequoias before and seeing them for the first time inspires a sense of awe, gratitude, and reverence. They have been around thousands of years weathering and bearing witness to storms, fire, war, famine, birth, death, the plague, etc. The trees are so big at first they don’t even seem real but rather like a movie set. In fact, these trees are what inspired the government to set aside the land and protect the park. Normally we would walk the trails to see the trees but we decided it would be fun to take the tram ride through the grove to hear more about the history and see the entire stand. The girls liked the hour-long ride and were great listeners as well.
On our way back to the house we saw a mama bear with her two cubs on the side of the road. We didn’t know it at the time but we have seen a few bears since then including more cubs. They stayed by the side of the road eating for a few minutes then scampered off back into the woods. When we got back to the house it was one last family dinner before Ravi and I headed upstairs to prep for our backpacking trip that was starting the next day.
Our last morning we finished packing our food into our bear barrel, said our goodbyes to the family, and headed out for our next adventure-backpacking out the valley on a loop trail for 4 days/3 nights. We got started on our hike around noon, which made for a grueling climb out of the valley on the snow creek trail. Our plan was to hike a beautiful loop through Snow Creek to Tenaya Lake, Cloud’s Rest, Half Dome, then out through Happy Isles. The trail basically is a series of tight switchbacks climbing out of the valley, beautiful but a hard start to the trip. As we climbed out of the valley floor the views became more expansive and the granite cliffs seemed to get bigger and bigger. We took the hike slow, stopping to catch our breath and admire the views. We pushed on past a spot, that in retrospect we probably should have camped at, but thought that getting a bit farther the first day would make the subsequent days easier. Hindsight is 20/20.
After climbing another 1,000 ft or so we found a campsite and set up camp. Neither of us slept well waking up often. Ravi woke up early with an awful headache, nausea, vomiting, and a general sense of not really being coherent. I knew these were the signs of altitude sickness and that he needed to descend. We were camped at about 8,000 ft and the combination of dehydration and altitude was making Ravi miserable. Despite him wanting to stay in his sleeping bag I urged him to get up and start walking back down the trail. When he started vomiting he knew he was in trouble too and got himself up and out of the tent. I handed him his water bladder and told him to start walking down the trail. I packed up the rest of camp (this is around 6 am) in about 10 minutes, threw on my pack and his pack and headed down after him.
We met up at a basin below the 7,000 ft mark (where altitude sickness can start) and both breathed a sigh of relief that his headache was subsiding. Altitude sickness can be very dangerous and deadly so I was worried and very relieved when he continued to improve as we descended. Although we could have camped lower and continued on our trip we both decided we missed our dogs and had had enough adventure for a few days. We hiked back out the way we came in and were back with our dogs that afternoon. Ravi was feeling much better by this time and I know any residual illness was gone when he saw Duke and Spike.
That evening we decided to stay low key at a motel before heading on to King’s Canyon National Park. We stopped at Chipotle for dinner and crawled into bed happy to be safe and healthy. We will be back to Yosemite to hike but next time will camp a little lower, make sure we are super hydrated, and give ourselves more time to acclimatize. In fact, our new plan is to complete the 210 mile John Muir Trail this fall as we loved Yosemite and the other neighboring parks so much!