Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Fun In The Yosemite Sun

Trip Report - Yosemite With Eric's Parents
Toulumne Meadows, Hetch Hetchy, Yosemite National Park, CA
July 16-19, 2009

It was a warm weekend in the park, but once again we found ourselves having a blast. I was able to see some things in Yosemite I've never seen before, and visited some good ole' fashion tourist attractions. Eric, his parents, and I hopped in a rented SUV and headed towards the park.We stayed at a hotel just outside Yosemite named the Evergreen Lodge. Eric's parents booked a family suite, and it was very nicely decorated. There was no TV in our hotel suite, but who needs it when you have ping pong, hammocks, pool, foosball, board games, and a full bar? Not me!

The view from Crane Flat fire lookout

The first afternoon we visited our favorite fire lookout just before Crane Flat. It was fun to show the Clark Range to Eric's parents. The fire lookout is the best place to learn the layout of the park. After we checked out the views, we headed down to the Giant Sequoia trees just a mile from the road near Crane Flat. We walked down the one mile path and found some pretty cool trees with an amazing history. Bigger, taller, and heavier than any living thing on earth ever.... pretty impressive. I made sure to give one a big hug.

Eric walking by a huge Giant Sequoia

Later that afternoon we drove out to Hetch Hetchy. The scenery was beautiful! I can't believe I've never been there before. The drive in felt long due to the anticipation of driving into a beautiful hidden valley tucked in the shadows of its popular neighbor. The valley there is gorgeous. Its just as impressive as Yosemite Valley proper, just a lot smaller. I would love to spend more time there, but this time we were in a hurry because we had dinner reservations at the hotel restaurant that night. It was yummy.

Hetch Hetchy Dam

The next day we headed to Tuolumne for some climbing. Eric and I tried to climb at pothole dome, but we failed to find the bolts for the top rope climbs. It was kinda annoying knowing we were just missing the bolts right in front of our faces. It was getting pretty warm so we had lunch and then hung out at Tenaya Lake. While we were there a Search and Rescue volunteer approached our picnic table to tell us that lightning storms were coming. She was doing a preventive program warning people of the dangers of being in Tuolumne during the summer months. That's a really smart way to get people in tune with weather in the wilderness, and in tune with safety.

Eric checking out the view with his Dad

The last day there we headed into the valley during the morning so we would beat the heat of the afternoon. We parked at Camp Curry and did the tourist thing- hop on a valley bus and see the sights! We visited the dried up Mirror Lake, Yosemite Falls, El Captain, Bridal Veil and Camp Curry. Everyone had a great time and we all came back with some amazing memories. I can't wait until the Fall when we get to do it again! Eric and I are very Lucky to live so close to a place many people will only visit once in their lifetime.

Janelle and Phil- Eric's awesome parents

Photo Gallery:
Yosemite July 2009

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Summer already?!

Trip Report - Hiking Mt. Hoffmann
Toulumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park, CA
June 27, 2009

Well, the solstice has passed, and Summer is now in full swing. Amber and I decided it was time to get away for the weekend, and get up into the mountains (not that there isn't plenty of this planned for the upcoming weeks).

Mt. Conness from above May Lake, this is the kind of thing that gets us going!

Over the first half of this year, we've been slowly adapting our newer adventuremobile, the PT Cruiser, to meet our needs. One thing we've toyed with is a solution for sleeping in the back. Needless to say, we've tinkered and tested and now got it down. You can expect a more detailed post on this in the future.

Friday night, Amber and I threw a ton of gear, and some meager rations into the car and yanked the back seats out. Did I mention a ton of gear? Seemed so, since we had no idea what we would do up there, but without the seats or passengers it was quite manageable.

Our luxurious accommodations (I'm not doing a good job of pretending to sleep)

So we drove late into the night, up and over the pass, and found a secluded place to pull off and crash in the car. The next morning we awoke to grand mountains along the Tioga road, still peppered with snowfields. We were meeting Dirk and his climbing partner at the Toulumne campground office bright and early, so I cooked up some oatmeal while Amber reserved a campsite, and just short of coin flips, decided to try a hike.

