In my last post, I listed off a bunch of unexpected challenges I’d encountered during trips. But what I didn’t list was the good stuff, like awesome weather, running into fun people, and discovering a “secret” campsite. Proof positive: we just had all of those things on our backpacking trip here in Yosemite. Our destination was North Dome from Porcupine Trailhead, just off the Tioga Road.
We lined up our permits months ago and had done a fair amount of planning, but there’s always some last minute stuff. As we organized our gear at the trailhead, we swapped advice with Robert from Sacramento–the first of many new friends on our trip. Instant kinship seems to be a hallmark of shared interests. And the smaller the circle, the more effortless that all seems to be. We ran into Robert several more times along the way, swapping stories and photos and encouragement.
We are pretty acclimated to the altitude (8200’ at the trailhead), so the hiking was easy. The trail starts out through a beautiful forest and climbs gradually to a granite arch (a rarity in Yosemite). From there, it crosses slickrock and descends to the shoulder above North Dome (and a hidden camp just off the trail). The first day was maybe five miles and 1200 feet of gain, pretty chill by Yosemite standards.
The geology of Yosemite is amazing, with granite domes dotting the landscape as far as the eye can see. The trees tower over you, and there’s a vista around most every corner.
Our camp had a lovely view of Half Dome, which is a dominant feature of the park. It also has some family history. My brother climbed Half Dome some years ago via a technical route (the Regular Northwest Face, 5.9, 2000 feet). He and his climbing partner spent two nights on the wall, camping in harness on narrow ledges, all a part of the plan. It was a bold adventure by any measure, and one of many that I’ve enjoyed hearing about for years.
His trip up Half Dome raised the brothers’ adventure standard by a big margin, one that I’m still chasing. In my family, sibling rivalries apparently require ropes and a harness. Oh, and a pink headband.
Our version of adventure was less ambitious than ascending Half Dome, but still a lot of fun. On our swing day, we heading over to Yosemite Point and then to the (walk up) summit of North Dome. Afterwards, we hopscotched our campsite a few hundred yards to the best site, right on the point above North Dome. The weather was perfect, sunsets were amazing, and sunrises even better. We ran out of time before we ran out of things to see.
As we always try to do, we ate well. We paid for our dinner in a little extra weight on our backs, but it was worth it.
We didn’t see many other folks, which was a surprise to us. The park tries hard to spread folks out through their lottery permit system, and it seems to be working. The few people we did encounter were super friendly. In most of those interactions, we all shared information about the Red Fire, which was burning behind Half Dome (but not a threat to us).
There was no water source where we camped, so that probably slowed down the crowds a bit. We hauled water from the road, and we refilled at a spring-fed creek that we crossed during our swing day hike. It was a small price to pay to have the ridge pretty much to ourselves.
We are off to the next adventure shortly, to Cathedral Lakes. We hope to catch a few fish and maybe make some new friends, and to embrace the surprises along the way. I’m positive there will be a few.