Tag Archives: national park

Vogelsang: A Yosemite First

The trek to Vogelsang High Sierra Camp begins near the Tuolumne Meadows backcountry permit station. A brief part of the hike in overlaps with both the John Muir Trail and the mighty Pacific Crest Trail

The trek to Vogelsang High Sierra Camp begins near the Tuolumne Meadows backcountry permit station.

I’ve blogged about Yosemite on several occasions. I’ve recounted a time I took a friend to the park for the first time, a time I hiked up Half Dome, and a time I cross-country skied to Glacier Point. Each time I trek to Yosemite I try to experience it in a new way, through the eyes of a first time visitor or on an entirely new adventure. This weekend I explored a new part of the park and dipped my toe into the High Sierra Camp culture and tradition.

Yosemite is home to five High Sierra Camps that form a popular 51 mile loop. Lots of people hike the full loop, staying at a different camp each night. Others enjoy individual Camps on shorter trips.

Each Camp has around 12 tent cabins that can be rented, and each is equipped with cots and log stoves for warmth. Some Camps even have shower facilities and all of them serve you a hearty dinner and breakfast the following morning. Securing spots in the tent cabins is a lottery, so planning takes time and patience. Each Camp has an adjoining backpackers camp and each day a few meals-only spots are held for those that fully trek in, bringing their own sleeping bag and tent to pitch, and roughing it out under the stars.

This weekend, we took advantage of the “meals-only” opportunity at Vogelsang High Sierra Camp, a 6.7 mile hike south from Tuolumne  Meadows, and it was a fun, new way to experience Yosemite…

Glen and Derek

A brief section of the hike up to Vogelsang overlaps with both the John Muir Trail and the mighty Pacific Crest Trail. In several beautiful spots, the trail crosses the Tuolumne River, as it begins its journey to Hetch Hetchy. 

Strava

Vogelsang is the highest High Sierra Camp at over 10,000 feet. Our trip up with backpacks (sans food and cookware) was a scenic workout, which we tracked  using several apps including Strava.

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Approaching the High Sierra Camp at Vogelsang felt like an accomplishment. We were exhausted yet eager to explore. It took a while for us to get our bearings of the amenities and the area that was open for us to set up camp.

camp home

As exhausted as we were when we finally arrived at Vogelsang, we took our time exploring the backpackers camp, looking for the best spot to set up our weekend residence. I credit Glen for ultimately leading us to our home base location. It was not a horrible place to relax, gaze and daydream.

Vogelsang area

There are at least a half dozen day hikes available starting from the Vogelsang Camp. During our delicious fried chicken dinner the first night of our stay, a cheerful, adventurous group of retired ladies from Incline Village (Lake Tahoe) insisted we head up to Vogelsang Lake and Vogelsang Pass during our following free day. We obliged and were treated with mega views of the high Sierra. 

View from Vogelsang Pass

About 1.5 miles and 700 feet up from Vogelsang High Sierra Camp is Vogelsang Pass, which offered sweeping views of the Lewis Creek  valley.

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The views from Vogelsang Pass out into the Cathedral Range were among the most beautiful I’ve seen in Yosemite.

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On our way down from the pass we took a pit stop at Vogelsang Lake.

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This is the spot where I jumped in. Cold and refreshing!

Mule

There are a lot of amenities at the High Sierra Camps and it’s thanks in large part to the hardworking mules that carry supplies up and down the mountains everyday. Each time we passed a line of these friendly and peaceful creatures on the trail, either going up or coming down, we stopped and expressed our gratitude.

Whether you’ve been to Yosemite once or ten times, I highly recommend working a visit to a High Sierra Camp into your next trip. It doesn’t matter if you reserve a tent cabin far in advance or snag a meals-only permit a little less far in advance, it’s a unique experience to meet fellow trekkers, share stories and socialize in such a beautiful setting.

Learn more about the High Sierra Camp lottery process or check out more photos from our trek.

Half Dome #3 (brought to you in part by Instagram)

This weekend I completed my third trek up Yosemite’s famed Half Dome. Getting to the top of Half Dome requires a 17+ mile round trip hike that takes you from 4,062 feet at the base of the Yosemite Valley floor, up to the 8,842 feet summit. (Yes that’s 4,400 feet of elevation gain. To put that into perspective, the Empire State Building is 1,454 feet tall.)

