Work has been super-busy and stressful in the last couple of months, and I’ve been jonesing for a mountain trip before winter completely sets in. I’ve also been wanting to see firsthand the extent of the damage of the Rim Fire in the Yosemite area, so last Friday I packed up the Forester for a quick overnight Yosemite trip.
On the drive up highway 120 through Groveland, I could really see the effects of the Rim Fire. Stopping at the “Rim of the World” overlook, the burn area was quite astonishing, and in stark contrast to the same view I saw back in January.
Pulling into the campground at Hodgdon Meadow, I found a nice quite campsite with no one else around. I decided I would spend the afternoon in the Hetch Hetchy area of the park, which really was affected by the fire. As I got further up the road to Hetch Hetchy, the extent of the fire damage really came home. Hundreds of thousands of trees completely torched, giving the forest a really eerie feeling. At one point, I had to stop and wait for a crew clearing trees from the road.
The trails in the Hetchy area have been closed for some months, but the trail to Rancheria Falls had just been opened to hiking. I decided to take a quick hike out to Wapama Falls, a quick scenic five mile hike. Evidence of the fire is right on the trail. In many spots, the fire jumped the trail and went right down to the edge of the reservoir. Though I have hiked this several times before, because of trail debris and burn zones, I lost the trail a couple of times. Still, it was a lovely day, and I set a personal record in hiking to the falls and back in two hours.
Returning to camp, I enjoyed a tasty dinner, cold beer, and roaring campfire before heading off to bed. People always ask me if I have had any problems with bears in Yosemite. Truth be told… bears are much less of a problem than raccoons, one of which spent part of the evening trying to find any stray food or trash laying around my campsite. After aggressively chasing him off several times, he finally gave up and moved on to greener pastures.
The Tioga Road leading to the high country of Yosemite had been closed during the previous week or so, due to an early season snowstorm. I had been hoping to hike to the top of North Dome on the rim of Yosemite Valley, so was pleased that the Tioga Road had been opened on Friday noon. First thing Saturday morning I headed to the Porcupine Creek trailhead for the North Dome attempt. There was a lot more snow than I anticipated at this altitude, and the trail was very snowy and icy. At a few spots, I was wishing I’d thrown my mini-crampons in when I packed at home. At about a mile-and-a-half into the hike, I came to a stream crossing that was glazed over with ice, and I realized that there was no safe way to cross. At that point, I decided to go to plan B (whatever that was!), and turn around.
I continued driving down the road towards Tuolumne Meadows, the obligatory photo stops at Olmstead Point and Tenaya Lake. I have always visited Tuolumne Meadows in the summer season, when things are really hopping, and there are a LOT of people around. Today was in stark contrast to the summer scene… there were maybe half-a-dozen cars in the Lembert Dome parking area. I scrambled up the side of the flank of Lembert Dome, and found a airy perch for lunch. Following lunch I hiked a little loop around the meadows, taking in the Parsons Lodge and Soda Springs. Hardly saw another person the whole afternoon.
Before long, it was sadly time for me to think about heading home to Sacramento.
All in all it was a great, though short mountain getaway, and felt that my soul had been fed as I returned to my busy work schedule at the Cathedral.
Full trip photos here: