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Posts tagged ‘Yosemite National Park’

Glen Aulin High Sierra Trail

The Glen Aulin trail leads to one of five High Sierra Campgrounds in the backcountry of Yosemite National Park.  Starting  from the east end of Tuolumne Meadows the trail follows the Tuolumne River downstream to the Glen Aulin campsite.

Just over 13 miles round-trip, the path starts next to small, colorful pools known as Soda Springs, before winding through rolling woodlands as the Tuolumne River winds across meadows, providing spectacular high country views.  Quickly, the trail transforms to a boulder-strewn granite slope, forming river falls, cascades and deep, clear pools, as the terrain on most sides becomes steep and mountainous.

The views are awesome.

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Tuolumne Meadows – Yosemite National Park

Last week Kelly and I spent a few days camping at Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park, our second visit to this wonder nestled in California’s Sierra Nevada’s Mountain range.

Our spot 37A

Our spot A36

Open only during the summer and fall, the Tuolumne Meadows area is far less crowded than the very popular Yosemite Valley.  With fewer people come fewer amenities, resulting in a more rustic camp setting.

Tuolumne River next to our site

Tuolumne River next to our site

Tuolumne River, Lambert Dome in the distance

Tuolumne River, Lambert Dome in the distance

Dave / Kelly selfie at Tuolumne River

Dave / Kelly selfie at Tuolumne River

For the first few days we would be camping alongside fellow Airstreamers Advodna, before being joined by Kelly’s brother.  Having never camped with the Advodna crew, it was nice to spend a couple of days with them. With two small children in the mix, there were no epic hikes with them, but we did spend time relaxing at the campsite, walking dogs, sharing good eats (and beer).

My little pal, Advodna Wynne

My little pal, Advodna Wynne

Of course, the real catalyst for our visit to Yosemite was to spend some time hiking trails in a mountain setting.  Living steps from the ocean is fantastic for sure, but Kelly and I love the mountains and were excited to be at altitudes in between seven and ten thousand feet.  Once Kelly’s brother arrived, the hiking began in earnest and Yosemite in Autumn does not disappoint.

Chris, headed towards Dog Lake

Chris, headed towards Dog Lake

Kelly, Chris, and me wishing we had Kayaks

Kelly, Chris, and me at Dog Lake wishing we had Kayaks

Overlooking Tuolumne Meadow from the top of Lambert Dome

Overlooking Tuolumne Meadow from the top of Lambert Dome

Early morning frost at Tuolumne Meadow

Early morning frost at Tuolumne Meadow

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Ellery Lake

Tioga Pass as sunrise

Tioga Pass as sunrise

Day 6: Mariposa Grove

One big tree

We ventured to the south end of the park today in search of giant Sequoia trees.  Mariposa Grove is a cluster of thee giant conifers; I stress the adjective giant.  At an average height of 250 feet, these Sequoias are related to the giant Redwoods found in northern California.  In an effort to avoid the dramatic, I’ll simply say these trees are big – REALLY big.

The “Grizzly Giant”

The giant Sequoias are old.  Many mature trees have survived just about anything Mother Nature (and Humans) could throw at them.  Over the course of 3000 years, these bad boys have seen it all – snowstorms of the century, wild fires, lightning … you name it.  Their secret weapon is the bark, which can be as thick as two feet; natural protection from the elements protecting the otherwise fragile tree core.If you’ve ever seen any of the giant Redwoods, these trees are not as tall, but their massive bulk drafts the Redwoods.  We chose to visit the largest of three groves containing about 500 of these beasts.  It isn’t uncommon at all to find mature trees with a base width between 15-25 feet.  BTW, I’m not talking circumference – these bad boys are huge.  The biggest of the all in Yosemite is the “Grizzly Giant”.  Depending upon who you believe, this Sequoia has been chilling in Mariposa Grove somewhere in the 1800-2700 years range.  Believe it or not, as big as this guy is, there are at least 25 other Sequoia which are confirmed larger.

All in all, the grove is pretty cool.  I’m not sure I’d go back, but definitely something I would recommend.  Visitors have two options in exploring the grove:  Hike the six miles of trails and really see the ins and outs of the park, or ride the open-cap trolley along the grove’s road and pass by the “celebrity” Sequoia trees – just enough to capture a few highlights for the camera.

We walked.  I’m glad we did as we saw a lot more of the grove than those who rode the trolley.

Putting these into perspective. I am 6ft, 2in tall.

Big trees come with big cones

What happens when a tree is blocking a planned road

What happens when a tree is blocking a planned road

Upon exiting the grove, we stopped for a quick lunch at the Wawona Hotel golf course clubhouse (yes, golf course).  We had hotdogs and then it was time to get back to the campsite.

Later this afternoon Chris and I paid a visit to Camp 4, a tent-only campsite that became notable after WWII as a hangout for rock climbers.  Today, I recommend you visit Camp 4 whenever you wish to hear statements like this: “Dude, that second pitch was gnarly; I got so spanked.  And those crimpers … they are stupid, I was smearing like crazy … and what about that cruz … so phat”. 

Beyond the local lingo, there is also foul wave of B.O. in the air.  Consider yourself forewarned.

Day 5: Vernal & Nevada Falls

Today we decided to hike up into two of the more popular falls in the Yosemite Valley.  The two falls are described as neighboring twins – both narrow in shape, pushing their water charge over broad, vertical sheer rock cliffs.  All in, the elevation change along the six-mile trail was just over 2,000 ft.

A quick stop to enjoy the views

Unfortunately, it is Fall so most of the rivers and waterways are bone dry, resulting in significantly reduced falls activity.  Nonetheless, we wanted to venture up off the Valley floor for views from high above.  About 8 miles round trip from our campsite, the distance wasn’t material; rather the elevation rise was significant.

Up, up, up

Nevada Falls

Turns out Chris developed quite a thirst on the trail.


Blue skies and little tree cover made for hot temperatures and loads of sweat as we ascended to the top.  The effort was totally worth the work as the views from atop the valley are quite spectacular.

Once at the top, we ate our pack lunch and made no effort to be swift in that endeavor.  The expansive views and perfect temperatures made me wish I would be spending the night at the elevation, not in the crowded valley floor.

This little guy stole my apple core

Glad to be a the top

Soon enough reality set in and it was time to get moving again.  Katie Dog and Lilly were back at the Airstream waiting our return so that they could commence with their long walk of the day.