We'd been in Toulumne just a few weeks before, but nothing was open yet and this time it bustled with activity! We stashed our food safely at the May Lakes trailhead and headed up towards Mt. Hoffmann. Hoffmann is considered pretty easy for a Sierra peak, but it turned out to be just the adventure we bargained for.

May Lake, where the use trail leaves the official park trails

Amber checks out the Clark Range, at an early rest break

It's not a particularly long hike, nor is the gain excessive (~2000ft), but it had a little of everything. First we had to DEET-up to drive away the voracious mosquito squadrons (they do not travel alone). We wound around the south side of the lake and found the first of many small snowfields to cross. Thankfully the snow was soft, and easy to cross (with steps in many places).

Amber hiking up one of the more significant snowfields

On one of the snowfields we met a hiker, now named "Polly Prissy-Pants", who had turned back due to "horrifying clouds of mosquito" in the talus above. Though we did meet with some tiring switchbacks, the mosquitoes never worsened, so perhaps he had no DEET or just should have waited for things to warm up a bit.

At times we've had trouble hiking above 9000ft, but sleeping up near the pass the night before really helped. We were able to hike pretty consistently without really "feeling" the elevation. Though there were a good amount of switchbacks and snowfields, there were also nice flats where you could get a bit of a break. One reason to recommend this hike is that, not too far in, you get GREAT VIEWS of parts of Toulumne and Yosemite Valley, and as you wind your way up, they just get better. Eventually revealing every major range in the park! (and some might be surprised that Half Dome looks a bit puny from above)

The false summits of Hoffmann

We though we were heading for the large formations overhead, but this was not the true summit. At one point you round a switchback onto the large summit plateau and the true summit (with antenna) becomes apparent. Though it was a bit further away, we made it to the base quite quickly. There should be a class-2 scramble to the top from there, but almost everyone ended up using their hands enough to make it class-3. With careful route-finding you could probably keep it class-2. Though we were alone almost the entire time we were on the trail, we shared the summit with several other parties.

The west side of the formidable Sawtooth Ridge, seen through a gap in the summit plateau

Hikers crossing the summit plateau, Lyell and friends in the background

For such a tame hike, Hoffman treats you to precipitous drops on the other sides of the summit. It sits at near the center of the park geographically, and also treats you to amazing views. You can see Half Dome and Clouds rest, the Cathedral Range, Mt. Dana on the Sierra Crest, the domes of Toulumne Meadows, the Lyell group, the Clark Range, the Sawtooth Ridge and Tower Peak. A view like that inspires you to keep working to try more peaks.

Amber and I savor our success on the summit!

While our marmot friend scurries away from the excitement...

Tower Peak I have seen on several occasions, and it is striking in being a bit of a loaner. We hope to hike it this fall, on a backpacking trip. Another that is particularly striking is Mt. Clark. Remote and more difficult, it is extremely striking, and near the top of my list. Yosemite is just a small portion of the Sierra. There is more variety and adventure waiting for the hiker or climber than could be fully appreciated in a lifetime. Just another reason I like to play like it's my big back yard.

Tower peak from Mt. Hoffmann's summit

Savoring a day well spent, above Mono Lake

But enough pontificating, hungry and starting to lose steam on the summit, we celebrated briefly then promptly headed back down. It was a long return, and I'd guess the whole trip was around 7 miles. The last mile was especially long. Though it wasn't a super tough hike, we have been doing lots of other activities so weren't particularly warmed up for it. In the end it was just the right length, not leaving us particularly sore. We drove down to Mono Lake to have a few beers before meeting people at Whoa Nellie Deli for dinner. Sunday we'd do a few rock climbs, bask in the beautiful Toulumne weather, and head home.

Photo Gallery:
Mt. Hoffmann / T.M.