Bob’s Grandma Frances told stories of when she was in her teens and her family went to Yosemite. She and several family members hiked from Tenaya Lake to Yosemite Valley, up over Cloud’s Rest. They spent the night in the valley, then they turned around and hiked back up to Tenaya Lake the next day. This gave Bob the wish to do the hike down. We considered that to be a pretty darn good thing to accomplish and didn’t consider doing the climb back up the following day.
Tenaya Lake to Clouds Rest
If I described this part of the hike as, “Way up. Way down. Way up. Way down.” it would be a fair description. But where’s the fun in that?
You find the trail down by Tioga Road and start out by rolling around a bit. Somewhere in this section, we passed a backpacker who was taking a break. He was sitting right on the ground in a patch of snow. Takes all kinds. After that, you begin the switchbacks behind Tenaya Lake. Those are steep enough to move you up pretty briskly.
You come to a trail junction, with the left choice leading up to Sunrise Lakes and, eventually, Sunrise High Sierra Camp. I love that campground, but as Alton Brown would say, “That’s another story.”
The trail on the right takes you to Clouds Rest, but if you’re ever at that intersection, take a few minutes and do a little detour. Leave the trail and walk up the hill to the right of the Cloud’s Rest Trail. Keep going up. When you get to the top, what you have is a view of Yosemite Valley way down there. This is a good place to eat lunch, but you’d better not be only this far along if you’re doing the entire Tenaya to Valley Floor hike.
The Cloud’s Rest trail drops down immediately and keeps right on doing that for a long time. Then it starts up and keeps right on doing that for a long time.
Clouds Rest to Little Yosemite Valley
This part of the hike was nice. Except for minor rolls, the climbing was all done. It was a long, long way down to valley floor, but it was nearly all downhill and not the standard Yosemite-nasty downhill.
Shortly after we started down from Clouds Rest, we passed a guy going the other way. He was by himself and told us he was with a bunch of other guys, who were toiling up the trail below. He was the advance scout, looking for water. He asked us if we’d seen any. We told him that we’d crossed a few little trickles running across the trail and heading downhill, but that we hadn’t seen any significant water since leaving Tenaya Lake. This pleased him not. He wasn’t sure where he was going, which I think certainly means that he didn’t know where he was. That was fair enough, since he didn’t know where they’d camped the night before. We wished him luck and continued down. Shortly thereafter, the we met his buddies. They were sweating and panting up the trails, and no wonder about the sweating and panting. One guy had a full-size lawn chair strapped to his backpack, while another one had a large boombox strapped to his. There were a couple of other guys. I don’t recall what they had strapped to their backpacks, since my mind was nicely boggled by the lawn chair and boombox.
Down we went. And then we went down some more. It’s an interesting thing to look down on the top of Half Dome. I liked that a lot.
And so the morning went. We ambled down the John Muir Trail, toward the Half Dome Trail intersection. Our lunch break there stands out in my memory as the nicest lunch break we ever had hiking, and you can read the full story of that on another post.
After lunch, we started ambing down again. After we’d gone most of the distance between the trail junction and Little Yosemite Valley, we passed a young couple. She was basically sobbing brokenly on his shoulder. He was saying nonsense to the effect that she could make it. It’s not all that far now. Drivel! If she’s already in tears, turn the hell around and go down. I don’t believe they did that, at least not very soon, since they didn’t pass us on that trail going down. More people pass me going down than going up, usually, and that’s an amazing thing since many, many people pass me going up.
Little Yosemite Valley to Happy Isles
Little Yosemite Valley was hot that day. Flat and hot. We left it and crossed over the Merced River on the bridge at Nevada Falls. The John Muir trail from Nevada Falls to Happy Isles isn’t the most scenic trail in Yosemite. Mostly, it’s hot, dusty and crowded. But since I hate going down the Mist Trail, John Muir is the route we take. Down that trail we went to catch the shuttle bus at the Happy Isles stop. By then, there was a lot of tired going around. No shortage of that at all!
We’d booked one of the little cabins with bath at Curry Village. Given that recent management policy for Yosemite Valley seems to entail getting rid of all the affordable housing options, I don’t know if these cabins are even still there. If they are, and you’re going there, they’re a wonderful place to stay. They are not the Ahwahnee in terms of ambiance, but neither is the price anywhere near the Ahwahnee, so you may find them good.
I’m writing this several years after our long hike, which wasn’t the longest one we ever did but definitely long enough at that altitude. We still hike, but I seriously doubt that either one of us could do this one again. I’m so glad that we did it while we could.