After months of planning and talking, we had our route set and were ready to go. We submitted our request for a wilderness pass which was then rejected. Oops! We waited too long to submit the request. That sent us into a scramble to figure out what to do. After looking at alternate parks, we finally found a route in Yosemite that was available and would still allow us to hit Half Dome. We were now ready to go!

Day One

Dale and Thomas arrived at the airport about 9:30am and I scooped them up and we made our way to Yosemite. It was around a 5 hour drive so we knew we would get there with plenty of daylight. After arriving, we picked up our wilderness permits in Wawona (along with three bear canisters) and headed to Glacier Point to do some exploring. After a quick stop at a roadside meadow, we made it to Glacier Point, parked alongside the many other visitors already there and quickly started taking in the views. From Glacier Point, you have a spectacular view of Half Dome, Nevada Falls and Vernal Falls.

From there, we headed towards Sentinel Dome, having heard that the short 3 mile round trip offers a great bang for your hiking buck. The trail to Sentinel is nothing spectacular, but while heading there we heard several loud noises that sounded as if somebody was splitting logs. I made the comment, "That sounds bigger than it should" not knowing what the source of the noise was. Well, a few minutes later, Thomas explains "BEAR!". We turn and look, and sure enough there is a bear tearing apart a fallen tree. We were in the park for less than an hour and already looking at a bear! What luck. Since I had the camera, I wanted to get a little closer... which made Dale and Thomas a tad nervous. Finally, after snapping a few shots, they convinced me that I should not be getting any closer so I decided to return to the trail, which was downhill. I made a few hops down and realized that I was doing so at too fast of a rate that seemed as if I might be running. The bear dhid in fact take notice and turned to see what was going on (or maybe what else might be for dinner). He instead decided that he would continue digging for grubs and paid us no more attention.

We continued our trek to Sentinel and were very pleased upon our arrival. You are rewarded with 360 degree views of the valley and the Yosemite high country. From this vantage point, you get a solid sense of the greatness of Yosemite. We goofed around a little, took a bunch of pictures and then decided it was time to head into the valley to set up camp for the night.

Once we arrived at Yosemite Valley, we headed over to the Yosemite Store to pick up a few last-minute items and then made our way to the backpacker's campground. Since by this time it was dark, it provided more challenging than we hoped. We wandered around the wrong campsite for a while before getting to North Pines and finding the path into the backpacker's campground. At that point, we realized it was packed. We looked around for a bit longer trying to find an empty spot but there weren't any. We finally asked someone if we could share their space (and their bear locker), which they were kind enough to allow. So we threw our bags on the ground and passed out.

Day Two

Evidently, we missed some commotion in the middle of the night. The ladies that black tail deershared their camp with us told us that a bear was wandering around in the middle of the night (no doubt looking for food) and the rangers showed up with paint ball guns to scare it off. So when they say bear lockers and canisters are important, they evidently mean it!

We quickly packed up and headed over to the shuttle stop to catch a ride to Yosemite Falls trailhead. After standing there for a few minutes, we realized that it was only 7:30 and the shuttles were not yet running. Instead of standing around and waiting, we decided to foot it to the trail head. It was about 1.5 miles and on our way there, we ran into another bear. This one was just standing in a fenced off area between Upper Falls and Lower Falls trailheads. I inched closer and closer to get some shots when a Japanese tourist started screaming to alert all the other Japanese tourists. About that time, the bear decided he was receiving too much attention and high tailed it. He darted across the road (in front of a sign that reads "Speeding kills bears") and was gone.

It was around 9am once we reached the Upper Yosemite Falls trailhead and we slowly started making our ascent. The first day was going to cover more vertical than any other day, so we knew it was going to be tough. Due to the steepness, we did a lot of start and stopping along the way... of course using the many photo opportunities as excuses to rest our weary bodies. Once we arrived at the top of Yosemite Falls, we took more pictures and then found a shady spot along Yosemite Creek to eat lunch and enjoy the scenery. After resting for about two hours, we decided it was time to head towards North Dome.

We decided the best place to find a camp would be immediately after the Lehamite Creek. Sure enough, once we crossed it, we found a string of great camping spots. After some discussion, we picked one and set up camp. Now we had a few hours of daylight left, we decided to do some exploring. We headed off towards North Dome to see what kind of views we could take in. Once we arrived at the split for North Dome and Indian Rock, we were amazed at the view of Half Dome. It was enormous and dominated the vista. From our perspective, North Dome was actually another half mile and was lower than our current location so we decided there was no point going any further. Dale and Thomas found a nice log to rest on while I hiked up Indian Ridge to find a few more photo ops before it got too dark. Once I was satisfied with the shots I had, we returned to the camp, lit a fire and enjoyed the last few moments of the day before giving our bodies a well deserved rest. 

