Day Two of Yosemite = Perfection

Day two began with a fancy camping breakfast of steak and eggs with home fries. Boo yah. Originally, the plan for this day was to hike to Cloud’s Rest, a 14.5 mile roundtrip hike to 9,926 feet. At the end of the day yesterday, Nate asked me what I thought about switching up the plan and doing a shorter hike. I was totally on board as this had been on my mind a bit anyway. We only had three days inYosemiteand a shorter hike meant we would have more time and energy to check out some other parts of the park. It ended up being an excellent decision.

 We settled on hiking up to North Dome, which is about 10 miles roundtrip. The elevation once you get out there is around 7,500 feet, about 600 feet lower than the elevation at the trailhead. To get to the trailhead we drove up Tioga Road, which was a solid 45 minute drive from our campsite at Crane Flat. As I mentioned before, the park is huge, and it took us 30 minutes to an hour to drive just about anywhere we were looking to go. It was cool, though, as the views of the valley during the drive were spectacular.

Views driving through the park.

The hike up to North Dome was challenging, though relatively flat much of the way, which was nice considering we packed about 35 pounds into our pack. That might not sound like much, but for me hiking up and down steep rocks with a backpack proved difficult. Especially for the first half of the hike when I didn’t realize that I was supposed to clip those little clippy things across my chest and waist. What a difference THAT makes. Nate had it worse, though, as he carried the pack about 2/3 of the way. Regardless, I felt a little bit badass for carrying it at all and made Nate take a picture of me with it to document my hardcore hiking nature.

Flat ground was a blessing

 We got a bit turned around at one point and ended up at Indian rock by happy accident. It’s Yosemite’s only natural arch formation and definitely worth the .6 mile detour from the North Dome trail. As we approached Indian Rock we ran into some fellow hikers we had chatted with earlier on the trail and they greeted us with a “you made it!” We were just starting to celebrate our finish when we heard them say “now you just gotta get up to North Dome”. Damn. Back to the trail. Not before we hung out for a bit on top of the arches and got some sweet pics, though.

Indian Rock

It was a pretty steep hike up an unstable pebble-covered hill to get up here.

Nate at Indian Rock

Nate climbed on top of a serious rock formation and made me a bit nervous. Looked like a nice view though…

View from Indian Rock

On the trail down from Indian Rock we ran into a couple hikers that had made the same mistake as us. We told them that North Dome wasn’t that way and they followed us down the trail. One of the hikers told Nate that he bore a striking resemblance to a coworker of hers named Stetson. As I was racking my brain wondering why I felt like Nate did have a connection to the name Stetson, he informed the woman that his middle name is Stetson. Ah yes, that was it. Random. Coincidences like that always make me feel this warm feeling inside. I’m not sure what it is. They are like nice little reminders of the connection that exists between us all. I may be reading too much into them, but that’s ok, because it makes me feel nice to let myself believe that coincidences have meaning…and who knows, maybe they do. Those two hikers met up with the rest of their group and we walked with them to what we thought was the peak. Until we got there and realized that we were still at least a 30 minute hike from the end. We parted ways with that group of hikers (not before the woman got a picture of Stetson’s twin, Nathan Stetson), and linked up with a couple as we were walking the last mile or so to North Dome. We all got a bit lost together – a lot of these trails leave something to be desired when it comes to signage – and ended up hiking out to the peak and having lunch with each other and the chipmunks. We were warned that there were some brazen chipmunks on the mountain, ready to dive into your backpack and steal your food while your back is turned, or in front of your face. Nate wanted to get a video of them so I set a breadcrumb trap and waited. It didn’t take long before we were swarmed with chipmunks running around looking for food. They were so cute!

Nom Nom Chipmunk!

Oh yeah, the view was pretty cool too…

North Dome

Totally worth the 5 mile walk…

View of Half Dome from North Dome

Nate and I at the top:

This shit was crazy…

Holy Half Dome

To put it mildly, we were pretty excited to be up there.

Yeah!

I even got in some yoga: 

I love arm balances

I couldn’t resist a mountaintop headstand either. I admit, I’m kind of showing off here. But I just learned how to do these and I think it’s pretty cool…

North Dome yoga

Oh! I forgot to mention that we ran into a deer on our hike up. Here’s a pic!

Deer in the forest!

 The deer was so cute. Especially in this picture:

Gesundheit!

It looks like he’s sneezing. 

So after we sat up on North Dome for an hour or so, it was time to hike back down. Not literally down. Like I said, North Dome is actually lower in elevation than where the trail starts, so we ended up hiking uphill for quite a while right at the end. After hiking for 6 hours, it was relatively painful to have to go up again. We did manage to muster up the energy to take some nice pictures on the return hike, though:

bear burl!

There are so many animals hidden in these big trees.

FISH.

