The Hoppy Okapi

A 2012 Pacific Crest Trail Adventure

Yosemite Hike: Clouds Rest September 20, 2009

Yosemite Flashback #5: Clouds Rest, September 20, 2008:

Half Dome and beyond, from Clouds Rest summit

Half Dome and beyond, from Clouds Rest summit

Clouds Rest was the final long hike (and final overall hike!) of our Yosemite trip. Because our hiking guide claims that it is 14 miles rounds trip and over 3200 feet of elevation gain, I was really kind of dreading the hike, but the sheer joy of climbing the final ascent of Clouds Rest and the incredible views from the top, where it feels like you’re looking down on the whole world, made it all worthwhile.

Scenery near the beginning of Clouds Rest hike

Scenery near the beginning of Clouds Rest hike

This was another hike that started near Tuolumne Meadows, so we woke up early and left the lodge around 7am to arrive at the trailhead around 8:15. The trailhead was already crowded when we arrived, a mix of day-hikers getting an early Saturday start and people camping in the wilderness and even in the parking lot.

Scenery near the trailhead

Scenery near the trailhead

We started from the Sunrise trailhead, as our hiking book seemed to suggest a phantom “Tenaya Lake” trailhead that we were simply unable to find. We started our hike, with the initial sign promising us 7.1 miles to Clouds Rest, starting off in a pine forest as so many of these hikes do. We passed a mini-meadow, traipsed along a flat trail, then descended a little bit after about half a mile.

A pretty pond along the Clouds Rest Trail

A pretty pond along the Clouds Rest Trail

the other end of the alpine pond

the other end of the alpine pond

After some minor undulations, we began the first of two eeevil uphill sections that I had been dreading based on the trail profiles in our book – this ascent was shown as a mile and a half of steep climbing. It started out on a mild ascent, a sandy pine-covered trail climbing slowly onto a rockier ridge. After some climbing on the rocks, we soon came to…steps! I do really dislike steps on trails, but I was already in ultra-slow mode, prepared for the mile-and-a-half long slog I believed this to be. We made our way ever so slowly along the rocky trail, stairs intermingled with rocky inclines, upward and onward until finally the ascent started to lessen, rocks and stairs fading into another shady wooded trail. Right about then, when I had hope of reaching the top soon, the top of the ridge in sight, Chuck said that we still had almost half the climb to go, and I fell into despair at the thought. Alas it was a false panic, created by the ridiculous exaggeration of our hiking book, and we truly were only about a tenth of a mile short of the ridge.

Our first view of Clouds Rest from the trail

Our first view of Clouds Rest from the trail

We reached the junction at the top at 2.5 miles from the trailhead, instead of the 2.9 miles the book would have us believe, and took a break for a snack on top of the hill. Shortly after the junction, we descended steeply for about 300 feet of elevation – it wasn’t nearly as steep as the descent to the base of North Dome, but we could tell it would hurt a little on the way back! From there the trail had a few more undulations, past a peaceful looking pond (well below its high water mark so late in the season) and a few “creeklets” that actually did still have water; we then climbed steeply up again for a few minutes before settling into a more gentle slope for our final long ascent to the base of Clouds Rest.

Chuck and I at the beginning of the final ascent

Chuck and I at the beginning of the final ascent

As we passed the final trail junction, we noticed something peculiar – according to the trail signs, the distance to Clouds Rest from the trailhead kept increasing! First it was 7.1 miles, then 2.5 to the trailhead and 4.7 to the summit (for a total of 7.2 miles), then finally it was 5.3 miles to the trailhead and 2.5 to Clouds Rest – a total of 7.8 miles! Either someone is bad at math, or the Clouds Rest trail exists in some sort of space warp. That was both odd and somewhat discouraging, but we kept trekking onward.

Me climbing to the top of Clouds Rest

Me climbing to the top of Clouds Rest

Before too long, we got our first glimpse of Clouds Rest from the trail, and it certainly appeared to be close enough to inspire us to keep moving!

Chuck ascending to Clouds Rest summit

Chuck ascending to Clouds Rest summit

We rounded the ridge and started approaching the east shoulder of Clouds Rest, ascending up the rocky shoulder then dropping a little to the side until we came to a spot just below the summit trail, where some hikers waited for their companions to return from the top. From the summit trail sign location it was perfectly clear that reaching the summit would be ultra-fun, and much less scary than Half Dome.

Ascending Clouds Rest summit

Ascending Clouds Rest summit

The ascent stretched out before us, a series of ever higher granite pillows flattening each other as they led up to the top. We set off on the summit path gleefully, each slowly finding our path up the final ridge. For a while I stuck to a lower path on the right, but as I became more comfortable I started to walk along the highest part of the ridge. That was quite exhilarating, as the cliff edge seemed to fall away rapidly on either side.

View from top of CLouds Rest I

View from top of CLouds Rest I

I was still enjoying the top-of-the-world feeling as we reached the summit, where we again had amazing views of Half Dome (to our west this time) plus the Sierras and the previously unseen Merced River valley.

View from top of Clouds Rest II

View from top of Clouds Rest II

View from the top of CLouds Rest III

View from the top of Clouds Rest III

We fought off some bees as we ate our sandwiches at the summit, and enjoyed the windy views for a while before heading back down.

Me at the top of Clouds rest

Me at the top of Clouds Rest

Chuck at the top of Clouds Rest

Chuck at the top of Clouds Rest

As we descended, we passed a few more people making the trek out to Cloud’s Rest, and tried to give them encouragement to reach the top. (The summit, by the way, was only 6.1 miles from the trailhead according to our GPS, nearly a mile shorter then the most conservative sign claimed – bizarre!).

