As I entered Yosemite Valley I wanted to slap myself in frustration. How had I been so ignorant about this park? Why had I blown off the popularity? Why did I arrogantly think that I knew better than everyone else? I had driven trough here multiple times, using my National Park Pass to take advantage of the shortcut cutting through the northern part of the park. Every time I thought it was pretty but I didn’t understand the hype. Today though, I had come to the valley and finally, I got it.
The beginning of the drive was pretty much how I remembered the park, full of Ponderosa and Douglas Fir. The hills covered the horizon and the bare branches of oak reached out overhead like fingers of a bony hand of the elderly. About 30 minutes after entering the park, the landscape opens up to reveal ginormous mountains of granite which can only be described as awesome. Awesome is a word that we take for granted today, forgetting that it means “filled with awe”. Today, when I use it, I mean it. These cliffs were awesome.
We arrived in the late morning and wanted to get a moderately long hike done before we had to leave for the evening. Just the day before, new Covid lockdown orders had been given by the governor and the park now had limited hours, operating from 8am-5pm. Mirror Lake seemed like a great place to gather our bearings. By this time, I had admitted that I knew nothing of what to expect and was thoroughly excited to dive in to this wonderland.
The first thing that I noticed was how amazingly quiet everything was. I was used to the other areas of the park being half empty, but had been under the impression that the valley was always packed with visitors itching to get up above these granite walls. There were probably only 100 people in the entire park though. That left the valley feeling like we were the only ones there. We welcomed this reprieve from the crowds but at the same time kept wondering why weren’t there more people out in nature. Of course we knew that the lockdown encouraged people to stay at home if possible, but to see the park this empty was quite surreal.
Three miles in and 4 people later, we reached a dry lake bed and realized we were at Mirror Lake, or at least what was supposed to be Mirror Lake. Being the middle of December, the mountain fed streams were almost non-existent. Only a trickle of water ran through them, further leading to the grand feeling of emptiness that was starting to overtake the world. The only sound was the rushing of the wind joined by the random peck of a woodpecker somewhere off in the distance. A blanket of serenity had taken over the entire atmosphere and I could not have asked for anything more.
Leaving the park that evening, I was extremely satisfied with our icebreaker. The pure majesty that I knew was held up on those peaks called to me and it’s hard for me to describe how excited I was for the coming days without sounding hyperbolic. That evening though, we had another problem to tackle. The current lockdown had shut down all the local campsites and hotels were further away from the park then we wanted to go since the hours of the park dictated our schedule. With this being the case, we had to look for some local BLM land to park at which was easier than we thought it would be. Having solved that, we just had to overcome not being able to set up a tent…
So, is it possible to have two grown men sleep in a Model 3 comfortably? I am happy to say that the answer is a resounding yes! By reclining both of the front seats and using a pillow to even the angle, we were each able to sleep through the night. Score another one for Tesla and the Model 3!
The next morning, we woke up early to get to the trailhead as soon as the current hours allowed us. First we had to stop at the local supercharger in Fish Camp where we were met with quite a surprise.
The supercharger was located at a resort in town and when we pulled up, the entrance was blocked with water barriers, the type you might see separating construction from the road. A no trespassing sign was hung on the front warning anyone that thought about it from entering.
Upon further inspection, I discovered the barriers were not filled, making them easy to move. I didn’t see what other choice I had at the moment as these were the only fast chargers in the entire area and the only chargers within 20 mi. I moved the barrier, drove in and connected, getting as much charge as I could.
Screw em. I thought to myself. This is what they signed up for when they put public chargers on their land.
With that out of the way, we arrived at the bottom of Yosemite Falls eager to start our hike to the top. The map said we had a short (5mi up) but strenuous (3500ft+ elevation gain) hike ahead of us. We were the only cars in the parking lot, adding to the overwhelming sense of discovery that the morning held.
Not long into the hike, we passed an older woman that was absolutely crushing the trail. She must have been in her 80’s and we immediately jumped into conversation with her expressing how impressed we were with the fact that she was on this trail.
“Good morning! Beautiful day for us to have the park here, isn’t it?” we asked encouragingly.
“That it is. I’ll let you two pass me as you are sure to be much faster.”
“Thank you! All we can hope for is that when we are your age we’ll still be able to do hikes like this.”
“Well, doing them all the time is what keeps me able! I hate this hike.”
“Really? So far, it seems amazing to us.”
“No. This hike is the worst. It’s shit really. I wouldn’t recommend doing it. You should go do the 4 mile hike. It’s much better.”
“Oh thank you. We are here for a couple of days. We should plan on doing that tomorrow.”
“No, you should do it today. I’m serious. This hike is shit. Worst hike in the park. You don’t want to do it. Go do 4 mile.”
We thanked her for the suggestion and pushed on. Just what was she talking about? This hike is shit? She certainly seemed serious about what she claimed. At the same time, maybe she was just trying to get us off of the trail that she was trying to do. Or maybe she was simply having a bad day. Who knows?
Amazed by the encounter, it became the joke of the hike. Every time we would turn another switchback, every time we would stop to take in thew wondrous views, we would look at each other and both say without thinking, “This hike is such shit!”
After about five hours of hiking, we reached the top of Yosemite Falls and looked out over the miraculous scenery. It looked as if we were the only people up there leading to an overwhelming feeling of being on top of the world.
It was an entirely different universe up there. I really don’t know how to describe it. I had walked into a land of endless vistas and snow covered peaks. At the moment, the area seemed so devoid of all human activity, I knew then that this is what I had been searching for. This is what the world was like before we started to destroy it. This is what the United States was supposed to be.
I spent some time jumping around the trickle of the falls, trying to imagine what it would be like in the summer when the falls were active. It must be spectacular. The sheer size of the area that flows off the cliff leads me to believe the there is a roaring creek that can be heard from a mile away. Right now though, there was nothing besides a few half frozen puddles. Isn’t it amazing how the seasons can change somethings entire being?
Up at Yosemite Point, we sat for a couple hours to have lunch and prepare for our long journey down. Being able to bask alone with all this splendor in front of us was the greatest gift I have ever had. It truly was a once in a lifetime experience. At no other time but during the pandemic would this be possible. In the moment, I couldn’t help but be selfishly thankful.
I wrestled with this feeling a bit. While the rest of the world was going through hell, I was taking full advantage of the opportunity. Should I feel bad about this? I almost didn’t want it to end. Seeing no sense in getting caught up in that though, W started the long trek back to the car.
Not much later, I found myself on the phone with Tesla asking if they knew anything about the situation with the Fish Camp charger. It was listed as active on the map, but upon arrival I had discovered that the barriers had been moved back and now they had water in them. The Tesla Team informed me that on their end, the chargers looked like the property had turned off the power, so even if I had gotten past the barriers a charge would be impossible.
What the heck.
It seemed ridiculous to me that the resort would block access like this, even if they were shut down for the pandemic. These were the only car chargers in the direct area. Not wanting to get stressed though, I decided just to drive another 20 mi and get a room at a hotel with a charger. A hot shower would be nice after the last couple of days and I didn’t feel like worrying about anything. We still had a full day a head of us as we planned on going to Mariposa Grove.
Closest Supercharger Fish Camp CA 35 mi
1122 CA-41, Fish Camp, CA 93623