It was Friday. I had decided to take a much-needed solo trip to be out in nature on my own for a night or two. I also wanted to get some high quality video with my GoPro Hero3 Black and take some great photos. To get what I wanted I knew that I had to turn it up to 11. I decided to make the 6 plus hour trek north to my church…Yosemite!
There is a certain kind of charisma that Yosemite has that no other place can compare. It embodies all 5 elements for me. Earth, Wind, Fire, Water and Spirit. When I first came to Yosemite something spiritually happened to me. I am not a very religious person and don’t go to church on Sunday’s but when I came out of that tunnel for the 1st time and saw the famous Yosemite Valley I was floored! It was something I can’t explain. I was speechless and for a guy like me that is hard to accomplish. I truly believe that I saw god that day showing off his magnificence. Every time I see pictures, videos or even talk about going to Yosemite I have this feeling. It has never left me and it is something that I look forward to every time.
I arrived at the main gate in Yosemite National Park really early Sunday morning (about 2:00am). There wasn’t anyone at the booth but I was still able to pick up a trail map. I then headed down the valley towards Tuolumne Meadows. When I arrived at “Tunnel View” or “Inspiration Point”, there was a group of stargazers with all of their cameras and tripods. I pulled in and turned my lights off to view the night sky. It was amazing!!! The night was so clear that you could see the lines of the Milky Way. There were so many amazing things to see. You have to stop and take a look around every now and again. Saying “YES” to life as it shows up is very important to me and I listen whenever it shows up that way. I was getting really tired and just wanted to get to my destination and try to get some sleep so I pulled out of the parking lot and kept on going. The wilderness permit office didn’t open until 8:00 am. At around 3:00 am I finally arrived and pulled into the parking lot completely drained of energy and very sleepy. I set my phone alarm to wake me up so I could be 1st in the door to get my wilderness permit and bear canister (mandatory in all back country areas of Yosemite). I reclined the back seats down in my SUV and got my sleeping bag and my Klymit Inertia X-Frame Sleeping pad and fell asleep.
I woke up in perfect time and went right into the office to get my permit and bear canister. The rangers there are very nice and will give you tons of useful information on the weather, bear activity and where to set up camp. They also go over all the rules of the park in-depth to make sure that when you go into a majestic place such as this you keep it that way. “Leave No Trace” was brought up in our conversation as well as trash and what to do when you need to use the non existing facilities in the back country.
I drove down to the trailhead for Cathedral Lakes. This is a popular place for day hikers as well as rock climbers. Cathedral Peak is 10,940 and offers stunning views. “This I may say is the 1st time I have been to church in California” Quote from John Muir after making his 1st recorded ascent of Cathedral Peak in 1869! The trail is only 3.5 miles from the parking lot to the lake. It is a moderate hike and the hardest part is the 1st mile. After that it levels out to some slight up and downs. There was still a lot of snow on the ground and the streams were running really strong. I came across a large snow fall and decided that it was my duty as a trail ambassador for me to make a snowman, so I did!
I kept moving as the mosquitos were starting multiply by the seconds. I made my way to the lake and was blown away on how beautiful it was. Pictures and videos do not do this, or any place in Yosemite for that matter, any justice. Some things you just have to experience yourself.
While soaking up the scene, I consumed a day-hike lunch favorite (Salami & cheese wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla) plus a handful of peanut m&m’s. This is my usual “go to” lunch as it’s quick, doesn’t require any cooking and is very tasty.
There was a swarm of mosquitoes of biblical proportions in full spawn at the lake but that did not deter me from getting some amazing photos and videos for the small price of a dozen or so itchy little (ok, huge) red bites! There were so many mosquitos that I thought I might start to breathe them in. Not good! I didn’t bring my bug net hat (next time I will for sure). I researched the best times to hike Cathedral Lakes and it shows June through October. In my experience, early June is not the time to go! If you do decide to go please get some kind of bug net so your hike will be enjoyable. The mosquitos just laughed at my bug spray (I think I could hear them giggling).
My “Plan B” route was to hike back to the junction of Sunrise Camp and make my way there, which was only 5 miles. Several hikers I came across advised me not to go. “The bugs and mosquitos are worse at Sunrise Camp”! Once again, NOT COOL! I decided it might just be best to hike back to the car and stay in Tuolumne Meadows in the backpacker’s campground for the night.
I made the 3.5-mile trek back to the road to get my vehicle. It did start to rain but very light and that was a nice treat as the rain drops were nice and cold and only feel about 12 per minute. When I reached the car I loaded up all my gear and headed over to the backpackers campground. This is a nice place to stay for the night if you are doing day hikes in the area and need a solid base camp of just looking or a low-key place to pitch your tent or hammock for the night. It’s only $5 per night to stay. There is a bathroom house with running water and also a filtered water spigot that has good clean water.
I set up camp for the night and decided it was almost time to start making dinner. I foraged for some wood to make a fire. There isn’t a lot wood here so keep that in mind if you’re reading this and thinking “this sounds like the place for me”. I was able to find a good amount of wood and made a nice pile. I found some tinder and broke out my trusty fire steel for a spark or two. Next thing I knew “I had created fire” (quote from cast away the movie with Tom Hanks).
I had two new pieces of gear with me on this trip. A MINI-TATTOO Stove and a Thermo-Lite Reactor sleeping bag liner from Sea To Summit. The sleeping bag liner is a great addition to your cold weather kit if your bag isn’t up to snuff. This particular liner adds an additional 14 degrees of warmth. It can also be used as a great warm weather bag. I have to be covered up when I’m sleeping and if I’m sweating then I know I will not be getting a good nights rest. It is very light weight (9.3 oz.), machine washable, compressible, and odor resistant and also helps to keep your sleeping bag clean. Staying clean is a BIG plus. No one wants to climb into a sleeping bag that stinks after a long day of warm weather hiking!
The other piece of gear I brought with me was an ultra lightweight alcohol stove from a company called MINI-TATTOO. Here is a link to there Facebook page this little stove is made from aluminum and is very light. It doesn’t have any moving parts to break and uses a wick as its fuel delivery. It comes with a stove, fuel bottle for denatured alcohol, fuel line to connect the stove to the fuel bottle and a pot stand. I recommend using a windscreen with the stove, as it will blow out in high wind areas. I use a piece of aluminum foil and curve it around the stove and pot and that works great. You get all this for $40. This stove is small too! Everything fits perfectly inside my Snow Peak titanium pot. I had a Backpacker’s Pantry Meal (Shepherds Pie) with me for this night’s dinner and the stove worked perfectly. Boiled my water in a few minutes and I was ready to go. After I poured the water into my pouch for my “dinner in a bag meal” I let it sit for a while and looked for more wood. At the backpackers campground I met some very nice people who were celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary. I also met 2 PCT through hikers names “Happy” and “Truman”. They were both in their 70’s and looked like they had been on the trail for a while. We had some nice conversations before they continued on they’re way.
I needed to get up early today so I could make the long journey back to my home, wife and children. I had some oatmeal with raisins and granola, packed up my gear and headed out of the backpacker’s campground to my car, which was parked down the road. I returned the bear canister back to the wilderness permit office and shortly after that I was on my way home!