We woke up in Merced, CA, NOT at the Motel 6 thankfully. Jimmy had misplaced his cell phone sometime on our drive from San Francisco last night. This morning as he added more ice to the cooler, he found his phone – packed in the ice! Oh boy – never a dull moment around here. We’ll just have to thaw it out and see what happens.
We had a two-hour drive from Merced to Yosemite. Jimmy and I quickly got lunch and snacks at the local Grocery Outlet – a great store with many organic and natural items at dirt cheap prices. All set for the day!
As we drive, we hear a lot of random statements from our kids. One such statement came from Nate this morning:
“I hope my wife likes seafood.” Ok, me too.
As we neared Yosemite, we passed through the small town of Mariposa. Thankfully, we had gotten gas earlier today in Merced at $3.49 per gallon. It was $5.45 per gallon in Mariposa. Yikes Yosemite!
We were following the Merced River into Yosemite. The head scratcher was the direction of the river. It appeared that as we were driving downhill, the river was flowing towards us – uphill. Must be that Yosemite magic.
As Nate watched the river outside his window, he declared, “I’m going to die of not being able to fish – of fishilitus.”
Nate again, “If I can’t fish here, I’m going to protest to the President.” Good luck!
We then dropped the boys off at a bridge next to the Visitor’s Center so they could look for fish.
From there, our goal was to find a park ranger to ask about the best hiking trails for a one-day visit. We got to the parking area closest to the Visitor’s Center but we couldn’t find a parking spot. Jimmy let me out when I spotted a park information tent.
A very nice gentleman, Michael, gave me wonderful hiking recommendations. We decided to hike the beginning of the Upper Yosemite Falls trail. According to Michael, we would hike about one mile up to Columbia Rock and then twenty minutes more to a great view of the falls. We had no interest in hiking the 3.5 miles with a 2,600 foot increase to the top.
We picked up the boys who saw a coyote, rainbow trout, and brown trout. They were excited. Then, we ate sandwiches at the van, packed our backpacks with snacks and water, and started up the trail. Let’s just say that it was a lot harder than I thought it would be. I think that’s a common trend on our hikes.
Just imagine walking (climbing) up stairs for one mile – that is literally what we did on this trail. The first ¼ mile of the trail was in the shade of the trees. The shade was nice but the climb was very strenuous. The picture to the left shows one of the very few easy step areas. Most of it was just rocks that you had to navigate around. On this first section of the trail, the boys were continually finding shortcuts up the switchbacks. At one point, I tried a shortcut. It looked like an easy one.
Bad idea – my shoe slipped stepping over a fallen tree and my camera thudded against a rock and I scraped both legs up. That was my last attempt at a shortcut.
The mile up to Columbia point – a big rock with a fabulous view of Half Dome – was grueling. The last ¾ mile of the trail to the rock was in the sun. I was huffing and puffing making my way up. My husband reminded me that it’s only going to get harder the higher we climb. Great!
As usual, we kept asking people how far the we had to go. We had to have hiked a mile already! Everyone had a different answer. At one point, I told the kids how nice it would be if they put encouraging signs along the way like…
“You’ve got this!”
“You can do it!”
Almost as soon as I told the kids about my idea for signs, a nice man stopped us and told us that we were almost there. He was all decked out with all the right hiking gear. He was a small gift from the Lord to me – an encourager.
Sure enough, we rounded the corner and we saw the rock – Columbia Point. We made it. Time to rest, eat some snacks, drink some water, catch our breath, and enjoy the view of Half Dome – a gorgeous granite formation that many courageous (or crazy) people climb up.
We also had a friend accompany us up the trail – a Stellar’s jay. He was much nicer (and prettier) than The Grand Canyon squirrels.
I don’t know how accurate it is but I just happened to check my Heart app on my Iphone. By the time I reached Columbia Point, the app said that I’d climbed 54 floors. It sure felt like 54 floors.
I was very tired but I didn’t want to stop before we got a good view of the falls. Michael had told us that we needed to hike about 20 more minutes from Columbia Point before we’d get a good view of the falls from below. I convinced Jimmy and Seth to come with me. The other three would wait at Columbia Point until we came back.
As we kept hiking up, we rounded a corner, heard a trickle of water, and the scent of a natural herb garden hit me. The smell was a sweet mixture of rosemary and mint. I picked some to smell the sweet fragrance along the way.
Have you ever thought about God’s goodness in creating our sense of smell? Smells have the power to move us in unique ways – both good and bad. Some smells I’d rather never experience again but this sweet scent was a boost to my energy level.
Shortly after, we rounded the corner, heard the roar of the falls, and saw the prize before us.
Jimmy thanked me for pushing him to hike the rest of the way. I’d need him to push me during other hikes.
We sat there for a while and just admired the view to the right of Half Dome and the view straight ahead of the Upper Yosemite Falls. How nice it would have been to have an eno to set up in the trees and fall asleep to the sound of the falls?
Strangely enough, we had service there so we were able to call Emma Grace and encourage her and the boys to make the final climb to the falls. We were also able to Facetime my brother and his family from the top of the trail. It was fun to show them where we were.
On the way down, we got a special treat – a rattlesnake crossing the path.
Can you spot him on the lowest step?
We gave him the right of way.
Thankfully, it took us one hour and 45 minutes to get to the falls but only one hour to get down. At that point, we were all ready to find our campsite. While planning for the trip, I kept checking the recreation.gov sight for camping site cancellations at Yosemite. One day when I checked, a site was available in the Upper Pines campground very close to the bathroom. These sites are usually booked months in advance. Yay God!
We found our campsite easily, bought some firewood from the Yosemite truck driving through the campground, and began to set up the tent.
Travel tip: we set up all our camping equipment in our family room and dining room before our trip just to make sure nothing was broken. I didn’t want to drag broken camping equipment all over the country.
At Yosemite, we were told that all of our food, drinks, toiletries, and anything with a strong smell (like wipes) had to go in the bear locker. I was concerned that our cooler, our big bin, a smaller bin of food, and all the other “smellable” mess we kept in the trunk/van wasn’t going to fit. It all fit perfectly in the locker. Thank you, Lord.
We smoked out the campground a little when we tried to get our fire started. Somehow, we always make a scene when we go anywhere.
Eventually, other campers let us borrow a hatchet to cut our firewood and lighter fluid to keep the fire going. We cooked hot dogs, beans, and queso dip with chips in two cast iron pans over the fire. I bought special heat gloves for cast iron off Amazon that really came in handy when taking the pans off the fire.
Dinner hit the spot.
I was exhausted so I retired to the tent a little earlier to read my book before falling asleep. About an hour later, the rest of the family came to bed. I was out of it so I didn’t notice (until the middle of the night) that Jimmy, Emma Grace, and I were all on one queen air mattress.
Not a good idea. I tossed and turned all night, trying to find a little space for myself. Note to self: next time, don’t put three adult sized people on one air mattress.
But overall, our first night of camping was uneventful. Emma Grace didn’t succeed in getting out into the wild away from her brothers though. There’s always tomorrow.
Thank you, Lord, for another full day!