If we weren’t business coaches for creatives and if Jesse wasn’t a partner in Sherpa Metrics, then, I’m pretty sure Jesse would be a park ranger. No, really, this guy loves the wilderness. Planning for trips in the wilderness. And, therefore, going to REI any spare minute he has, to get all the wilderness things.
He spent hours researching the best spots to camp out in Yosemite. And, as we got to our single-family campsite each evening, I was like, “Whoa, babe! This little nook in the woods is perfect!” Nice and flat. Hunks of cut down trees, perfect for a table. All of his research paid off.
We planned our trip for the second week of October and I don’t think we could have gone at a more perfect time! YELLOW LEAVES. Need I say more? Okay, I will. It was gorgeous buuuut, early mornings were a tad chilly. But the sunny, 60-degree daytime weather made up for it. If you go during this time, make sure your sleeping bag is extra cozy. We both have Marmot mummy bags.
Miles traveled: 413 miles, in the car (from North County San Diego)
Camped at: Backpacker’s Campground in Yosemite Valley (North Pines)
If you are backpacking (which requires a wilderness permit) you can camp in the backpackers campground, if you’re not backpacking and don’t have a permit, there are plenty of other campgrounds/places you can stay at. Make sure you plan ahead and make a reservation as they fill up super fast!
If you can’t get a reservation, there are a bunch of places just outside of Yosemite that might have more availability!
Miles traveled: 14.35 miles, on our feet
Elevation gain: +4957′ -1721′
Camped at: Near Clouds Rest and John Muir Trail Junction
We got an early start and headed up the Mist Trail to see Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls. Note to self: All those stairs on the Mist Trail are MUCH harder with 35 lbs on your back! We were planning on going to the top of Half Dome, but it would have been cutting it a little too close to sunset for my comfort level (going down those stairs in the dark seems like a recipe for disaster), so we turned around and went back to camp.
There’s a creek super close to the spot we camped, so my water boy (err, I mean, Jesse) was able to get us what we needed for dinner, refilling our CamelBaks, and soaking our tired feet in a bucket (highly recommended) before we crashed.
Miles traveled: 8.82 miles, on our feet
Elevation gain: +3358′ -1379′
Camped at: Sunrise Lakes
We didn’t get started until about 10:30 because this day was supposed to be a “short” day, but that elevation gain really slowed us down! We didn’t get to the top of Clouds Rest until just after 3pm! The view from the top was unbelievable! Jesse says it’s 100 times better than Half Dome (which makes me feel a little better about not making it to the top the day before)! Since we were behind schedule, we really had to book it to make it to Sunrise Lakes by sunset, but we made it! Barely.
We camped at the western-most lake (there are three) in a perfect spot that was protected from the wind and had some great views.
Miles traveled: 11.59 miles, on our feet
Elevation gain: +1126′ -4185′
Camped at: Little Yosemite Valley
Day 4 was a long, gruelling day as we made it back to the John Muir Trail to head back towards the Valley. Even though it was mostly downhill and the scenery was so pretty, it just seemed to go on and on. But all the meadows, creeks and panoramic views along the way helped us push through to our campsite in Little Yosemite Valley, just below Half Dome.
Miles traveled: 6.26 miles, on our feet
Elevation gain: +679′ -2782′
Miles traveled: 88 miles, in the car via Highway 120/Tioga Road – Closed in winter
Camped at: Heidelberg Inn, June Lake
Our last night in the backcountry was a COOOLD one! It got down to 17°F so we woke up with frost on our tent and any water we left outside was frozen solid!
But we woke up, braved the cold and made the short trip down the last part of the John Muir Trail to see a different view of Nevada Falls (and let’s be honest, to not have to go down those stairs). We went straight to the car, took off our boots and immediately hobbled our way to grab some well-earned pizza in the Village!
After scarfing down a big old pizza, we too Highway 120 to June Lake to soak up more golden leaves, hot showers and a good night sleep in a cozy bed.
Lessons learned along the way
- The pack I brought with me was the second one I’ve had. I was determined the first fit me just fine. Partly, because it wasn’t horrible. Partly, because I hate dealing with things that take time and patience to figure out (clips, straps, etc.). I fought Jesse on going back to REI (yet again) to get a pack that fit me better. But, in the end, he was right and I’m so glad I ended up with my Osprey.
- We probably could have done the same mileage, but added an extra day. We went too far too fast, not thinking as much about the elevation gain as we should have. The miles/day was definitely doable; but an extra day would have eased a little pressure from feeling rushed to set up camp before the stars came out each night.
- It takes a while to pack up your stuff each morning. You have to take the tent down, make breakfast, clean up and pack up your kitchenware and pretty much repack your pack before you head out for the day. A couple of the days we woke up around 6:30am but didn’t get going until 10am. Buuuut, some of that had to do with me wanting to stay cozy and warm in my sleeping bag until the sun came out to play. Regardless, we now know to figure in an extra hour or two of packing up and getting ready to go.
- Mist Trail
- Fall colors on the way up to Nevada Falls
- Clouds Rest
- Forests and meadows between Clouds Rest and Sunrise Lakes
- Sunrise Lakes
- John Muir Trail from High Sierras back to Yosemite Valley
Did we bring a real camera?
Nope! We have plenty of gear, you know, being former wedding photographers (now I just shoot family lifestyle sessions) over at Limelife Photography 😉 But, we also knew we’d have plenty of gear on our backs and trekking poles in our hands, so taking out a bulky camera every 5 minutes didn’t seem appealing. Yes, it would have been nice for a couple epic shots. No, we don’t regret relying solely on our iPhones and GoPro.
So glad we brought…
- Duct tape
- We used it for our feet to prevent blisters so the shoe rubs on the tape instead of your toes. We still got blisters, but they would have been way worse without the duct tape.
- About halfway through the first day, we realized this would probably help with the pack rubbing on our hip bones, so we taped up our hips! Worked like a dream the rest of the trip.
- Pro Bars – SO yummy! And so filling! Gave us tons of energy. We loved every kind we tried.
- Bear canister – they won’t let you in without one.
- Advil – We’ll bring more next time.
- Spray sunscreen.
- Coconut oil – Because I can’t leave home without it.
- Garmin inReach Explorer Plus – Helped make sure we were going the right way and allowed us to let our families know we hadn’t been eaten by bears when our phones didn’t get service.
- GoPro Hero 5.
- Beef jerky – Duh. (Even though we brought too much!)
- Tea + coffee – I thought this was going to be a luxury, but it turned into more of a necessity for those cold mornings.
- Tortillas + packs of Justin’s peanut butter – easy + yummy combo.
- Mountain House granola with milk + blueberries.
- Backpacker’s Pantry pad thai.
- Crocs – The week before our trip, I teased Jesse about wearing his Crocs. Being a San Diegan who always wear his flip flops, I told him he was turning into a middle-aged mountain man, wearing socks with these velcro sandals. Turns out, I, too am now a middle-aged mountain (wo)man who’s incredibly happy (and not embarrassed at all) to take off my hiking boots after an 8-hour hiking day and wear socks with my velcro sandals. Laugh all you want. Cros for the win.
Have you been to Yosemite?! What was your favorite part?! Been backpacking in the wilderness somewhere else? We’d love to hear where, as we’re always planning out our next trip!