On my bucket list has been the desire to learn how to backpack. Not sure the hangup, but the idea of strapping all I need to my back and setting off into the wilderness was daunting. A few months ago, when I realized I was wrapping up a big volunteer project the same week one child was out of town, I decided to join an REI Adventures Yosemite Backpacking trip. The level 3 trip (out of 5) was scheduled for the third weekend in May and would start from Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. After a 6 mile hike, we would set up camp, take a day hike the following day, and pack out the third day. All manageable, I felt!
Then last Wednesday I was notified that the bridge at Wapamo Falls that we would need to cross was scheduled to be closed, because temperatures were expected to go up (i.e. beautiful weather this weekend) and the snow melt was expected to increase. REI Adventures wisely decided to reroute our trip, rather than cancel, and we ended up with a new trip involving car camping, day hikes in Yosemite Valley, and an overnight in a primitive campground in the Stanislaus National Forest.
We met our group and guides, Jenn and Tyler, on Thursday afternoon at the Housekeeping Camp in Yosemite Valley. After introductions and dinner (pulled chicken), we learned about our hiking plan for the following day. Up early, we would head over to Happy Isles and hike up the Mist Trail to Vernal Falls, then up to Nevada Falls, over to the John Muir Trail and back down. About 8 miles total, with a stop at the top for lunch. Dinner that night was a veggie quinoa curry with chicken.
On Saturday, after breakfast burritos, we packed up camp and headed out towards El Cap. Parking nearby, we hit the trail for Ribbon Falls, a less well known trail up to a spectacular waterfall, the largest single drop waterfall in North America. The trail was rocky and uneven, with a vertical climb of about 1200 feet over 3 miles. I was glad to have experienced guides along!
After lunch (chicken Waldorf Salad with pitas, fresh cherries and Nutella with macaroons) in the meadow looking towards El Capitan (and looking for climbers), we set off for the Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias, which was on the way to our campground for the night, Dimond O. At the campground, in our first real camping experience, we learned how to set up our tents and prepare our sleeping areas, and enjoyed carnitas tacos with beans, rice and cabbage salad.
In the morning, after steel cut oatmeal with coconut, pecans, blueberries, chocolate chips and peanut butter powder, we learned how to pack a backpack from scratch, with sleep system, bear canister and other necessities. Camp was packed up and we headed over to Hetch Hetchy Reservoir for our final hike.
At the dam, we parked and set off through the tunnel and along the reservoir. The temperature had warmed up quite a bit, but the occasional falls along the trail allowed us to cool off. When we arrived at Wapamo Falls, we were greeted by a NPS ranger who explained the bridge was closed and you crossed at your own risk. Here is a video of the rushing water, not something I was interested in crossing!
Jenn and Tyler outdid themselves with a Ploughman’s lunch on a granite rock of salami, cheese, cucumbers, apples, and crackers, enough for a small army. After lunch we made our way back to our cars and said our goodbyes.