Car Camping in Yosemite

Some friends, friends of friends, and I went car camping in Yosemite from Sunday, April 29, 2007, to Tuesday, May 1, 2007. Aside from one long hike, it was a nice, leisurely trip, as we spent much time preparing food, waiting for water to boil, and stoking a campfire. As usual, I enjoyed the stunning, expansive Yosemite wilderness, especially as seen from the top of mountain we climbed and from the winding, high roads when entering and leaving the valley.

I took my camera knowing the batteries were low but not minding. I shot a few pictures on the first day and on the second day until the batteries ran out.

Random Observations
When talking about what to bring and disagreeing with other campers about the weather forecast, I realized when one types Yosemite into, one gets a forecast for Yoesemite, whereas when one types Yosemite into Yahoo Weather, one gets the forecast for a nearby town (El Portal). The Yosemite forecast seems to be for a much higher elevation than El Portal and hence predictions ran more than ten degrees cooler. I guess Yosemite is a big place and the weathermen didn't choose to forecast at the valley floor. (The valley floor is at roughly the elevation of El Portal.) If one asks for the El Portal forecast directly, it agrees with Yahoo Weather.

I learned there actually is a marshmallow plant!

We learned the first evening that skewers placed above a campfire get hot. Someone got burned. A little while later, we apparently hadn't learned our lesson yet and someone else got burned. After the skewered food was done cooking, we moved the skewers onto the picnic table. Minutes later, I forgot they'd recently been removed from the fire and were still hot. I got burned. I'm just not very bright. Although it didn't hurt that much, I had a nice burn line on one finger for the next week.

Campfires are cozy.

As people are want to do while camping, we told stories. During the day, we talked about identifying trees by their shape and identifying birds by when they chip. In the evening, we told tales about drug deals, hacking, prison adventures, ... And Bollywood was discussed both day and night.

I won money by knowing who Aaron Burr killed.

Arriving in the afternoon on Sunday, we decided to do a short hike to the Vernal Falls footbridge. (It was really more like a ninety minute walk.) At the end, we were rewarded by a decent view of the falls.

On Monday, we hiked Upper Yosemite Falls. I've done this hike two or three times; it's always nice. It's also pretty much the only serious hike I've done in Yosemite. Every trip I come, people look for a hike of the right length. With the exception of Half Dome, Upper Yosemite is the longest hike convenient to the main village / camping locations in Yosemite Valley. It's a short enough hike to allow most everyone in my age group to be in good enough shape to do it (or at least think they can). Hence, I end up doing it repeatedly. On Tuesday, I'd hoped to get a chance to do a serious hike that was new to me. No dice -- we had to leave early.

While hiking Upper Yosemite Falls, we observed some techniques used in trail building. For instance, occasionally we saw a line of thin rocks planted vertically across the trail used to direct water flows away from the trail. As we sometimes had to trod carefully over damp paths and slick stones near the falls, we appreciated this feature when it occurred and as we found ourselves again walking easily on dry ground.

Also, a couple of times, we spotted a metal rod laying across the trail, mostly covered with dirt. We couldn't figure out what these were for. They didn't appear to be anchoring anything. I couldn't find the answer with a few simple web searches.

Obviously since we were car camping, we could and did bring way too much food. I'm going to quickly list everything we ate over the course of the weekend, not for the reader of this post but rather for my later use when brainstorming what I could bring on future camping trips. We had:

  • Kebabs of zucchini, onions, and yellow, orange, and red peppers.
  • Chicken marinated with fajita spices, served in whole wheat tortillas with Trader Joe's (awesome) guacamole, salsa, and diced onions.
  • Fried tempeh.
  • Marinated grilled portobello mushrooms.
  • Smores (with regular marshmallows or vegan marshmallow fluff). (As I'm much more patient now than I was as a kid and as I have more experience knowing how to cook, I made my smore very precisely, a perfect balance of graham cracker, semi-melted chocolate, and roasted marshmallow.)
  • Breakfast burritos with beans, refried beans, corn, onions, salsa, and guacamole.
  • Tasty Bite Indian food. (We had Madras Lentils, Bengal Lentils, and Punjab Eggplant, all served with pita, though rice or couscous shouldn't be hard to make either.)
  • Chopped tomatoes, zucchini, and peppers. (Each refreshing on its own.)
  • Fruits: the usual assortment, mostly oranges, apples, and bananas.
  • Messy sandwiches of zucchini, roasted red pepper hummus, and tomato.
  • Fire-cooked sweet potatoes. (We wrapped these in foil and stuck them in the fire. I had one that evening and one a few days later as leftovers. Quite good -- the heat somehow further brings out the sweetness of a sweet potato.)
  • Instant oatmeal. (Yes, this is what I brought. :> Though satisfying, you can see how it doesn't compare to everything else.)
  • Liquids: water, wine (including a great bottle of viognier), beer (1554 and Fat Tire), vodka, and tequila.
Food While In Transit
On the way to Yosemite, we stopped at a random strip mall to eat. Most of us ate at the Mexican place, Taqueria Al Pastor (at least that's what the sign advertised). It was good: better than we expected. I had a chicken super taco and a bbq pork taco. The joint gets points for making its own chips. It loses points, however, for making them too oily for my taste. The salsa -different kinds on the tacos and for the chips- was good. Sorry I can't be more specific about the flavors or even the location: I don't recall the details of my food, and I never knew what town it was that we stopped in, other than that there was a subway sandwich place and an exercise joint in the same mall. Driving east, the strip mall was the one of the first (if not the first) thing in the town after passing miles of fields. I believe it was on the left side, just past a railroad crossing.

On the way home, our car stopped at In-N-Out. I had a single patty animal style. I think that was the first time I didn't order a double-double. It's been a while since I've had In-N-Out but it was as great as I remember.

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