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Tuolumne Meadows to Yosemite Valley: 1st -3rd July 2007

Early in June Em and I drove down to Fresno and then east into the Sierras for a relaxing two-day trip to the Dinky Lake Wilderness.  However, after bashing our car about its head and shoulders on the dirt road we were horrified to be viciously attacked by mosquitoes at the very dry, windy, and sunny trailhead.  Deterred, we got back in the car and drove to my parent's house for a relaxing weekend in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Fast forward to the beginning of July, Sunday the 1st to be specific and Em and I have driven to Yosemite Valley and taken the YARTS shuttle up to Tuolumne Meadows.  Our adventure starts at the trailhead near the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge and follows the route which I have shown on this pdf.

Note that the following Saturday after our trip the San Francisco Chronicle published a front page article about the increasing popularity of the Half Dome hike and recent deaths due to people falling from the cables.  Please click here to read the article and view the photographs.


The trip begins at 7 pm on Sunday, July 1st from the trailhead near the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge.  Earlier in the day while obtaining our permit in the valley we were told that the quota had been met for the trail and we would have to go in the following morning.  We hiked for about 90 minutes before camping and suffered as we were climbing and hadn't had time to acclimate.


Early the next morning, 7:29 am according to this picture, and we are almost ready to go.  Amazingly, even though it dropped below freezing during the night we were already in shorts and tee-shirts.


After the initial climb out of Tuolumne Meadows (elevation 8700 feet) last night the trail up to Tuolumne Pass (elevation 9992 feet) was gradual and spectacular.  In this shot Em instructed me to spin like Julie Andrews in the helicopter shot in The Sound of Music.


At the Vogelsang High Sierra Camp I was disappointed that I didn't have the need to use the composting-solar toilets.


From the Vogelsang High Sierra Camp we had a short downhill stretch before entering another amazing meadow with a creek running through it.  I took the opportunity to submerge myself while Em attacked the salami.  We each enjoyed two large, guilt-free hunks.


Here is another shot of the same meadow mentioned in the previous photograph.  At the end of the meadow an amazingly long and constant cascade begins.  Vogelsang Peak rises up to an elevation of 11493 feet to the right.


Vogelsang Peak is visible from the middle of this very long cascade.  The trail is to the right, not visible in the photo.  It was easier to walk adjacent to the water than to stay on the trail.


As you might guess by studying the time stamps, this photo was taken just after the one above but instead looks downstream.


Two and a half long hours after the previous shot we are almost to the Merced Lake Ranger Station.  For the most part the trail had been rough and downhill, a bad combination for knees.  However, this time it wasn't my joints but Em's left knee that gave us problems.


Luckily, swimming holes like this solve the problem pretty quickly.  This is just upstream of Lake Merced and next  to the High Sierra Camp.  We spent at least 90 minutes here swimming, napping, and eating our dinner (beef stroganoff) for lunch.  We considered spending the night but it's no fun roughing it next to people in canvas cabins with fireplaces.


Em and I both agree that this spot meets our strict requirements for a worthy swimming hole.


Downstream of Lake Merced the river and rock formed numerous swimming holes, this one in particular reminded both of us of the Stony Creek pools in the Sequoia National Forest.


An embarrassment of Lupin in Echo Valley.  Here we encountered a junction where we could have continued to follow the Merced River to Little Yosemite Valley but instead opted for the more northerly route.  For the most part it involved a lot of climbing and not so much in the way of scenery...


Except for this area here.  The granite beyond fall smoothly away down the Merced River at least 1000 feet below.  I believe that the peak on the other side is Bunnell Point, elevation 8193 feet.


Many hours after the previous photo was taken, a bit before 9 pm, we made camp at this spot.  You'll have to wait a bit to see where we are.


Em gets an early morning smooch at our campsite.  Note that my pillow consists of raingear stuffed in my underwear.  Clearly I need to rethink the way in which I cushion my head.


We are standing on our campsite!  Given the warm weather and full moon (still visible in the upper left corner) it was an amazing night.  We didn't plan on getting up so early but the day hikers (they told us they left the valley around midnight) at the bottom of the cables woke us up.  This shot was taken after I zipped up to the top and back; Em decided against attempting the cables.  For a high resolution version of this picture click here


As Em and I walked upright down the trail from Half Dome we encountered this father and daughter sitting on the rock.  They asked us where the trail was and we said, in all sincerity, just the way we came.  As Em's face shows, we were both quite shocked to see them head up the trail on all fours, a trail that we both just walked down without giving it a second thought.  I wonder what they did when they reached the cables.


Down in Little Yosemite Valley Em points out the nub where we slept.  Actually, the tip of her pole should be a bit higher.


Back in valley flashing gang signs.  4 for the approximate age of the baby (4.5 months to be specific) and 30 for the approximate number of miles we hiked (34.5 to be specific).

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