Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

Our next stop was Yosemite National Park.  We spent over a week there, part of it backpacking, and part of it with my parents – who were gracious enough to plan a vacation to Yosemite and then invite us along!  Yosemite is crowded, the valley is mobbed, especially in the middle of summer, but there is a reason that it is so full of humanity – and that is the sheer, unadorned beauty of the monolithic granite rising up out of the valley.  No one can deny the heart stopping views, and it is not surprising that people flock here, clogging the roads and filling the lodging.  Unfortunately, some people do very stupid things here – you put together a lot of humans who do not go out into nature often, within arm’s reach of animals and hiking trails, and you tend to have clashes.  I like to think that most people though, leave Yosemite with a renewed sense of the importance of preserving nature, and a reverence for the sublime – John Muir called this area the “range of light”.

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

The backpacking portion of our trip included 50+ miles over five days and four nights in the backcountry.  We applied for our permit months in advance.  In fact, we had our permit in hand long before we even had plane tickets!  Still, we had to wrangle our hike because so many permits had already been taken.  We hiked out of Wawona on the Chilnualna Falls Trail.  That meant we gained approximately 3,000 feet on our first day of hiking.  We started around 4,000 feet and on our third day, topped Red Peak Pass at a little over 11,000 feet.  Our first night was spent at Johnson Lake, falling asleep to the gentle plopping of fish in the otherwise still lake, where we awoke to frost on the ground.  As the sun rose, it quickly melted, but I still registered my complaints and refused to leave my sleeping bag until the sun hit our tent.  Late on our second day of hiking, we spotted our first views of the high Sierra, where the peaks are barren and covered in moraines.  Through fields of wildflowers and forested hills, we spent the day rolling up and downhill until we reached the final push to the Ottoway Lakes.  We spent the night camped on the shore of the lower lake, enjoying the tinkling of a small creek through the evening.

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

Day three took us up and over Red Peak Pass, and though the temperature hovered in the 60’s the mountain sun was intense.  That, combined with the altitude, made for slow going up the pass.  The area is above tree line, therefore completely exposed.  We arrived at the summit around noontime, and while Anthony huddled in the shade, I tried in vain with my camera to capture the sun on the rocks and the view of the various tarns dotting the horizon.  The hike down from the pass seemed to take much longer than it should have, but we did stop several times to dip our feet in mountain streams, or swim in lakes.  Anthony swims, I am the toe dipper.  The freezing cold glacier meltwater does not seem to bother him.  Our third night was spent next to Triple Peak Fork, which eventually dumps into the Merced River.  We hadn’t seen another human since the night before, and we were camped completely alone out in the woods.  It’s amazing to be able to do that in a park that sees over four million visitors a year.  The following day we followed Triple Peak Fork down to the trail junction at Merced Lake, where there is a campground with platform tents.  We spent some time resting on the shore of Merced Lake, enjoying the quiet beauty.  From this point on, we were on a highly traveled trail down to the valley, so our days were not as peaceful.  Up until we arrived at the Merced Lake area, we’d seen less than a dozen people total.  After Merced Lake, I stopped counting as we ran into people backpacking up to the platform tents, mule trails, and as we got closer to the valley – day hikers.  I found a secret camp spot up above the Merced River that night, and we enjoyed a warmer night in the shadow of a granite dome.  Our hike out was stunning, even though we had to share the trail with so many others.  Following the Merced River was magical, and we found many places to cool off in its waters.  We hiked down the grueling steps by Nevada Falls and Vernal Falls, admiring the views with literally thousands of other people, to end our hike back in the valley.

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

We spent the next couple of days with my parents, enjoying the less rigorous pursuits in Yosemite – a short walk to Lyell Fork in Tuolumne Meadows was a highpoint.  We also took a drive up Tioga Road, and then down to Mammoth to visit Devils Postpile National Monument.  60 foot high towers of basalt rock, that look like french fries to me, are the reason this was declared a protected area in 1911.  Another day we drove to Glacier Point for unobstructed views of Half Dome and the valley below.  It was a wonderful few days in an amazing park and I am glad we spent an abundance of time here, especially since we were able to enjoy such a wonderful place with my parents.

Upon leaving Yosemite, we made our way back to the San Francisco area.  We spent a morning at John Muir National Historic Site.  It was really fun to go there right after being at Yosemite, since John Muir loved Yosemite and was integral in pushing to get it protected.  He adored Yosemite, and spent days upon days wandering footloose through the peaks, with barely any supplies and a carefree regard for the natural world.  At the site, we were able to walk around his family home and read much of his original work.  As always, the park rangers were helpful, friendly and talkative.

Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park

Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park

Our next stop was Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park.  When Anthony and I first met, our first date began at the Oakland Airport.  We had planned a backpacking trip on the Lost Coast.  Before we headed up north in our rental car, Anthony suggested we check out the new National Park Site that had just opened – Rosie the Riveter.  A memorial sculpture had already been built, which is what led to the designation and participation by the NPS.  We both remember going to the site, and wandering around the memorial, but at that point, in 2007, there was nothing else there yet.  Now there is a gorgeous visitors center, with amazing exhibits, films, and photographs – all commemorating the women who worked and toiled in the war effort of WWII.  The Rosies are inspiring and the history presented and the care given to preserving it, make this site a very special place.  Dinner was at Souley Vegan, in Oakland, where we ate piles and piles of starchy goodness.

Our last day on vacation began with a visit to Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site.  Open rarely, and only accessible by park shuttle, we had made reservations the previous morning, but the shuttle never appeared – so we waited the next morning, a Saturday, for a shuttle that did not require reservations.  In the meantime, we discovered Ike’s Place, an amazingly tasty sandwich shop.  It’s not an all vegan place, or even vegetarian, but they have an extensive vegan menu that includes all kinds of meats and cheeses.  I think both of us would agree that these were some of the best sandwiches either of us has ever had.  Back at the site, the lives of Eugene and his family made for an incredibly interesting tour of his house.  Being an English teacher, I was of course fascinated to see his library and hear about his writing practices.  He was very reclusive while writing, and “trained” his wife Carlotta to ensure his privacy while working.

Our last stop of vacation before flying a red eye out of SFO, was Jelly Belly, where we took a factory tour and bought a lot of Jelly Belly Jelly Beans.  Anthony spent a lot of our visit on the phone with his work, because within the hour of us arriving home from vacation the next morning, he left for Alaska with work!

All in all, an amazingly wonderful three week vacation – lots of memories, good food, and beautiful scenery.  An added bonus was spending time with my wonderful parents!



  1. Patricia Lynch says:

    I love reading the details of your travels! Carrie, your writing is very poetic!



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