Travel Diaries: Yosemite

Nature is a beautiful thing.Gaylor Lakes, Yosemite

I’d been to Yosemite many years ago, when I was still just a little one, but my memory sure had faded and I was completely enchanted by all that we saw this time around.

Chris’ family has gone on an annual camping trip to Yosemite since he was born (in fact, his dad has been going since he was born), so when we were able to carve out some time in our busy schedules to make the trip with them this year, we jumped at the chance.Half Dome from Glacier Point, Yosemite

Despite a CRAZY change in the weather the day before we left (since when does it snow in Yosemite in JULY?!!) we still packed up the truck and were on the road by 3:00am Friday morning so we’d have three full days of exploring. The early wake-up call was well worth it and we were at “base camp” by about 10:00am.

Instead of taking you through our day-by-day itinerary like I do with many of my travel posts, I’m going to mix it up this time and tell you the highlights of where we camped, where we hiked and what we ate. Oh, and of course, tons of photos!Clouds Rest, Yosemite

Where We Stayed:

White Wolf Campground – About an hour and a half inside of the main entrance to Yosemite, on the way to Tuolmne Meadows and at about 9,000 feet in elevation, this is a homey little camping oasis. There are over 40 campsites, but the ones along the perimeter are spaced out nicely and don’t make you feel too crowded since they back up to the meadow/forest. The campsites in the inner circle aren’t bad either, but they’re definitely not as “nature-y” as the outer perimeter sites. There are no showers at this site, but there are restrooms with running water. Reservations are first come, first serve, so we were lucky that Chris’ parents were able to head up on Thursday morning and reserve a spot for us. We encountered tent trailer-campers, RV-campers, tent-campers and backpackers alike, so all types of outdoor enthusiasts are welcome here. All campsites have a fire pit and a picnic table for your dining enjoyment. Just be sure to make good use of the bear boxes at each site as the area is home to its share of furry residents.White Wolf Campground

Where We Hiked & Explored:

Glacier PointSince our first day in Yosemite was a little sketch on the weather front, we decided to take some scenic drives and visit landmarks instead of venturing out for a full on “hike.” We drove about two hours to the highest scenic lookout in Yosemite and took our time acquainting ourselves with the beautiful valley we would be exploring for the next couple of days (there were also multiple photo shoots involved.)View from Glacier PointView of Half Dome from Glacier PointMe at Glacier Point

Gaylor Lakes TrailWe chose this trail for our first hike in Yosemite because it was short yet high in elevation to help us get acclimated to being so high up. The first mile of the hike takes you over a steep ridge to some beautiful lakes. If you continue on, you can hike to the historic Great Sierra Silver Mine. We made it over the ridge to the lake (trudging through snow! You know it!) but decided to turn back before we hit the mines due to the ominous clouds looming overhead and the fact that we could see the rain pouring down just over the mountain. Note to self: Invest in hiking boots (I was just wearing my trail running shoes – definitely not cut out for snow hiking.)View of Tuolmne Meadows from Gaylor Lakes TrailGaylor LakeGaylor LakesGaylor Lakes Trail

Clouds Rest – The most challenging, amazing and LONGEST hike I have been on in my entire life. Chris and his brother had done the hike two years before, and said it was a great option since permits are required to hike Half Dome nowadays. Cloud’s Rest is actually higher in elevation than Half Dome, so you get AMAZING views of the entire Valley AND Half Dome, from a different angle than most people see it. We set out from the trailhead shortly before 8:00AM and didn’t get back to our car until about 3:00PM. We also took a slight detour (unplanned, wrong turn) which turned the hike into not just a challenging 14-mile trek, but an even more challenging 16.1-mile trek. Not to mention there is approximately a 1,775-foot elevation change during the hike…My, were our legs Jell-O afterwards but it was soooo worth it and I felt a huge sense of accomplishment. Now I’m inspired to find some more long hikes to conquer closer to home!Cloud's Rest Base Camp MarkerClouds Rest AscentClouds Rest AscentClouds Rest TrailView of Clouds Rest from TrailClouds Rest Foot TrailView of Half Dome from Clouds RestView of Tenaya Lake from Clouds RestView of Half Dome from Clouds RestChris' Brother on Clouds RestMade it to the top of Clouds Rest!

Which brings us to our final point of interest…

Tenaya LakeAfter we finished hiking Cloud’s Rest, Chris’ parents had told us they would meet us at the beautiful Tenaya Lake (with snacks!! And beverages!! Hallelujah, we were starving.) This lake is absolutely STUNNING. It is so picturesque, you literally feel like you are in an issue of National Geographic. The water was a little chilly, but felt sooo good after our long hike. We saw many people paddling around in kayaks, fishing, and just splashing around. What a beautiful place!Tenaya Lake, YosemiteTenaya Lake, Yosemite

What We Ate:

Here is a list of the different campfire meals we whipped up while we were there. [Disclaimer: Chris’ parents have a tent trailer that is VERY well-equipped with many cooking essentials. But nothing is out of reach! I have listed the devices we used for each dish and tried to include links to samples wherever I could.]

Breakfast

Fried (or over-easy) eggs with bacon and toast (Eggs and bacon cooked with the gas cooktop attached to Chris’ parents’ tent trailer, toast grilled on a portable grill like this.)

Pancakes and bacon (can never get enough bacon!) (Both cooked on the gas cooktop attached to the tent trailer.)

Date-Pecan Muffins (I made these in advance from the Big Sur Bakery Cookbook…I subbed coconut flour for the quinoa flour and I definitely recommend it!)

Andy’s Fairfield Granola (I also made this in advance.)

Fresh fruit and yogurt

Lunch

We didn’t usually eat a formal lunch, but you can bet we snacked on our fair share of cheese, charcuterie, crackers, dips, etc. Chris’ parents also had sandwich fixings that were great to have around.

Dinner

Chicken & Dumplings (Made in a Dutch oven, one of Chris’ family’s classic camping meals. I’ll have to bug them for the recipe!)

Bruschetta Bar – we went all out with this one…We brought most of the stuff pre-made from home (smoked tri tip, pulled pork, homemade pesto, homemade herbed goat cheese) and made a couple of things there (bruschetta, mushrooms) and also just brought some accoutrements to compliment everything (multiple cheeses, salami, prosciutto, etc.)

Old-Fashioneds in Yosemite
Of course we had to mix up some Old-Fashioneds to go with dinner…

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce & Kielbasa, Garlic Toast (Spaghetti and meat sauce cooked and heated up on the gas cooktop, garlic toast thrown on the portable grill.)

Dessert

S’MORES! (duh) – the classic ingredients such as Hershey’s chocolate, jumbo marshmallows and graham crackers…and some not so classic ingredients such as SPECIAL DARK Hershey’s chocolate, Joe-Joes cookies, Reese’s Pieces, and M&M’s. (Obvi cooked over the campfire.)

Homemade brownies (Chris’ mom made these at home.)

Jiffy Pop (Cooked on the gas cooktop.)Campfire in Yosemite

Definitely a trip I will never forget.

I’d love to hear your Yosemite/camping stories! Anywhere we missed that we should check out next time? Any dishes we should try whipping up over a campfire?