We left Berkeley at 4:30am on Saturday morning. The drive out to Yosemite was quiet and beautiful – almost no cars on the road that early in the morning, so we made good time. We arrived at the Big Oak Flat Information Center because we thought we had to in order to get a campsite. We got there at 7:30am and since they don’t open until 8, we just sat around in line with a bunch of other folks waiting to get wilderness permits. But, it turns out that if you’re aiming for a “first-come first-served” permit, you just head straight to the campground and look for someone packing up. Cut out the middle-man, so to speak. It would have been nice if they’d had this information on the website, saving us those 30 minutes of uselessly hanging around.
Then we drove up to Tamarack Flat which was our first choice for a campground. The rangers warned us that the last mile of road out to the campground was “pretty rough” but it was actually fine. It had clearly been paved a few years ago, and while there are a few potholes, for the most part it’s actually totally fine – even for my low-slung Prius. We drove into the campground, and I guess our lucky stars were already shining because the very first fellow we talked to was packing up and leaving from the best campsite in the whole park. We quickly paid the $10 fee and went about setting up our tents as he was still packing up. Unfortunately by this time (9am or so) it was raining pretty good so as soon as we got our tents set up we retired to the car for some card games. Then we took a nap for 2.5 hours, hoping for the rain to clear.
Our friends arrived around 12noon, right as the sun started to come out and we loaded up our packs with picnic food and headed down the trail to the swimming hole. I’m not going to tell the Internet-at-large where the hole is, because swimming holes are precious resources that should be protected/hoarded, but if you come visit me we can go there.
After swimming for about 3.5 hours we hiked back up the 2.5 miles to the campground. It’s not terribly strenuous. Just a bit of a climb up a hill, then way down to where the creek runs. The altitude adds a bit of a challenge – I think it was around 6000 feet. I took a quarter of a table of diamox because I tend to have problems with altitude, but everyone else seemed to be fine. The scenery is gorgeous and there’s plenty of shade so we enjoyed it. We didn’t see a single other person on the entire hike, which continues to amaze me. Our entire experience of Yosemite was of empty hiking trails, beautiful and quiet campsites, and secluded swimming holes.
There’s no water at Tamarack Flat, so the next morning we packed up and headed up towards Yosemite Creek. We stopped along the way at White Wolf, where they told us a bear had been hit by a car that very morning. The 14th bear this year! That’s very sad – if you go to Yosemite please drive slowly and watch out for wildlife. After filling up with water and using their sinks (with soap! Luxury!) we headed down the road a bit to the Yosemite Creek and Ten Lake Trails staging point for our second hike. These lots were both full with plenty of backpackers and day-hikers in various states of arrival and departure. But once we headed off down the trail, we quickly left everyone behind (except the highway, which unfortunately runs just parallel to the trail for about a quarter of a mile). Again, we didn’t see a single other person for the entire hike in!
We made it to another swimming hole, which was completely wonderful and perfect. Swimming holes are my new favourite thing and I’ve got a list of about 20 more that I’d like to visit. California seems to have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to idyllic outdoors activities, and I’m looking forward to exploring more.