Backpacking Snow Creek Yosemite Valley

July 16, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Friday day 1

I left my heart in Yosemite! After my family trip to Yosemite over Memorial Day weekend I started planning a back country trip. Planning the process was a bit involved, you have to plan your trip by which trail head you will be departing on and the trail head you will be entering back on, you have to apply for a wilderness permit to camp in the back country. The weekend I had planned was June 26th every trail head was full for that weekend so I put my name in a lottery and hoped for the best. I received a phone call 2 weeks later from Yosemite Wilderness Center and they had a opening for that weekend, the hike was Mirror Lake to Snow Creek I bought 2 passes for $10, the next call was to my buddy Scott & Eric and the long anticipation of the trip began. I started researching what the hike will consist of, the trail is accessed by the Mirror Lake trail head stop number 17 on the valley shuttle bus. The trail is roughly 9.4 miles and ranked as strenuous 6-7 hours, it is tucked back in the Tenaya Canyon of Yosemite Valley it has excellent views of Half Dome and the valley floor, the trail consists of 113 steep and heart pounding switch backs that leave you gasping for air and questioning your sanity. The plan was to leave on a Friday and return on Sunday evening, the first night would be camping on the Valley floor at backpackers campground wake up early and start the hike. we arrived around 6pm into Yosemite Valley and we headed to Curry Village to enjoy a good dinner to prep us for the punishment we were about to receive the following day. We headed over to the Pizza Patio and ordered a large pizza, damn that was good thanks Scott after dinner we decided to drive up to Glacier Point to catch the sunset it is about an hour drive from Curry village. Driving up to Glacier Point is an awesome experience the views are endless there is a pull out about ¾ of the way to Glacier Point we had to stop here is the view you will experience.

After taking in the view at this turn out we jumped back in the truck next stop Glacier Point. When arriving at Glacier Point there is a big parking lot which was quite full of cars and a large amount of people not really what I enjoy but I wanted to catch the sunset on Half Dome and this is a good place to witness it. After parking Scott, Eric, and I headed for the short hike to the viewing area which over hangs a straight drop down to the Valley floor. I headed over the railing to an area that was not populated and set up the tripod and gear that I will be needing to capture the sunset. The first image I captured I used a lee big stopper with a graduated ND filter I really wanted to show the motion and layers of the clouds. The following seguence of images were of the sun setting at Glacier Point enjoy.

Arriving back into Yosemite Valley around 9:45pm we were able to see a tiny dot of light on El Capitan the light was only about a quarter of the way up the sheer granite face the climber either had a long way up or a short way down. Upon arriving at backpackers camp we hit our tents for a good nights sleep.

Saturday day 2 the hike

Good morning Yosemite Valley!!!!!! Yosemite Valley was very hot last night so I had a very restless night the night I tossed and turned in my tent all night. Upon waking up it was time for breakfast and get packed up to start our grueling 9 mile hike. We headed off about 7:30am from backpackers camp which is located in the back of North Pines campground to Mirror Lake then eventually Snow Creek Trail. Hiking to mirror lake is relatively flat and its a good start to work out the kinks in your muscles and get the lungs going. We reached Mirror Lake and at this point the mosquitos were completely swarming around our heads they weren’t really biting just continuosly swarming in your face very annoying!! After hiking past Mirror Lake we reached the start of the Snow Creek trail it starts the climb very quick and the beginning of the trail is still in the pine trees which is both nice and bad due to the mosquitos. The heart pounding thirst quenching lung busting switch backs were threw upon us as soon as we were out of the tree line and now exposed to the direct sun thank god it was still early about 9-10am at this point. While climbing out of the valley and slowly making our way up this 3200′ climb I couldn’t help but think to my self what I could have left out of my back pack to make it lighter my pack weighed in at 45 pounds and there was not one thing I could think of I did not need. Here are some images of the climb and the switch backs that are a mix of loose gravel and big rocks.

When the hiking got tough resting and looking behind us made it enjoyable again, the whole hike I had my mind on the prize a ice cold creek with fresh drinking water and a quick dip. We stopped at one point in the trail for a quick lunch and it was a very cool spot in the shade and a granite shelf just above us on the cliff side. Here is a shot of my buddy Scott thanks Eric for the above images my camera was buried in my bag for the climb up.

We eventually reached the rim and the hike is now back into a tree line and flat thank you lord we made it alive!! “barely”. Hiking to the creek was nice we could hear the rushing water of the creek and we could see the wood foot bridge which was our current destination and resting spot while we decided where we were going to set up camp for the night. When we reached the creek we ate some food and filtered some water for drinking and just relaxed it was very nice after that crazy hike, we decided to hike back the way we came so we could find a spot to camp and we reached a open spot on the rim just above the valley the view was stunning!!

We set up camp under some pine trees in the shade and here we were for the night, it was probably 2 o’clock in the afternoon at  this point nap time! I laid in the tent with the rainfly off and took in this most awesome view of Half Dome and the surrounding area and dozed off for a few hours. When I woke up there were some volunteer rangers that spoke with the guys about a female bear that had been causing some issues up on the rim, she is a 17 year old female that figured out if she knocked the backpackers bear canisters off the 3200′ demise she could go get the goodies. They were up there to track her and try and get her out of the area, they invited us along to hopefully get some pictures of her while they tracked her, we never did see her she was close by according to her ear tag but she was always one step ahead of us. Ken & Wendy were the volunteers they are a married couple that live in Maine and every summer they come to Yosemite to volunteer, this year they were given the task of tracking and moving problem bears from populated areas. We hung out on the rim and after dinner we headed over to watch the sunset Ken & Wendy joined us and we sat and talked and laughed it was a great time. There was this tree that was growing right out of these granite boulders I had to take a picture of it.

As we all sat there the clouds were slowly moving in I was really hoping for a clear night to capture the milky way above Half Dome but tonight was not that night. 

I had the tripod set up and we waited for the magic to happen which it finally did.

We all headed back to the camp site after the sunset, Eric had a 600mm lens on his camera and he could see a climber trying to reach the summit of Half Dome. I capture my final image of Half Dome before heading off to sleep and in the image if you look near the top of Half Dome you can see a little speck of light that climber eventually made there way to the top according to Eric about 10:30pm.


Sunday Day 3 hike back

Good morning hurting aching body!!! We woke up to a pretty chilly morning compared to the previous day it was probably about 45 degrees, I slept like a rock it was the perfect temperture for a much needed sleep and recovery. Breakfast was awesome Mountain House biscuits & gravy very good stuff for a freeze dried meal and some hot tea. When we were all packed and ready to go we went over to talk with Ken & Wendy to say our good byes & exchange info, they told us that in the middle of the night there was a young couple that were camping and seen some eyes looking at them from around a tree it scared them pretty bad, it was either a mountain lion or bear they couldn’t tell they screamed at it and it eventually took off. So after that they packed up and went to camp next to Ken & Wendy pretty scary stuff for them. I went over to explore Snow Creek one final time before leaving. Hiking back to the truck was all down hill from there and I was looking forward to being back home with Loretta & Madison. On the way home we were already talking about our next trip hopefully it will be sooner rather than later. 

Here we are at our camp site what a view to remember!!!


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