Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Yosemite: Three day loop in Hetch Hetchy

April has come and the year is rapidly progressing. Normally this would be a bit early for a backpacking trip in the Sierras but with such a low snow year (~10% of normal) it is snow free up to 8000 feet. With a three day weekend, the opportunity to get a trip in to Yosemite was too tempting so Lori, Rakesh, Kishor and I drove down to the park on Friday morning to see how things look.

The trip was planned for Hetch Hetchy, a less crowded part of Yosemite, which was dammed in the early 1900s to provide drinking water for San Francisco. Lori and I did our very first trip to Yosemite there, six years ago and had not been back since. This was also to be Kishors first backpacking trip in the U.S. so it was a great chance to show him one of the jewels of California.

Day 1: Trailhead to Rancheria Falls (~ 7 miles)

We got off to a late start around 2:30 pm. The trail to Rancheria Falls is fairly flat and easy to follow so we had plenty of time to get there before sunset.

The Intrepid Crew

The trail follows the Hetch Hetchy reservoir for a number of miles and is a lovely walk. There were quite a few day hikers out enjoying the nice weather. We passed under Wapama Falls, which is normally flowing over the trail. The last time Lori and I were here we had to run past in order to avoid getting soaked, this time it was much less intense.

Wapama Falls

We made it to a nice camping area near Rancheria Creek overlooking the valley.

Lori and I sitting in our Lunar Duo



Moonlit view of Rancheria Creek and the Hetch Hetchy reservoir in the background

 Day 2: Rancheria to Lake Vernon (~ 10 miles)

The original plan was to do a day hike and keep our campsite at Rancheria, however it looked like we could make a nice loop hike back to the trailhead. We had a leisurely morning and hit the trail around ten. The elevation started right away with a 1500 foot climb up to Tiltill valley.

After crossing an open meadow we headed into the trees and continued climbing another 1000 feet. This brought us up to around 7600 feet and we saw a few patches of snow, the last remnants of a poor snow season. With the elevation gain, the air was cooler and was very pleasant for hiking.

The trail traversed around the side of Mt. Gibson and finally opened up for a view of Lake Vernon. The trail then dropped a 1000 or so feet into the valley.

Descending to Lake Vernon

We found a great campsite on the north side of Lake Vernon.

Rakesh ripping into his pack of curry

Enjoying the fire

Lake Vernon
Day 3: Lake Vernon to Trailhead (~10 miles)

After another leisurely morning we hit the trail. The weather turned cold and cloudy and the forecast called for snow later in the day. This helped motivate us to keep moving and we made reasonably good time.


Beautiful views on the way down, as the trail wound its way back into Hetch Hetchy valley.

Back at the trailhead, tired, happy and goofy
We drove the three hour drive back home and just after dropping Kishor off, the car decided it had had enough and quit, literally all power just shut off. Half our later and off we go with the tow truck.

I actually feel very fortunate that the car broke down close to home and that we didn't lose power going 70 mph down the highway. Turns out the alternator overheated and just fried. Also fortunate that our AAA membership, which was due to expire in a week, was still active.

So overall a great trip, a bummer about the car but that is the way it goes sometimes.