Yosemite National Park
This weekend in Yosemite would be my final trip of the calendar year, also putting and end to my attempt to get out of Los Angeles and camp at least once a month. I had planned this trip out about a month in advance and was especially excited since I wasn’t able to go anywhere in November. After leaving Los Angeles around 5 AM, I made it to Oakhurst around 10:30 to pick up some tire chains. Weather forecasts were predicting icy conditions for the return trip.
Date Range – December 29 – January 2
Campground – Camp 4
Distance – 320 miles
Closest Town – Oakhurst, CA
The drive in on Friday morning wasn’t too icy until around the Tunnel View lookout, where the massive granite walls hid sunlight and caused the roads to remain slick. I stopped for a few pictures and then headed down to get a campsite. After setting up camp, I headed over towards Lower Yosemite Falls to take some more photos. This was my first time to be so close to the lower section of the falls, and it did not disappoint.
Lower Yosemite Falls
On my way back from the falls, I turned around to enjoy a sunset on Half Dome. The tall granite dome is one of the most majestic natural wonders in the world, and watching the sun creeping down it’s face was incredible. Back at camp, I started a fire and chatted with my neighbors who arrived the day before. Camp 4 was quiet that night, but I didn’t expect it to be that way on the 31st.
Sunset on Half Dome
I woke up on New Year’s Eve to blue skies over the tall granite monoliths on every side of me. Looking straight up out of my tent, I could see the very top of Yosemite Falls through the trees. My plan for the day was to see Mirror Lake early on, and then hike up to Clark Point and get a good view of Vernal and Nevada Falls. Mirror Lake was frozen and the trail was pretty icy, but the Merced River was flowing nearby the whole way.
After seeing Mirror Lake, I took the Valley Loop Trail over to Happy Isles. From there I headed up the Mist Trail towards the footbridge that covers the top of Vernal Falls. The trail is marked by the park as strenuous, which is evidenced quickly by the steep grades and seemingly-endless switchbacks. Ignoring the forty or so people that were stopped along the bridge, Vernal Fall was an awesome sight.
Half Dome, Mount Broderick, Liberty Cap, and Nevada Falls
From the footbridge, the trail began to increase in elevation, grade, and quantity of switchbacks. It felt like forever to get to the Clark Point, but the views were absolutely worth the hike. I didn’t go all the way to the top of Nevada Fall since the trail was covered in ice and began to go downhill quickly, but the views of the back of Half Dome and the waterfall were sufficient for me.
The hike back was almost completely downhill, and provided some great views of the valley. Clouds and fog began to roll in, covering the tops of the granite peaks. I made it to Half Dome Village (formerly Curry Village) for some dinner, and ended up running into my neighbors from camp. We stayed for a while and watched a football game in the dining area, then headed back to camp to start our New Year’s Eve festivities.
People often look at me funny when I tell them I like camping by myself over holidays in which they’re accustomed to spending with family and friends. When I go on these trips alone, I always end up meeting awesome people and creating new friendships. This trip was no different, as I began the new year by sitting around a fire with 6 people that were strangers just hours earlier and had a blast.
After the late night, everyone woke up a little slow and especially cold with the low morning temperatures. We got a fire going early, and but lost two of our neighbors around noon. The rest of us ended up sitting around the fire the entire day, leaving only to make a trip to the village store for more booze and firewood. Sitting around a campfire with good company all day and being resolved of any of your real-life responsibilities is liberating, and definitely something everyone needs from time to time.
Breaking in the New Year
That lazy Sunday in Yosemite Valley was exactly what I was looking for in a vacation. It was pointed out multiple times that this valley, where you’re surrounded by 2,500 feet of granite walls on every side, has a way of forcing you to live in the moment. It’s almost as if the valley walls serve as a shield to keep any and everything negative out of your life, and only allows you to see the beauty of the Sierra Nevada in all it’s glory. This trip was an incredible experience, and not only because I was able to stay warmer at night than when I came two years earlier. I headed back to Los Angeles on Monday morning reluctant and wishing I could have stayed longer.