I’m so excited to share today’s massive, photo heavy blog post on our backpacking trip to Yosemite. Seriously excited. We’d been planning this trip for ages; we’d meant to go almost a month ago, right after we spent two days backpacking in Henry Coe State Park but Sam sprained his ankle and I got poison oak all over my face and it was just not the time you’d want to go. Definitely not.
So we went last week. And it was amazing. I bought a US National Parks pass on this trip, too, so we must go back. Not complaining here. They’re $80, so you need to go to Yosemite 4 times to break even. I can’t remember how much other national parks cost for a 7 day pass (that’s the basic entry ticket), but we’ll be heading to national parks a lot. I’ve invested in it, so it must happen, haha.
We rented a car to head into the park. A little Yaris, which was fun to drive (although I find almost anything fun to drive – my car has 185k miles on it, so you gotta work with the car to do what he wants, haha). Since I’m 25 now (yay!), we got it for cheaper, which was a nice little perk.
We made it into the park just as the sun was starting to set. It was a clear day, a clear summer-winter day (we’ve been having a lot of these this year) and the dusky sunset was gorgeous. The road was pretty empty and even the overlooks had lots of parking spaces which, if you’re used to the summertime in Yosemite, was a surprise. A lovely surprise.
Isn’t that an incredible view?! That’s Half Dome in the distance. It’s fun to look at this photo and know that we spent the next few days hiking just under it and around it.
We spent our first night at the walk-in, first come, first served campsite – Camp 4 – which is highly impacted in the summer time, but pretty empty in the winter. So nice.
In the morning we made oatmeal, had tea and instant coffee, and then headed to the wilderness permit office to get ourselves ready to go. (We also splurged at the village store and got an overpriced chocolate bar that was worth every penny by the time we’d hiked ourselves into the back country.)
Then we headed up into the mountains. We were headed to Merced Lake, so we hiked up past Nevada and Vernal falls, along the Mist Trail. If you know Yosemite in the winter, you’ll know it’s pretty much unheard of to be able to hike the Mist Trail in the winter time, but it was open so we did all the steps. Beautiful hike that’s totally worth the view from the top, even if your legs are basically dying the whole way there. We kept a decent pace though and enjoyed our pb&j’s at the top of the falls.
I’ve never seen it so empty up there; we were able to take a gazillion pics without even barely waiting in line!
That’s me in the spot where we had lunch. I took my feet off and dipped them in the (ice freaking cold) river, too, which was lovely. The sunshine was beautiful and the river was gleaming.
That’s my handsome mountain man. I love that he loves being outside as much as me. We have a lot of fun getting away from it all.
Here’s a photo from the top of the falls, looking out over Yosemite Valley. It’s such a beautiful view that I’ll never get enough of.
From there we headed back towards the lake. We had a stunning view of the back of Half Dome in the afternoon light.
Just past Little Yosemite Valley we hit the burned area from a few months ago. It was erie to see the whole area dead and recovering, but also insanely beautiful.
Here’s our cute little Mountain Hardwear tent (it’s new!) in the morning at the Merced Lake campsite. It’s normally a more ‘full service’ campsite, with a bathroom and running water, which is so funny to me to see in the backcountry. I guess it’s a pretty highly impacted area though. In the winter, those resources were shut down and we had the entire campsite to ourselves.
We had Backpacker’s Pantry for dinner and drank fresh, clear, filtered water from the lake. Alpine water might be one of my favorite things about backpacking – it’s everything Crystal Geyser wants to be but can’t and it tastes better than any water I’ve ever tasted.
Isn’t the lake beautiful? On our side, it was melted and sunny and even a bit warm. We’d found ice on the trail on our way up, but it was spotty and there wasn’t too much. On the other side of the lake, the bit that gets shade and doesn’t warm up so much, the lake was frozen and the mountain (granite and incredible and classic Yosemite/California) was covered in light snow.
In the morning, we hiked back down and along to Little Yosemite Valley where we spent another night. We did 14 miles to get to Merced Lake on the first day and then about 8 to get back to Yosemite Valley. We try not to complain too much since we came here for this, but I’ll definitely confess that our legs were getting tired, our feet hurt, and our shoulders were feeling the pack. Worth it? You bet. Good to lie down for a bit, play cards in the tent, and get a long night’s sleep? Oh yes.
Here’s the burn again, on our way back down. Who knew that a place so spooky and erie could be so beautiful!?
We didn’t plan the trip around the moon and for all three nights we were out there, we had a new moon. Zero moon visible in the sky. Darkness and more darkness. Lots and lots and lots of stars. It’s not ideal for night pictures – there’s no light to illuminate the world around you, no matter how long you take your photo for – but it’s beautiful for seeing the stars.
Here’s our little home:
In the morning, we were visited by a grey fox. It was absolutely breathtaking. She stood near our campsite looking at us, wandered around, chased a crow or two, and just sat for a bit. She disappeared and then came back again, watching us and letting us watch her for over an hour. It slowed us down as far as breakfast and packing up goes, but it was so worth it. Really a beautiful animal.
And then, as if that weren’t enough, she actually followed us along the trail, popping in to say hi, see what we were up to, and make sure we weren’t lost, haha. She was there for about an hour on the trail with us and I’ve already said it five thousand times: This was SO magical and definitely not an experience I’ll ever easily forget.
Yosemite in the winter was the loveliest. Okay, it’s not always this warm in the winter, but we were lucky to totally be able to take advantage of it this year and it was wonderful. We went looking for snow, but instead we found an empty Yosemite, which is pretty equally magical in its own right. In fact, really freaking ridiculously magical.