Yosemite National Park Part I
Friday Sept 29-Sat Sept 30
On Friday, September 29, I began my post-PCT Hike adventure in Yosemite National Park. I bid goodbye to Beth and Jaime and hitch-hiked down to the Yosemite Valley floor. I quickly got a ride this time from a backpacker who was about to begin his own adventure in the back country.
I’ve heard so much about Yosemite over the years that I had high expectations when we approached the valley floor and I was not disappointed. Yes, the roads were crowded and road construction slowed traffic to a crawl. Tourists clogged the sidewalks and enormous buses loudly roared by. But Yosemite is such a magical place that I was awed and inspired despite the crowds. From towering Yosemite Falls and El Capitan on one side of the valley to Half Dome on the other side, Yosemite National Park is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been in my life.
I spent my first afternoon in Yosemite Valley setting up camp at the backpacker’s campground and running errands. The backpacker’s camp is available to hikers with a Wilderness Permit who are allowed to stay either the night before or after their backpacking trip. The ranger at the Wilderness Information Center assured me that my PCT permit allowed me to stay for one night, so I found a spot and settled in for the evening. The temperature was considerably warmer than it had previously been when I was camping at a higher elevation. Ahh!
I wanted to stay at Yosemite for a few days and decompress from my PCT hike, but figuring out where to sleep was going to be tricky. Reservations for campgrounds and hotel rooms are typically snapped up months in advance. One walk-in campground popular with climbers, called Camp 4, was available on a first-come first-served basis so I decided to give that a try. I went to bed early as I heard that spots at the campground were competitive and that arriving early was crucial.
The next morning I got up at 4:30 am only to discover that I had a warning affixed to my tent from a ranger. The notice cautioned that a PCT permit did not entitle me to stay at the backpacker’s campground in Yosemite Valley and that I was only allowed to camp at Tuolumne Meadows. Hmm. I was confused because another ranger specifically told me to stay at this campground because Tuolumne Meadows was closed.
Feeling a little annoyed, I packed up camp and walked over to Camp 4 on the other side of Yosemite Valley. I arrived at 6:30 am, confident that I had outsmarted any other potential campers. Boy was I wrong. I arrived to find a long line of people on the ground in their sleeping bags, all packed together like sardines. There had to be at least 40 people ahead of me in line, most who must have spent the entire night. Good grief.
Needless to say, I did not get a spot at Camp 4. But on the bright side, I did get to meet another PCT hiker named Box while waiting in line. He arrived in line at 2:00 am and hadn’t gotten a campsite either. Neither of us had a place to sleep that night and so it was time to come up with a new plan. We both hoped to hike up Half Dome and so we decided to head over to the Wilderness Information Center to get a permit.
Half Dome permits are also hard to come by at Yosemite National Park, but after putting our name on the waiting list and hanging around for a couple of hours, we finally got one. Our permit allowed us to spend up to 3 nights in the backcountry and to climb up Half Dome. As the permit officially started the following day, that allowed us to spend another night at the backpacker’s campground. Yay!
One of the reasons the park was so busy when I arrived was because my visit happened to coincide with Facelift. Facelift is an annual event sponsored by the Yosemite Climbing Association held to clean up trash and debris from around the park after the busy summer season. Having nothing better to do for the rest of the day, Box and I volunteered and spent the rest of the afternoon picking up trash which actually turned out to be pretty fun.
I was very excited to be at Yosemite National Park, but I felt like my time spent there so far was more focused on securing a place to sleep and running errands rather than on relaxation and contemplation. I’m hoping my next few days in the park will provide more time for reflection.