And hidden among the stones in the stream. Nate decided to try and get a closer look:

Nate lookin' for fishes

Almost back to the car! Taking a quick break before the final leg:

Taking a break by the stream

 If you can’t tell from the pics, I was a bit red by the end of the day. The only thing that kept this day from being totally perfect was that I forgot to put sunscreen on. I currently have the worst sunburn that I’ve had since I was a teenager. I feel stupid. And peely. Ick. Don’t expect to see any up close shots of my skin in the coming days. Not that up close shots of my skin are the kind of pictures I’m trying to share with you anyway. But I digress. 

 
After hours of strenuous exercise and roasting in the sun, I pretty forcefully insisted that we go swimming. Nate did not appear to be overly enthused about this idea. I pretended not to notice, as I wanted nothing more than to find a lake and submerge. Our final destination for the day was Tioga Pass, an exit to the park that some of Nate’s friends had told him was a must-see. Nate kept talking about meadows up there. I was kind of thinking “meadow schmeadow, let’s find a lake”, but I didn’t need to say that as we were able to compromise, especially because Lake Tenaya was right on the way to Tioga Pass. As we approached the lake, it was late afternoon and the heat was still strong. I was grateful for this as the lake was classified as a glacial lake and described in the guidebooks as “chilly”. We approached the lake and it was like a shining beacon waiting to offer some reprieve from the heat of the air and my skin.

Lake Tenaya

 
I walked out onto the deserted beach and immediately felt the calm that comes with being near the water. I took a moment to sneak in a few shadow-yoga pics before Nate got out to the beach.

Shadow yoga

 
It was so quiet and empty. There have been many quiet moments in Yosemite. It has been a pleasant surprise to have them sneak up on me so frequently. And it’s real quiet too, not that kind of tricky quiet that only seems that way because your ears are comparing it to the hustle and bustle you’re used to. It’s that deep quiet. The actual absence of sound; the kind that you can hear and feel.

This was exactly what I needed after a long hike.

I stepped a toe in the water and knew I would have to gear myself up to go under. It took some serious self-talk to work up the courage to go all the way in, but it was worth it. Completely submerging myself in icy water after a strenuous hike made me feel like a new person. I always find it interesting how much a dreaded soak in freezing water can end up being the greatest feeling. I have a funny fear of extreme temperature change, but I force myself to endure it because the moment I come up and feel the contrast of warm sun on cold skin it’s totally worth it. I instantly feel alive and renewed, and then deeply relaxed.  

After Lake Tenaya, I was down to check out some meadows. Let me tell you, meadows are where it’s at. I had no idea about meadows. In the whole spectrum of natural landscapes that can be enjoyed, meadows have generally not been something that has crossed my mind. No more. We drove up towards Tioga Pass and hit Tuolumne Meadows. It might be my favorite part of Yosemite. As we entered the meadows, a baby fawn bounded gaily across the road and into the forest. Sadly, I did not get a pic, but it’s an image that’s forever seared into my memory. If I’m ever feeling down, I will conjure up the image of baby fawn leaping through the meadow and instantly feel warmed.

WARNING: If you haven’t already noticed, this section will be cheesy. It cannot be helped. I was touched by the meadows.

I marveled at the fact that we could go from mountaintop views to glacial lakes to vast meadows in the span of a few miles. Yosemite, you are phenomenal. I could describe the meadows, but pictures are easier, even though they don’t begin to do the place justice. Here they are anyway:

Tuolumne Meadows

 This one of my favorite pics from Yosemite:

I loved this rock.

This place felt like an awesome place to shoot a movie about Native Americans:

The spot where I realized that meadows are the shit.

We went through the meadows, stopping periodically, but set on getting all the way out to Tioga Pass, which we accomplished. When we got there, we pretty much just turned around and came back, but not before I snapped a few pics of a supercool tree.

this reminds me of the shire

Had to get an upshot of this one:

view from the bottom.

 On a side note, the trees, dead and alive, at Yosemite were awesome. And the rocks. And everything, really. I wish I had a more expansive vocabulary to describe these landscapes. Cool and awesome and phenomenal just don’t cut it. It’s the kind of scene that could make an atheist question their beliefs. Not that I really want to get into religion; I just don’t know how better to describe it. The juxtaposition of mountains and grasses and streams and huge stones and deadwood in these meadows is so perfectly pleasing to the eye that it feels like it must have been intentional. Obviously, I don’t know if there’s any truth in that, but I do know that feeling that way about a moment and place in time makes me feel like everything is right and alright in the world, which is pretty cool.

awesome stump

We ended our evening with a glass of wine and a sunset in the meadows.

Tuolumne Meadows sunset

It was the perfect end to a perfect day. It tickled me that the day came out of a spontaneous change of plans. We were both having a hesitant feeling about our original intention for the day, and we listened to our gut and switched things up, and it turned out great. Hooray for our ability to remain open and follow our instincts. If we keep this up throughout the rest of the trip, I think things will work out just fine 🙂

Lounging at the Meadows

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