The pine-flanked trail on the way back...

The pine-flanked trail on the way back...

On our way down, I almost stepped on a chipmunk that Chuck spotted – it was upside down with hind legs sticking our of a hole on the trail, then it suddenly broke free and darted right past me to hide in a tree.

Gooey sap on tree trunk

Gooey sap on tree trunk

We made sure to stop for lots of pictures of the high sierra scenery on the return trip – topping out at over 9900 feet, this was our highest hike by about 500 feet over Lembert Dome.

High-Sierra scenery

High-Sierra scenery

We fortified ourselves with some beef jerky before the big ascent back to the trail junctions, and only stopped to let descending hikers pass as we trudged up our last big hill.

an alpine meadow

an alpine meadow

Moments later on the perilous (to my ankles) mile-long descent, I was actually surprised that I made it up that ascent with so few stops along the way. Certainly descending was faster than the steep climb up, but picking our way safely through the rocky switchbacks was still tiring going downhill.

A few wildflowers still blooming in the meadow

A few wildflowers still blooming in the meadow

Once we reached the bottom, we had only a few minor undulations and a tricky trail junction (I almost went the wrong way! GPS to the rescue) left, and we found our was back to the car triumphantly, happy with the twelve mile trek and our cloudless trip to Clouds Rest.

Rocky terrain and bendy trees

Rocky terrain and bendy trees

 

Yosemite Week Preview September 23, 2008

Filed under: hiking,outdoors,vacation — Amanda @ 20:21
Tags: , , ,

I spent the past week blissfully disconnected from the internet and other trappings of regular life. Chuck and I went to Yosemite, spending a wonderful week hiking, attending nightly park programs, and watching squirrels, deer, bats and birds (but no bears). As soon as I can sort through the pictures, I’ll have more details on the wonders of Yosemite (AND the fun places we found to stop by in Fresno while we were passing through!).

More details on most of our hikes to follow, but here’s a summary of the trip – about 55 miles and 11, 000 feet of elevation gain! With a week like that behind me, I feel even more motivated to become immersed in my Inca Trail guide book and start planning to visit Peru!

Sunday: walking along the valley floor, (dry) Yosemite Falls and the campgrounds, about 3 miles, negligible elevation gain.

Monday: Lembert Dome and Dog Dome, Tuolumne Meadows Area, 4.4 miles, 1153 feet elevation gain.

Tuesday: Half Dome, 15.7 miles, 4800 feet elevation gain.

Wednesday: walking along the valley floor to El Capitan and Cathedral Beach, about 6 miles, about 200 feet elevation gain.

Thursday: North Dome, 9 miles, about 1800 feet elevation gain.

Friday: Sentinal Dome and Taft Point, Glacier Point Road, about 5 miles, about 950 feet elevation gain (according to our crazy hiking book – this estimate might be a little high!).

Saturday: Clouds Rest, 12.2 miles, 2673 feet elevation gain.

 

Hike: Iron Mountain June 10, 2008

The first Sunday in June, we woke up early and walked down to the Rock N Roll Marathon route just in time to see the lead runners zoom past. The elite runners trickled past, then after about 10 minutes the crowd starting picking up, and by the time we left about 20 minutes later we’d watched thousands of runners go by, several in full “Running Elvis” garb, been nearly splattered by wayward water cups, and helped one runner with a wardrobe adjustment. As we left, I was of two minds about any possible marathons in my future – on the one hand, it was very exciting to watch the runners go by, and when you think about the distance in terms of doubling training miles (run a 5K, then a 10K, then a half-marathon, then a marathon) – it sounds like a completely reasonable progression; on the other hand, we were watching from right around the seven mile marker, and a lot of people were looking like they were in pretty rough shape already – with over 70% of the race still ahead!

After our marathon-watching, we headed out to east county for a hike (our first one since all of the moving craziness began, it had probably been about three months!). We went to Iron Mountain, Chuck’s favorite San Diego hike.

When we started out, there was still a nice cool layer of June Gloom protecting us from the sun and shrouding the trail in mystery:

The sun came out soon after we started on the trail, so I piled on the sunscreen as we trekked. Iron Mountain is a tricky hike – when I picture it mentally, I always think of the first 1.4 miles as fairly flat, and then expect the actual ascent to the mountain to be a harder climb. In reality though, that first section has about half of the total elevation gain of the hike, and is steeper in parts as well, so it always beats me up a little bit, but by the time I’m doing switchbacks up the mountain, the going is pretty easy (unless, of course, Chuck is in race-hiking mode, in which we try to pass everyone else on the trail to prove to ourselves that we’re faster…then, I’m just panting along and trying to keep up!).

Iron Mountain is a very popular hike, but it doesn’t typically feel crowded, either on the trail or at the top. This time though, there was a boy scout-like group on a backcountry training trip, probably 10 or 15 of them in the group, AND they left the summit right after us so that it felt like we were being chased down the trail until the faster ones passed us halfway down the switchbacks. The view from the top was a little bit obscured by the fog, but I was happy to have it in exchange for mild temperatures.

Summit Views:

Views from the descent:

Want to hike Iron Mountain? Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Trailhead: route 67, just south of Poway Road
  2. Distance: about 5.8 miles; Total Elevation Gain: about 1200 feet
  3. Don’t forget: sunscreen, water (if you’re hiking with a dog, take lots of extra water!)
  4. Need More Info? Get the ultimate guide to San Diego hiking – Afoot & Afield San Diego County

See the route on MapMyRun:
View Interactive Map on MapMyRun.com

 

 
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