Yosemite National Park – What a place! I planned this trip with 3 other friends of mine about 2 years ago. They all live back east and they have never been to Yosemite NP. I figured it would take a lot of planning so that’s why we decided to make this trip 2 years out. When it came down to trip time 2 of 3 of my buddies had to back out due to personal reasons. The 1 friend who made it is a seasoned backpacker who hiked the Appalachian Trail solo in about 10 years ago. I knew he was a great experienced backpacker and that made me feel good because I didn’t have to worry about anyone.
We started out on the Mist Trail heading to little Yosemite campground. I had my trusty Gossamer Gear Mariposa Ultralight backpack and my ultralight carbon fibre LT4 poles. For those who have not seen or been on the Mist Trail let me paint a picture for you…The trail is all uphill with amazing views of Vernal Falls and a section of steep carved granite steps that seem to go on forever. Once you make it to the top you have a nice flat spot for taking pictures, high fives or whatever tickles you’re fancy.
After a short rest at Emerald pool we continued on to Nevada Falls and the John Muir trail. The junction is a nice uphill battle again but when you get to the top of Nevada Falls it’s all worth it. There is a great place to stop for lunch, take your boots of and soak your feet. This is a very busy area as a lot of hikers day-hike this trail so expect a crowd especially in the summer.
This trail is also heavily traveled for those who day-hike Half Dome and those who are through-hiking the John Muir Trail, Yosemite to Mt. Whitney
We left Nevada Falls and headed to Little Yosemite campground where we were meeting a friend that was hiking in after we started. Our meeting point was this campground. We arrived and set up camp, refilled some water in the Merced River and shortly after Keith arrived.
The next day was the day-hike to Half Dome and back. We left most of the gear at camp and hiked up the trail, more granite steps around ever corner. When we reached the sub dome the Park Ranger asked for our permits and let us pass. The trip up to the sub dome is a pretty gnarly if you haven’t done it before. There is another endless set of granite steps that finally lead you to the saddle where you then have to climb the cables to the summit of Half Dome.
The feeling you get when you reach the summit of Half Dome is amazing. Words cannot describe how beautiful it is at the top.
We headed back to camp later that day for dinner. Our friend Keith was leaving the next day and we were planning on a long hike. We said our goodbyes and made off on the trail to go up and over Cloud’s Rest and make our way to Sunrise Lakes. This is an uphill battle not for the weak as you make your way to Cloud’s Rest.
On the way we ran into a very large rattlesnake that I didn’t even see until I was about 3 feet from. This giant warned me and we stepped back in a big hurry! He scurried off into the bushes and after we changed our shorts we kept on trekking! Lunch on Cloud’s Rest!
There are 3 sunrise lakes as we decided to stay at the biggest. It was only about 1 mile from the Sunrise Lakes Campground. This is a beautiful spot and nice and flat. You do have the occasional marmot scurrying around so best to keep your food in the canister.
We made some dinner and had some strong drink. Tomorrow was to be another long day.
We broke camp and made off passed Sunrise High Sierra Camp. Our destination this day was for Merced Lake. We hiked passed Bug Dome and through this amazing long canyon that was breathtaking.
Ah, Merced Lake. This is a beautiful lake with a campground. They also have tents for rent and a small restaurant. It’s a bit pricey but nice to have options. We swam a bit in the lake after setting up our camp for the night. We were in for a nasty storm! The clouds were rolling in fast and the temp was dropping. After dinner we got a fire going and hung out under the roof to my Hennessy Hammock. We used it as a porch and sat under it to stay dry during the rain. Shortly there after the storm got more heavy! Thunder and lightning were all around us but the fire was still going strong. We were hiking back to Little Yosemite Campground the next day for our final night in the park.
The next morning we headed out early and made our way back to Little Yosemite Campground. This is going to be our last night and it was kind of sad to see it come to it’s almost end! When we made it back to Little Yosemite we set up home for the night and ran into some backpackers who had lawn chairs strapped to their packs! It looks completely ridiculous but they didn’t seem to mind. We had an amazing hike and now it was time to eat some food, pump some water and go for a swim to wash the muck of the day off!
We hiked out the next morning down the John Muir Trail and out to the valley to where I parked the car. I dropped off my buddy at Fresno-Yosemite airport and headed home.
This trip has been amazing and we met so many wonderful people from several countries. Yosemite has a charisma that no other place has and this is why it is my favorite place to backpack. I am very grateful to be able to go to places like this. Friends and great gear make it even better and more enjoyable.
This post was written by Trail Ambassador Dan Callahan.