I woke up early, as I wanted to get to the Wilderness Center by 8am and pick up my permit so I could spend the day sightseeing and doing final preparations for my JMT hike. I exited my tent and was heading towards the food storage locker when I noticed an elderly man standing on the edge of my campsite, scrutinizing my tent with a scowl. I didn’t feel entirely surprised that my cuben fiber backpacking tent drew his attention, as admittedly it was a bit out of place among the huge Coleman tents and RVs scattered around the campground. We made eye contact and he hurried back to his RV, seemingly concluding that with such a strange and tiny tent, I must be some sort of vagabond. For the next few weeks, I suppose I would be.
I took down my tent and packed my bag, as I planned to stay at the backpacker camp later that evening. Although I felt eager to meet other backpackers, I regretted not reserving my campsite at North Pines for two nights. It would have been nice to be able to leave everything at my campsite while I was sightseeing, as Yosemite didn’t have any lockers for visitors to store their belongings. The campground was now booked solid, however, so staying there one more night was simply not possible.
I made my way to the bus stop, where I was soon joined by several other hikers and backpackers. After about twenty minutes, the bus came and I sat down in a window seat in the back. As the bus began rolling away, I looked out the window and noticed a bear canister sitting on the bench. I remembered seeing two guys at that bench trying to get a bear canister attached to one of the guy’s packs, and it must have come off sometime before they got on the bus. There was no need for me to tell them though, as they quickly realized it was missing and they got off the bus to try and retrieve it. Before long, the bus arrived at Yosemite Village and it was my turn to get off the bus.
It was still a bit early, so I decided to walk around a bit. I headed toward the Visitor Center, which hadn’t opened yet, and grabbed a copy of the park newspaper. It was quite useful, as it included maps and information about the park’s facilities. I made note of the operating hours of Housekeeping Camp’s shower and laundry room, which I planned to use later in the day.
I checked my watch and saw that it was 7:45am, and decided that I should make my way to the Wilderness Center. When I got there, I was surprised to see that there was a long line of people there already. I got in line, feeling a little bit silly for not going there right after getting off the bus. At 8am, a ranger came out of the building and asked who had reservations. Only two of us raised our hands, and to my surprise, he told us we were able to go in first.
I went inside, where one of the rangers explained Yosemite’s wilderness regulations very thoroughly and issued my permit. She also gave me a thick packet of the rules and regulations in each of the other areas that I would pass through on the JMT, and told me I could take a look at them as needed while on the trail. She then sent me on my way, but not before giving me a WAG bag to use in the Mt. Whitney zone.
After collecting my permit I decided to make a quick trip to the Village Store to get some snacks, and then got back on the park shuttle. I planned to hike up the Mist Trail and then go down the JMT to Happy Isles, as that was the small section of the trail that I would miss since I would be starting the JMT at Glacier Point in the morning. I wanted to experience every mile of the trail, and thought this was the perfect way to cover the missed miles. I had never visited Yosemite Valley before, and was particularly excited to go up the famed Mist Trail.
I began hiking, and was quite pleased that the trail was wide and flat in the beginning, and thankfully, was also well-shaded. I passed by the famous ‘High Sierra Loop Trail’ sign, and felt excited that starting tomorrow, I would be on my way towards Mt. Whitney.
After 30-40 minutes of hiking, I found myself going up the steep, rocky staircase toward Vernal Fall. The waterfall had enough water flowing to create a refreshing mist, which was quite welcome in the summer heat. After asking a tourist to take my picture, I continued up the rocky trail. After about 10-15 minutes, I made it to the top and had the chance to look down the waterfall. I then went further along the trail, where I caught my first glimpse of Nevada Fall. It was simply stunning and I couldn’t seem to stop snapping pictures. Eventually I moved on toward the top of the waterfall and then got on the John Muir Trail so that I could head back down toward the valley.
The JMT definitely seemed smoother and more gradual than the Mist Trail (which I appreciated since I was going downhill), but it was also quite dusty. I was amazed at how dirty I had gotten in just a matter of hours, and was thankful one final shower awaited me at the end of the day. I continued downward, and caught one final spectacular view of Liberty Cap and Nevada Fall before reaching the end of the trail at Happy Isles.
All in all, it took me 3 hours and 50 minutes to complete the hike, which was a pleasant surprise as the park newspaper said it would take 5-6 hours. I hopped on the park shuttle and headed to Housekeeping Camp so that I could take a shower and do laundry. Unfortunately I got there during the shower’s break period that lasted from 2-3:30pm, which my park newspaper never mentioned. I decided to change into clean clothes and do laundry first, and take a shower the moment it reopened. In the laundry room, I met a backcountry ranger who was also doing laundry. As luck would have it, he was assigned to go to Little Yosemite Valley the same day I would be there, so I guess I knew who would be checking my permit later!
After finishing up everything at Housekeeping Camp, I went to Pizza Deck to have dinner. The squirrels were so aggressive that I had to keep an eye on my food at all times, and I decided to just eat as quickly as possible. After eating my pizza in record time, I headed to the backpacker camp. When I got there, I walked toward the bulletin board to see what to do. It said to get an envelope and pay the camping fee, but there were no envelopes in the box. I wasn’t sure how to pay, but decided I should set up my tent and figure that part out later. I walked around the campground, which had very few people present (most were probably still hiking, or having dinner), and there was exactly one tent in every campsite. I wasn’t quite sure what to do. Should I set up my tent in another person’s site? It seemed like an awkward thing to do, considering I couldn’t ask the camper first.
I saw a woman nearby and decided to ask her about how this backpacker camp worked, as I clearly didn’t know the proper protocol. She told me that she had the same questions as me when she first arrived at the camp, and invited me to set up my tent in her site. I felt very grateful for her help, and enjoyed chatting with her. We ended up talking nonstop for hours until her boyfriend came back from retrieving their car from Glacier Point. They were both from Bulgaria and had done an overnight hike in the park, and were spending a final night at the backpacker camp before heading to their next destination. To celebrate the final day of their trip to Yosemite, they decided they wanted to have a campfire. The sun had almost set at that point, so as they began building their campfire, I decided I probably ought to finally set up my tent! I went to bed early, as I didn’t want to intrude on the couple’s time together on the final day of their trip. I also wanted to be well rested before heading to Glacier Point in the morning, or at the very least, I didn’t want to miss the bus!
July 22, 2016