Yosemite, Mono Lake, and Devils Postpile (6/6-6/8)

Brace yourself for some belated trip recaps — too many trips, not enough time to write recap posts!

My dad and I took our annual Yosemite trip again this year, just the two of us. I took that Friday afternoon off work so we could fit in two days of hiking and photography. All in all, we had a little too much driving in this year’s trip, but we did see some new sights and trails!

Friday 6/6

After spending the morning at work, I met my dad at home and prepped our snacks for the drive. We headed to Yosemite Valley via Pacheco Pass/Merced/Mariposa. It’s about a four hour drive from the South Bay, and prime time for catching up, talking about life (a “river running to the sea” analogy was brought up many times), and contemplating my career and grad school options.

We made it to Yosemite Valley with plenty of time to check in for our canvas tent cabin reservation in Curry Village before driving up to Glacier Point to watch the sunset.

People gathered at Glacier Point to watch the sunset over Half Dome
People gathered at Glacier Point to watch the sunset over Half Dome

My dad has a gift for striking up interesting conversations with complete strangers, so we ended up staying at Glacier Point well past sunset, chatting with some nice folks from Pennsylvania. They were outdoorsy people, evidenced by their sojourn in Yosemite during a cross-country trip, and they told us if we’re like them, we shouldn’t bother going to Philadelphia if we were to visit Pennsylvania. There’s so much hiking and wonderful outdoor sights to see instead!

Our chat was cut short because we needed to drive back down to Yosemite Valley before the pizza deck closed at 10pm. We did make it with about 10 minutes to spare! Bellies full of pizza and the next day’s hiking route planned, we went to bed.

Saturday 6/7

I was super tired for some reason, so I finally woke up at 8:30am when my dad came back into the tent cabin saying, “RISE AND SHINE, SLEEPING BEAUTY.” Thanks, Dad. I’m awake now.

We picked up breakfast and sandwiches to save for lunch at Degnan’s Deli in Yosemite Village. Their sandwiches are pretty good, even 4-5 hours later when we open them up on the trail. Food in hand, we drove back up to the Glacier Point Road to the McGurk Meadow trailhead, a few miles west of Glacier Point.

Our goal for the day was to see Bridalveil Falls from Stanford Point on the Pohono Trail. The Pohono Trail stretches 13 miles from Glacier Point all the way to Tunnel View (the turnout where everyone takes the quintessential Yosemite panorama). It’s a tricky planning situation with the Pohono Trail, since there’s a shuttle to Glacier Point, but none from Tunnel View. It’s highly discouraged to hike from Tunnel View to Glacier Point because of the strenuous altitude gain, so the best bet is to have two cars or a friend to drive you. My dad and I opted to modify the trail into an out-and-back, taking the McGurk Meadow trail to Pohono, out to Stanford Point, then turning back the way we came (10.6 miles).

Weathered old sign at the trailhead. Note 5.3 miles to Stanford Point!
Weathered old sign at the trailhead. Note 5.3 miles to Stanford Point!

It was hot already when we arrived at the trailhead around 9:30am. The moment we got out of the car, the mosquitos appeared. Armed with 7 different bug sprays and 6 different sunscreens, we prepped ourselves for a hot day of hiking. (We also put leftover pizza in the bear container by the parking area; all the cheese was melted and pooled in the bottom of the container by the time we got back.)

Dad on the trail
Dad on the trail

The first few miles out to the Pohono Trail were nice and easy. My dad’s been chasing the wildflowers of McGurk Meadow for a couple years now; while we saw some, there weren’t many out in the meadow. Looks like we missed the season yet again.

Dad hiking through McGurk Meadow
Dad hiking through McGurk Meadow

Less than two miles in, we reached the fork in the trail that leads off to Taft Point, Sentinel Dome, and Glacier Point one way, Dewey Point, Crocker Point, and Stanford Point the other way. We trekked onward to Dewey Point. After another mile or so of easy hikes through the meadows, we started the climb toward the valley rim and Dewey Point. At high altitude, the hike got me gasping for breath at times. All I could think was, “What is all that CrossFit for if I can’t do this?” But then I’d catch my breath pretty fast, and I’d pat myself on the back for being somewhat in shape.

