When Josh and I head out for a weekend adventure, the four pounds of adorableness named Lola usually stays with friends and family. But even as perfect as she is, asking someone to watch her over the long holiday weekend didn’t feel considerate or polite. So what’s an adventurous duo to do? Buy a $15 dog backpack from eBay, strap her in, and up we go. This is the story of a yorkie, a Westie, and the Williams hiking Clouds Rest during Fourth of July, 2016.
You’ve probably heard of Yosemite. Yes, it’s in California, it’s out of this world beautiful, and the range of activities span from touristy paved walks, to “you must have a few screws loose to try and scale the face of that mountain” climbs. It’s home to the world-famous Half Dome, but winning the lottery to get a Half Dome permit is, well, like winning the lottery. Josh and I have put in multiple years and never won permits. I even tried to go through a work group and still didn’t win the pool. One of these days, I tell you…
So while we wait for our Half Dome permits to one day become a reality, we’ve explored Yosemite Valley, which is the park’s infamous valley, surrounded by stunning views of Half Dome, El Capitan, and other drool-worthy granite summits. You can hike to the top of Yosemite Falls, Vernal Falls, Nevada Falls, The Mist Trail, The John Muir Trail – all of which are worth it. But this trip, we opted to avoid the packed Valley, camp at Crane Flat, and hike one of Yosemite’s other hikes (of which there are plenty to choose from). This time, we chose Clouds Rest.
Getting To The Park
We learned a brutal lesson about traveling on a holiday, in a 1985 VW Westfalia, with a broken air-conditioning, on a hot weekend in July. What should have taken less than 15 minutes to get from the last gas station to the park entrance ended up taking TWO HOURS. That’s on top of a three-hour drive up until that point. But even with leaving early, we couldn’t escape it. So make sure you pack water and your patience.
Camping at Crane Flat
Reserving a camping spot in California is painful. Even if you’re not looking for a prime date, you need to book what feels like a year in advance and be on your internet A-game as spots fill fast. If you’re not early enough, the other option is to be glued to your computer, checking and scoring a last-minute cancellation.
Our top choices for reserving a site are the usual suspects, reserveamerica.com or recreation.gov, but our advice for actually making it happen? Go for a cancellation and don’t be too picky. Luckily for us, Josh scored a spot at Crane Flat, which is in the park, but outside of Yosemite Valley. A perfect solution for accessibility, but avoiding a majority of the crowds.
The site is tree-covered with spacious spots and plenty of signs warning you about the plague. These “Do not touch the rodents” signs also included recommendations to leave your pets at home. Great, we brought Lola and I wasn’t in the mood to bring home the plague because, you know, I’d like to keep on living. We turned the annoying pet parenting up to a level 10.
Hiking Clouds Rest
Josh and I have the schedules of a geriatric couple. We’re early to bed, early to rise, but this habit pays off well when it comes to hiking in Yosemite. We hopped in the Westy and drove ~45 minutes from our camp site to the Sunrise Lakes Trailhead on Tioga Road near Tenaya Lake. There’s parking and a bathroom, both of which fill up fast so get there early.
We strapped in Lola and were ready to start the ~13 mile trip to Clouds Rest and back. You won’t feel lonely on the trail, not because of crowds of people, but because of the copious amounts of mosquitos that are there to give you a warm “we’re going to suck your blood so hard” welcome. Aren’t they swell? I bitched about them. Josh bitched about me bitching about them. We took off our shoes and crossed a small stream, and we were soon on our way. The hard part was done, now we just needed to climb.
The rest of the hike was everything that you could imagine from hiking in Yosemite. Up and down, stunning and sweaty, looking out for animals and attempting to recognize bear growls, and overall genuinely delightful. I worried about Lola and made sure that we stopped frequently to ensure she was cool, hydrated, and still alive at this elevation. While the backpack wasn’t her favorite, she was a total champ and was the talk of everyone that passed her.
Let’s fast forward to the best part: right as you approach the summit. The ridge becomes narrow and you’re suddenly scrambling up rocks with sheer cliffs flanking you. Your heartbeat picks up speed and your curiosity heightens as you’re not quite sure what you’re about to discover. Suddenly, you climb high enough, the view opens and you can see it all. Breathtaking views surround you as every angle has something beautiful to gush over. You’re perched almost 10,000 feet above sea level, looking out across the Valley with a perfect view of Half Dome.
I felt a surge of happiness and adrenaline completely overtake me.
We found a rock, ate our trusty PB&Js, and let it all sink in. As we ate, we watched the lucky few who got permits slowly moving up the Half Dome cables. These little ants were doing what we’ve tried to do for so long. But at that moment, I’ll let those ants be ants. There was nowhere I’d rather be than on that rock, with my husband and my dog, on what felt like the top of the world.