Half Dome

Half Dome standing 4,400 feet above the Yosemite Valley

I still remember finishing Half Dome for the first time in the summer of 2007 and thinking to myself, “ok, well that’s something I only need to do once.” I thought this because the hike is not only exhausting but a slight bit terrifying. The last 400 feet requires you to scale up the side of the top of the Dome, pulling yourself up a sketchy set of cables. And of course coming down is equally as terrifying. There have been many deaths on Half Dome and most of them have occurred when someone got tripped up on the cables.

Half Dome cables

The cables of Half Dome greet you with 400 feet to go, straight up

But of course after a few years I forgot about the pain and terror, and decided that I wanted to drag my Dad up Half Dome. During the summer of 2009,  I completed my second trek to the summit with father in toe and then let a few more years pass again before thinking about doing the hike another time.

By now however, due to congestion, an increase in deaths, and unsafe hiking conditions, Yosemite implemented a lottery program to gain access to the trail to complete the hike. Now only 400 hikers and backpackers are allowed on the trail to Half Dome each day and you better believe the lottery is competitive, especially for weekends. This spring I decided it was time to do the hike again and I threw my hat in the ring for a permit. Thankfully I scored one and this weekend the day finally came to subject myself (and a +1) to the torturous hike.

For as tiring and scary as I describe the journey up Half Dome, I should mention also that it’s beyond beautiful. On the way up you get to see two amazing waterfalls and by the time you’ve made it to 1.5-mile-to-go mark to the summit, you’re enjoying expansive, stunning views of the Sierra from high above Yosemite.

Nevada Fall

Nevada Fall stands 594 feet tall on the Mist Trail, on the way up Half Dome

Vernal Fall

Vernal Fall, just downstream from Nevada Fall, boasts a 317 foot tall rushing cascade along the Mist Trail

Glen and the Sierra

Glen soaks up views of Yosemite National Park and the Sierra from the shoulder of Half Dome

This year, I was joined by the company of one of my favorite people, the sun was shining, we were surrounded by happy hikers, and the day ended with pizza, Wild Cherry Pepsi and hot showers. I’m sure this wasn’t my last time hiking Half Dome but it will always stand out as a great day and a memorable hike that I will cherish, probably forever.

Glen and Derek on Half Dome

Glen and me just before tackling the cables up the last 400 feet, note the tiny trail of hikers behind us scaling up the granite Dome

Half Dome, The Visor

Me on The Visor on the summit, 8,840 feet above sea level

the Sierra

Me and Glen on the Summit of Half Dome with the Sierra behind us, one of my favorite views in Yosemite

A Very Glacial Presidents Day

This past weekend I embarked on an outdoor adventure with my friend Nicolas, 7 other guys and 1 (token) gal. We cross country skied 11 miles from Badger Pass to Glacier Point in beautiful Yosemite National Park.

The adventurous crew outside the Glacier Point Ski Hut

Glacier Point is usually a chaotic tourist destination during the summer, with buses dropping off dozens of tourists and an endless stream of cars coming in and out, so visitors can take in one of the most stunning views of Yosemite Valley and the Sierra.

Me, standing very precariously on one of the ledges at Glacier Point (which you can not get to during the busy summer months), high above Yosemite Valley with both Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls in the distance

From Glacier Point you get a bird’s eye view of the entire Yosemite Valley. From El Capitan, Yosemite Falls and Half Dome and the great peaks of Mt. Hoffman, Clouds Rest and Mt. Starr King (or Mt. Starr Jones as I like to call it), all the way down to the tiny cars and people that look like ants, scurrying around the valley floor. It was so quiet you could hear the falling water from both Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls, Nevada Falls and Vernal Falls.

Sitting in front of a sight that never gets old, mighty Half Dome

a beautiful sunrise over the Sierra

After our 11 mile workout skiing to the hut, we essentially had this well earned view to ourselves. We stayed overnight at the Glacier Point Ski Hut (also known as the Glacier Point gift and snack shop in the summer) on Saturday and Sunday nights, and enjoyed a 4 mile snow shoe trek up to Sentinel Dome for a 360 degree view of Yosemite on Sunday afternoon. Sitting about 1,000 feet higher than Glacier Point, the sights from Sentinel Dome extend far into the Sierra, with impressive peak views including Cathedral and Tenaya Peaks, Mt. Conness and Mt. Lyell.