Day Three

By 7am, the sun was already shining bright and we were all wide awake. We packed up the campsite and determined where we were headed. Surprisingly, none of us were that sore, which was a great sign. Hiking 10 miles with multiple aches and pains is no fun at all. We decided to hike along Lehamite Creek instead of Indian Ridge to save us some vertical climbing. From there, we headed towards Snow Creek down towards the footbridge. Prior to reaching that point, we encountered some beautiful waterfalls that went on for over a hundred feet. This would have been a great spot to have lunch, but it was only 11am and we were not yet hungry. Instead, we continued on to the footbridge, which was a great spot as well.  

After lunch and sitting in the sun for a bit, we started to remember that we haven't bathed in a couple of days. Despite the water being ice cold, Thomas and I decided to jump in and rinse off. After barely being able to handle the cold, I decided I had enough and tried to get out. Unfortunately, the rocks were a tad slippery and busted my ass. Ouch!

Once we were rested and derived out our wet clothes, we continued on with our hike. We headed towards Olmstead Point, passing by some wonderful lookout points. There was one spot near Mount Watkins that would have been a perfect spot for camping had there been access to any water (there was already a fire ring there). Of course, that didn't fit into our schedule so we had to push on. Once we got to Olmstead, we realized we were back near civilization. There were tons of people that make their way from the parking lot along Tioga Road. Kids screaming and people chattering quickly gave a sense of chaos when you haven't seen anyone else in a day or so. But we still checked out Olmstead Point, which gave our first glimpse of Half Dome since we were at North Dome the previous night. Then we quickly moved on as we were also starting to run out of light.

As we neared Tenaya Lake, we encountered some meadows. We knew we would come across them based on the map, but what we weren't expecting was the swarm of mosquitoes that would be waiting for us. This was probably the worst encounter with mosquitoes I've ever had. You would walk into a swarm of 100 of them, buzzing around your face and attacking any part of your body they could. We came prepared though, and broke out our 100% deet. We hosed ourselves down in the stuff, which certainly helped. After a little longer, the mosquitoes quickly realized that we didn't put any on our shirts so they started landing on our clothing and draining blood that way. It was pretty common to look at either or your shoulders to see a dozen mosquitoes sitting there. We then sprayed deet on our hands and wiped it onto our shirts. Because of sweating, we would have to reapply every hour or so. The deet also made dirt stick to our skin, so we quickly started looking hobos. 

Once we arrived at Tenaya Lake, there were already quite a few people camped near the shore. We searched in vain for a secluded spot, before I convinced the guys to head up the trail towards Sunrise to look for a better spot. At this point, we had about 30 minutes of sunlight left, so we were feeling a tad desperate. Sure enough though, after a few more minutes of hiking, we found a nice spot near Tenaya Creek and quickly set up camp. The sunlight disappeared, and luckily, the mosquitoes along with it. 

Day Four

The day after day of hiking was starting to catch up with us, and we ended up staying in the tent until after 8am. At this point, the only thing really keeping us going was the knowledge that this was to be one of our easier days. Thank goodness! We started making our way towards Cloud's Rest, and we encountered many people coming the other direction with only day packs on. Since it was still early, we assumed that these people were doing the High Sierra Camp option, where they just do day hikes from one camp to the next and have everything waiting for them (food and lodging). Cheaters!

Even being an "easy" day, there was still a lot of vertical climbing. Once we neared Cloud's Rest, we decided to take a break, have some lunch and rest up for our ascent. After about an hour, we felt well enough to push on. Once we were a couple hundred feet from the top, there is a split in the path that allows you to go around the top or directly over it. We dropped our packs and started up. The trail leading to the top of Cloud's Rest gets fairly narrow and has sharp drops on either side. It becomes a bit nerve wrecking so you make sure you carefully place each foot on the ground. As we neared the top, there was actually a guy running down from the top... as if he was on a casual jog on any given road. Crazy! After he passed, we went a little further and found ourselves at the highest point we would achieve during our trip at the park (9921'). The views were amazing and you had a great shot of Half Dome in one direction and the highlands in the other. We spent some time relaxing, enjoying the breeze and wondering how the hell you could come up from the other side. Instead of trying to figure it out, we returned to our packs and started our descent to find a camping spot.