The final push out to Dewey Point was worth it. For someone who’s been to Yosemite more times than I can count, a new angle on the landscape brings back that awe and inspiration again.

Dewey Point view
Dewey Point view

From Dewey Point, we continued to Crocker Point (eclipsed by Dewey Point in its grandness) and then on to Stanford Point.

Stanford Point view of Bridalveil Falls
Stanford Point view of Bridalveil Falls

We ate lunch at Stanford Point, opening up our Degnan’s sandwiches while perched on a stump and spritzing bug spray every few minutes. Once we finished eating, we turned back the way we came, tracing our steps back to McGurk Meadow in the afternoon heat (~94 degrees that day — yikes!).

All in all, it was a nice quiet trail with not too many people. With the overcrowding in the rest of Yosemite’s easily accessible vista points, it’s worth some hiking to get the peace and quiet, and some great views of Yosemite.

We finished the hike around 4:30pm and drove back down to the valley, where we treated ourselves to ice cream and some cold water. The valley was packed so we hightailed it out of there and took the Tioga Road over to Mono Lake, our destination for the night.

We checked in at Lakeview Lodge with just enough time to take a quick shower each and race over to South Tufa for the sunset on Mono Lake.

Sunset at Mono Lake
Sunset at Mono Lake

Again, after spending a little too long making the most of the evening light, we just barely made last call for dinner. This time we went to the Whoa Nellie Deli, aka the diner at the Mobil gas station. Amazing food for what’s basically a truck stop diner. We had the ribs and the fish tacos — easily the best food we ate on the trip.

After that late dinner, we settled in for bed. Well, my dad settled in. I pretty much passed out after that long hike earlier.

Sunday 6/8

The next day we drove down through Mammoth Lakes to Devils Postpile National Monument. I’ve been wanting to go since I saw a photo of it in a calendar in January — I couldn’t believe there was a cool-looking park in California that I hadn’t been to yet.

Devils Postpile lies at the end of a long drive into Inyo National Forest. We wound our way down into the valley by car and parked just next to the Postpile trail. It’s a measly 0.4 miles one way to the monument, plus another ~0.3 miles max to the top of the monument.

Dad venturing toward the edge to get a good picture
Dad venturing toward the edge to get a good picture

After that little adventure, we headed back to Mammoth Lakes, where we got sandwiches for lunch at Schat’s Bakery, my dad’s “new favorite” bakery, of which he has many. We wandered by some other food, but the moment someone said “bakery” there was no way we were going anywhere else. We sampled a lot of bread pudding, banana bread, and focaccia before finally getting some sandwiches and buying a bread pudding out of guilt for eating so many samples.

After lunch, it was time to head back home. A little tired of driving by this time, we decided not to go back through Yosemite, since we’d seen enough of the Tioga Road to last us for a while. Instead, we drove north past Yosemite to head home via Sonora. We were intending to stop at the mining ghost town of Bodie, but we totally missed the turn and decided it wasn’t worth turning back to check it out. Next time, perhaps.

The new way home along highway 108 wound through the Stanislaus National Forest to Sonora. It’s a beautiful valley, not quite as dramatic as Yosemite’s granite rock formations, but breathtaking in its own right. The area is used for US Marine Corps mountain warfare training, and we saw some military training groups in some of the campgrounds and creeks near the roads.

Once we descended into the Central Valley, it was over 100 degrees outside. We ventured into a KFC to refill on ice cold water, but didn’t stop again for fear of letting the heat into the car.

We grabbed dinner in San Jose at an unremarkable pho place near my dad’s old office. He drove us through that section of San Jose as he pondered the memories of working nearby and stopping for lunch at places that were no longer at the corners he remembered.

Home was hot, too, but we arrived just in time to have homemade shaved ice with Grandma and the rest of the family!

More photos:

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