Yosemite’s Best Campsite with Julia and Chris

This past weekend Julia and Chris joined Karen and me to have a go at backpacking to the best campsite in the park.  This was Julia’s and Chris’ second backpack in the park, but the first of which they will remember.  The weekend started mid-afternoon for Karen and I, and late late late in the night for Julia and Chris.

Karen and I got on the road early in order to make it to the Wilderness Permit Office before it closed at 4pm.  With a short stop, our permit in hand, and a spare bear can, or bear barrel according to Chris, we were on our way toward finding a campsite for the night.  Starting at the Yosemite Creek campground off of Hwy. 120, we found that it had filled before we could get there.  Undeterred, we went next door to White Wolf campground and picked up a spot at the backpackers’ campsite.  And we both agreed that this backpackers’ campsite was by far nicer than the backpackers’ campsite at Tuolumne Meadows.  It is easier to access, has flat tent sites, and is generally better organized.

Because White Wolf campsite includes a lodge and cabins, there is a high country kitchen serving tasty meals.  After a 5 mile run out to a nearby lake, and phoning Julia and Chris to inform them of our location, we sat down to chicken fajitas, tomato basil soup, green salad, and a pint of cider.  What a nice evening.

Julia and Chris were on the road by 5pm, but didn’t arrive until 1:30am because they were driving up from Southern California.  Instead of making camp for only a few hours of sleep, they parked and curled up in the back.  7:30am came around and we met up with them for our big adventure.

Driving back to Yosemite Creek campground and the trailhead for our hike, we were on foot by 8:30am.  About 30 minutes into the hike, we had an amazing coyote encounter.  The animal was just out of sight but could not have been more than a few hundred feet away.  It was yipping and howling like it was calling to its pack.  This went on for a good 20 minutes.  It was tempting to go tromping off to find the animal.  But we didn’t.  The trail proceeded primarily downhill through the Yosemite Creek valley, working its way from Hwy. 120 to the Yosemite Valley.  The creek would eventually  turn into Yosemite Falls and join the Merced River 4,000 feet below.  Just before reaching the falls, we saw our first deer of the hike.  It was by itself, and reasonably unafraid; it walked within about 8 feet of our group on its search for an easy meal.  After a few minutes of watching it rummage around, we continued on our way.

The trail was dry.  Dry, dry, dry.  This had one big benefit.  No bugs!  We made it to the top of the falls and stopped for a bit of lunch and exploration.  A second benefit of the absurdly dry conditions was that we could climb right down the throat of the  falls.  In fact, it was so dry that I was able to walk to the edge of Yosemite Falls, stare directly downward at the large granite shelf that creates the notable spray curtain of the falls, and while there straddle the entirety of the falls.  The falls was all of 8 inches wide.  Although I gave myself a whole net-full of butterflies in the 30-45 seconds of edge walking, it was enough to have fun and look around.

Julia, Chris, and Karen lounged around the available water pools higher up the hill, at a safe distance from the edge.  Rejoining the group, we filtered water and mounted our packs.  Then it was uphill to Yosemite Point and, just uphill of that, our campsite… the best campsite in the whole National Park.

Setting camp, we cooked dinner and began the evening festivities… charades and later a campfire and stargazing.  We had fun entertaining ourselves with ridiculous jumping and pantomime acting out phrases such as “the big harry spider climbed up the water spout,” and “geese flying in a v-formation.”  Both of these were the courtesy of Julia.  Some other notable phrases were “throwing a dead body off of a pier” and, well you get the gist.

Being the old man of the group, after charades and a dessert of blueberry cheesecake, I went to bed.  The other three stayed up and built themselves a nice little campfire.  They sat around, and I’ve been told, watched satellites and shooting stars.

The following morning, we had a reasonably leisurely breaking of camp.  I made breakfast for the group while the rest of the gang packed up the equipment.  Because we were up with the sun, around 6:30am, even with a casual morning we were on the trail by 8:30am.  Two deer showed up on the trail just as we walked from camp.  Marching downhill to the falls, we again filtered water and lounged around before heading up the valley and back to the trailhead.  About halfway back, we passed some of the better swimming pools that Karen noted on our first walk down the valley.  So, we had to stop for a little swim.  Or, should I say, Karen had to stop for a swim while the rest of us sat around and relaxed.

After returning to the trailhead, we said thanks and good bye to Julia and Chris knowing that we wouldn’t likely see them until Christmas.  This was sad, but at the same time, we’ll next see them in Thailand and that should be quite a lot of fun.

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