We continued down the sharp slopes towards the John Muir trail. Once we finally reached it, we backtracked along the Sunrise Creek to find a camping spot. We eventually found a quaint little spot but it had a dozen packs already there. We wandered around and found another spot and decided to rest and not set up camp, hoping the owners of the packs would pick them up and head somewhere else. At this point, it was only 4pm and the earliest we had reached our destination. We pulled out our sleeping pads and snacks and enjoyed the short day. While resting, we heard some unusual noises, which sounded as if someone screaming for dear life. We decided to go investigate. As we hiked around in the woods, we couldn't pinpoint where the noise was coming from. In the process, we actually stumbled upon an awesome campsite with views of El Cap, so we decided this is where we would camp. Our stuff was a few hundred yards down into the canyon so we went to retrieve our packs. While making our way down, there was a large log that I hopped up onto to make my way down. After doing so, I looked up and saw a bear about two hundred feet away, sitting on the other side of a large log. It turned and looked at me and then I noticed a smaller bear next to it. I thought, "Oh crap, a mother and it's cub". Dale and Thomas had yet to jump up on the log, so I turned to them and whispered "back, back! cub!" That was all it took to get their attention, and we slowly, quietly backed away. Knowing most animals become more aggressive when they are around their young, we wanted no part of it. I didn't have my camera on me so no pictures were taken of the event.  

After our close encounter, we returned to the original campsite and noticed that the packs of the other hikers were gone. Yeah! We packed up our stuff and moved it, looking over our shoulders the entire time. In the process, Dale was nearly run over by a deer dropping in from the brush. It quickly darted off, but would later return. After we started a fire, we looked up and saw the deer circling our camp nonchalantly. After cooking up some dinner, the deer became a little more brave and got closer to us. Once it realized that we weren't going to feed it, it hung out in the stream the encircled our camp and chewed on grass. It hung out for about an hour and then as it started getting dark, disappeared. 

Day Five

Our final day! We leisurely packed up our camp and then made our way up the JMT to the split for Half Dome. We dropped our packs in the brush so they wouldn't be visible from the trail. Approaching Half Dome, you quickly start to see the switch backs going up Sub Dome and people slowly making their way up the trails. We used our slow but steady death march that we had developed over the past few days to push through the hike with minimal stops. Once we reached the saddle, we rested for about 10 seconds before we couldn't take the anticipation of getting on the cables. We picked through the pile of gloves laying at the base to find a pair that would fit (and weren't too sweaty). We grabbed hold of the cables and started making our way up. We quickly encountered the group in front of us who weren't moving. We were only about 20 feet up and at a dead stop. It was difficult to see but the problem was either with someone too scared to go up any more or someone else trying to come down. The problem with the cables is there is only one way up and one way down. So when someone wants to go down, it stops the flow of traffic. There were a couple of people that were clipping into the cables, which really slowed things down. I'm not blaming them, since I know clumsy people that run a higher risk of falling off and dying. If you're clumsy, this is probably the method you might want to use.

Slowly, we made our way to the top... with one interesting moment when a couple of guys passed us on the outside of the cables. Luckily, they were successful in their passing, but not much more than a week ago, a hiker died doing the exact same maneuver. Me, I was going to go as slow as needed to make sure that didn't happen. Once we were at the top, the view was not much different than the ones we had been enjoying since day one. But we realized it was more about the journey up than the actual view. There were still some cool things to check out, including the diving board which looks a lot scarier in pictures than it does in person. There were also several animals that seemed pretty dependent on the hikers for their food as marmots and squirrels invade unprotected packs. After hanging out for a few minutes, we were ready to get off the big rock and get back to the valley.

On the way down, Dale started having problems with his knee. Going down actually was more painful for him than going up, and we had a lot of downhill to go... about 4000 feet to be exact. But we slowly pushed on with Dale grimacing the entire time. After getting a little past Little Yosemite Valley, we hung out by the Merced River to refill our long emptied water bottles and to relax a bit. Tom jumped in the water to cool off in the clear, crisp water. Then we headed off towards Nevada Falls. 

The route from Nevada Falls, down to Vernal Falls, and then finally the Mist Trail was absolutely gorgeous. Unfortunately at this point, we were in a state where we just wanted to get to the bottom. My camera died after we reached the bottom of Nevada Falls and Dale's knee wasn't getting any better. We made a steady descent down the partially soaked granite steps, stopping occasionally for a breath or to enjoy the view. As we made our way down the falls, the number of people steadily increased. By the end, we were surrounded by hundreds of tourists. Not the kind that are going to hike anywhere except to the bottom of the falls to stare up. Finally, we reached the bottom, made the short hike to the car and were off looking for a place to get a nice hot lunch.

Type: Loop
Dogs: Nope
Trailhead: Google
Trail Map: link
Vertical Profile: link

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