Atop Sentinel Dome with views of the Sierra extending for miles

On Monday morning we skied the 11 miles back out to Badger Pass and concluded our quiet and relaxing but active and laugh-filled weekend.

Compared to a lot of folks, I’ve seen a lot of Yosemite. But this weekend I got to see one of my favorite places in a new way and through a new experience, accompanied by good company and a good workout.

Oh, and let’s get one thing straight. Just because you’ve got significant experience with downhill skiing (and consider yourself quite good) and have even done a little bit of cross country skate skiing, it doesn’t mean you’re prepared to cross country ski (classic style) 22 miles in the mountains. Luckily, I’m a quick learner and can laugh off falls and tumbles pretty easily. 🙂

All photos credited to the always awesome, Nicolas Smith. All of his photos from the trip can be viewed here.

California adventures

I made the proud realization this weekend that in the six years I’ve lived in California, I’ve done a lot of exploring. I used to have a giant Yosemite trail map with all the trails I’ve been on highlighted. It gave a great visualization for how much of the park I’d seen. I thought it would be cool to map out where all in California I’ve been in a similar way.

I’ve traversed quite a bit of the state and have seen a lot of great California sites. Some of my top highlights include:

  • Redwood National Park
  • Mendocino
  • Trinity Alps
  • Mt. Lassen Volcanic National Park (including summit)
  • Yosemite (Half Dome, Cloud’s Rest, Buena Vista Loop)
  • Lake Tahoe
  • Napa and Sonoma
  • Farallon Islands
  • SF to LA on bike
  • Mono Lake, Bodie and the Eastern Sierra
  • Mt. Whitney (summit)
  • Joshua Tree

With that being said, there is still a lot of California I still want to explore, including:

  • Mt. Shasta (summit)
  • Pinacles
  • Devils Postpile
  • Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park
  • Death Valley
  • Channel Islands
  • Salton Sea
  • Palm Springs
  • San Diego and the OC

Are you satisfied with how much of your own state you’ve explored?

Trip report: Yosemite, September 2010

This weekend, Derek & Dave’s lack of Yosemite adventures this year combined with Katie’s lack of Yosemite adventures ever made for a fun filled trip to the glorious National Park.

Welcome to one of my favorite places

We ventured up late Friday night (with a delicious Wendy’s pit stop along the way) and after struggling to find a campsite (first come, first serve is always risky business) landed ourselves a spot at Porcupine Flat. We set up camp, made a quick fire, attempted to warm up and then hit the sack. It ended up being a bitter cold night (elevation: 8,000 feet+) and we all struggled to sleep well.


Katie & Dave at May Lake

Saturday morning we rolled out of our tents at about 10 AM (we all got our best sleep from 6 – 10 AM as the sun was warming up), enjoyed some delicious butterscotch pancakes and jetted out to the May Lake trail head for our afternoon hike. We made it quickly up to May Lake and then after fueling up with mucky water, we forged up to the summit of Mt. Hoffman (10,850 ft).

It ended up being a more challenging hike than expected but after scrambling our way up the last 100 feet, we were treated with an amazing 360 degree view of Yosemite. Not a bad way to introduce Katie to the park (even though she declared the granite landscape lackluster!!).


Derek atop Mount Hoffman

At the top we enjoyed turkey wraps (fixed up with Baconnaisse), partook in power naps and then hobbled back down the mountain. After a quick side trip to Tuolumne Meadows for a fresh supply of H2O for the night, we parked our butts at our campsite, made quesadilla pizzas, binged on cookies and enjoyed a nice, warm camp fire.

After a slightly warmer second night, we packed up and hit the road for the long drive to Glacier Point. We took in the great view of Yosemite Valley, ate our lunch, took pictures, threatened to beat up an over zealous squirrel and then hit the road for the long ride back to San Francisco.

Katie taking in the views at Glacier Point

Overall it was a great (but quick feeling) trip with great company, conversation and food. Hopefully Katie enjoyed her first trip to Yosemite!

When is the last time….

When is the last time you went 2 days without seeing another person? No, I don’t mean like last Sunday when you didn’t leave your apartment and barely left your couch. I mean no interaction even by phone, text or email. Not even seeing a person on TV or in a magazine.

This weekend Dave and I backpacked 31 miles around the Buena Vista loop in Yosemite and from about noon on Saturday to about noon on Monday we didn’t see a single person other than each other.

How often does that happen in life?

Buena Vista Lake

It’s ready! An ode to Mt. Whitney