After skipping out on our Sierra High Route attempt, Mr. Moist and myself decided to hitch from Road’s End in Kings Canyon to Yosemite for some bumming around the tourist-infested wilderness (and to climb Half Dome).
Didn’t read Part I? Hiking Yosemite Part I: The Long Hitch In.
TL;DR: we got a lot of hitches, faced a lot of adversity, and everyone became a better person.
At sunrise, Mr. Moist and I escape Camp 4, undetected by rangers, and head to the permit office to legitimize our wandering around Yosemite.
The park is crowded since we choose to arrive in the heat of hiking season, and our backcountry entry options are limited. Eventually, we settle for hiking east out of the valley via the Mirror Lake and Snow Creek trails.
I suspect that the Snow Creek Trail is a more popular exit than entrance point due to the fact that it climbs straight out of the valley to the rim – switchbacking up 2,700 feet in just 2.6 miles (823 m in 4.18 km). Hooray!
Permits in hand, we linger around the visitor center where we meet some Pacific Crest Trail hikers who inspire us to hitch up to Tuolumne Meadows to find even more PCTers with whom we attempt to (unsuccessfully) relive the glory of our own PCT hikes.
We procrastinate until it becomes late enough in the day that we convince ourselves that we can put in extra miles in the morning and put off starting our hikes until tomorrow (we will never learn).
We hitch back down to the valley and wander around attempting to find a mysterious backpacker campground that does not appear on any of the maps we have (but that we know exists…we think).
In time we stumble upon our home for the night and it isn’t long before we are invited to join some enthusiastic drinkers of beer and eaters of hot dogs for a hiker trash party.
Some rangers come by to inform us that an aggressive bear with a habit of charging people has been lurking around the area as of late and that if we hear people shouting or running around during the night, then it’s just them attempting to scare off the bear.
Our new friends soon end their fiesta in the interest of not being complete dicks to everyone in the campground, and we retire to our feather bags for one last attempt at recuperation before adventuring anew.
And in case you’re wondering, I was awoken by rangers rocketing past my head in pursuit of said bear not once, but twice this night.
When morning comes around we get a surprisingly early start as we quietly pack up and slip unnoticed out of the campground.
We hike two miles down the Mirror Lake trail (which is literally covered in horse shit) before reaching the base of our climb to the rim.
The trail becomes an endless series of switchbacks, and I would be lying if I didn’t admit to taking countless breathers on the way up (that last four PBR were maybe not the best decision). However, the view looking back through Tenaya Canyon offers ample justification for any such breakage.
Upon reaching the top we are rewarded with a cold stream full of delicious waters (and I with the privilege of being caught pooping by hikers on an opposite ridge – they didn’t wave back).
Good thing all the climbing is over.
Or so we think.
What we failed to recognize ahead of time was that it was not only our morning but our entire day that consisted of climbing.
The Valley (our starting point) sits at just under 4,000 feet (1,219 m), and we have so far climbed to around 6,700 feet (2,042 m); our day’s destination, Clouds Rest, boasts an elevation of 9,931 feet (3,027 m).
We haven’t even finished half our climbing (and that’s before accounting for any downhill).
Pressing on, finding nothing but uphill ahead, our decision to forgo hiking yesterday becomes a clear error in judgment (but at least we made some friends).
The views continue to impress, and the climbs continue to exhaust, but with half the day behind us, our goal of reaching the Rest of Clouds becomes realistic (like we ever doubted ourselves).
We also realize that every group of hikers we begin to meet are also heading to Clouds Rest. So logically, we must beat them all there to claim the prime real estate.
I camel up on water to avoid having to stop again, and push for the summit leaving a spectacular collection of trail graffiti in my wake (and no, it was not predominately phallic imagery).
Nearing the top I meet a family who has begun to set up their camp. I ask why they stopped short of the summit, and they tell me of their plan to hike up for sunset and sunrise to which I respond, “that’s silly.”
Apparently that was all the convincing they needed as they start packing away their tents and making for the top.
I make it up to discover that the rock slab that is the summit does not lend itself to tenting (and should the wind pick up, to any camping whatsoever); the family follows shortly afterward.
“I hope you’re okay with cowboy camping,” I tell them as I lay out my sleeping bag in what I have appraised to be a choice sleeping spot.
None of them have cowboy camped before, but thankfully they are enthusiastic to give it a try (and more importantly not angry at me for prematurely sending them to the summit).
It isn’t long before Moist and the rest of the hikers file in, as we bear witness to a spectacular sunset and the emerging of every star in the visible universe.
I stay up marveling at the night sky and wonder if there exists a better place in the world for stargazing (I decide there must be (the open ocean?), but that doesn’t discount the wonder of this place).
Surprisingly, hikers continue to file in as I sit and wait for my shutter to open and close.
Below is a sampling of what the night’s photo shoot yielded.
Continued in Hiking Yosemite Part III: Up The Half Dome.