Yosemite mini-trip

2-3 July 2023

random trip report

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Noah and I decide to take a quick 1-day trip to Yosemite, while the falls are at their peak.

Apparently there have been multi-hour waits for parking in the valley, so we drive to Mariposa and take the YARTS bus from there.

Sunday 2 July

We leave around 11:30, drive to Mariposa, and check into the unexceptional Monarch Inn (try something else next time). It's pretty hot in the valley (up to 107) but a little cooler in the foothills.

We look for the Stockton Creek Reservoir trailhead on the outskirts of town. A teenage girl, walking two dogs, directs us to the trail and offers advice about poison oak, water, and footwear (I'm wearing my sandals).

The trail is a level dirt road, leading after ~1.5 miles to the base of an earthen dam. The foothill flora - golden grass, oaks, manzanita - is beautiful. There's a shortcut trail to the top of the dam, which Noah declines because of poison oak paranoia.

An older woman, somewhat weathered, comes down the road, with her stick-carrying dog. I chat with her briefly. She's familiar with the short-cut trail, and says there's only one place where you have to 'do a do-si-do' (which she demonstrates) to avoid the poison oak.

We go up to the dam and get a look at the reservoir. I descend via the short-cut trail, with do-si-do, and meet Noah at the bottom.

We return to the parking lot. The older woman is sitting in her car with the window open. I notice that the car's seat covers, seat belt covers, and steering wheel cover are emblazoned with butterflies, and that the woman has a butterfly tattoo on her arm (note: 'mariposa' is butterfly in Spanish). I comment on this, and she says there are other tattoos, for when we know each other better. OK.

We get back in the car, drive c. 7 miles to the Yosemite Bug in Midpines, and have dinner in the June Bug Cafe. Reassuringly, it's the same it was in 2005, when Rob and I discovered it. Noah has the ribs (good but fatty) and I have the excellent tofu Poke bowl and an IPA. The clientele is mostly Euro tourists; I don't see any climbers. After dinner I move outside to finish my beer. There are some Germans at the next table.

Back in the room, we watch some cable TV - The Office, South Park, Big Bang. We're stunned by how little it has to offer.

Monday 3 July

Noah sleeps poorly, and I barely sleep at all (bad pillows, among other things). The motel breakfast is abysmal. Noah is now a bit of a coffee snob. We check out the nearby bakery but it's closed on Mondays. So we go to the Stage Stop mini-mart. We get coffee and sandwiches for the trail. The sandwiches are immense 3-layer creations, way too thick to get your jaws around.

We park at the Mariposa 'Road-side rest stop', chat with a couple of homeless guys, and catch the YARTS bus. The bus is almost empty. The driver is a portly older guy from Boston. A young couple from Romania is going to the valley to work at Curry Village. The bus ride is slow, compounded by a 40-minute wait at the entrance. We get to Yosemite Village at 1:30 rather than the scheduled 11:45.

Yosemite Village is actually the wrong stop; it's a mile to the upper Yosemite falls trailhead (the driver, oddly, knows nothing about hiking trails in the valley). We're on the trail around 2. It's in the 80s - warm but not hot. The first part of trail is switchbacks. Noah gradually loses steam, and complains of dizziness. At the overlook (before the corner) he wants to turn around. We eat and rest for a while.

Descending hikers repeatedly tell ascending hikers how close they are to the corner, and how great it is. Noah hears this, eventually gets some energy, and we continue.

We come around the corner and indeed it's an amazing spectacle. The temperature drops 15 degrees and there's some mist. As usual there's a rainbow above the lower falls. We sit for a while, then turn around.

On the way down I pass a young woman, Sherry, wearing a park service uniform, and talk with her. She's an environmental biologist, a former professor. Today she's counting the number of hikers and the amount of litter on the trail. Turns out the knows Joey from Crime Pays but Botany Doesn't; he was at her wedding, and she was at his place in Oakland and saw a lot of his drawings, which include dystopian fantasy as well as nature.

A couple of Brits see her uniform and have questions. I'm expecting inquiries about native species or glaciation, but instead they want to know if they sell ice at the Yosemite Lodge.

We reach the bottom; I resume walking with Noah. We pass a group of 3 young rock climbers and I stop and chat with them. They're very excited that I'm still climbing at 67. One of them knew Dave Altman a bit; he urges me to see Metanoia, a documentary about the climber Jeff Lowe. Noah drags me away. We have popsicles at the Yosemite Village store.

Partial view of Death Slabs below Half Dome

The return bus trip is faster. The bus has a battery problem so there's no AC. It's the driver's very first trip and seems a bit nervous; a senior driver advises him.

The highlight of the return trip is finding very cheap gas ($4.29) on the outskirts of Merced, with the needle on E.


One of those trips with a high driving-to-hiking ratio. The bus thing was bit of a fiasco, and didn't leave us enough time to reach the top of the falls, but it turned out OK because Noah needed to turn around halfway. He got to experience the up-close view of the upper falls, which is the main attraction.

Copyright 2024 © David P. Anderson