The week leading up to the departure was mad for us, with wrapping up the school year for me and S's mom visiting for the week. So, we didn't get quite as packed or as organized before our departure date as we wanted to. Our 10am departure got pushed to 11, and then to 12.30. Once we were on the road, it was clear sailing out of LA, through the grapevine, and into the desert. The desert was hot - the car thermometer read 109 for much of the drive, and did pass a nice little median fire. Once we turned off the highway and headed into the high Sierras, the temperature dropped 35 degrees in one hour.
We stayed at the Evergreen Lodge, a collection of cabins and campgrounds right outside the park. The Lodge is very family-friendly, with a pool, game room, mini-zip line, and other things to amuse kids. Our room was half of a cabin, which was the right size for us. We had an unimpressive dinner at the hotel restaurant and turned in early to get a jumpstart on the next day.
Up early to check out the High Sierra part of the park. We have four days in the park, and we're saving the super-popular-and-crowded things for mid-week, when we're less likely to have huge crowds. The first thing we did was head across the park to Olmstead Point, a lookout with great views of the big rock formations.
From there, we continued off to the east side of the park, out the park through the Tioga Pass, and down to Mono Lake, a super-salty mineral-rich lake (similar to the Great Salt Lake). The lake used to be much deeper and bigger, but when some of the sources feeding the lake got diverted to provide water to LA (thanks Mullholland!), the water level went down, revealing creepy mineral deposits called tufas.
A quick visit to the Mono Lake visitor center later, we're back in the park, headed towards Tuolumne Meadows, a large plateau of grasses and creek. Lots of hiking there, with some natural springs popping up. This whole section of the park gets less human traffic than the rest of the park, but it was still pretty busy. We hiked out to Soda Springs, where naturally carbonated water comes out of the ground. Apparently, some rangers like to fill their water bottles up at it, but it smelled bad to me
To the east of Tuolumne Meadows is a 'moderately strenuous' hike to two locations: Lembert Dome and Dog Lake. The first section of the hike is very uphill, and as we started to climb, it started to rain and thunder. Undaunted, we kept going, and by the time we were ready for the final ascent up Lembert Dome, the rain and thunder had stopped. Here's a shot of us at the top of Lembert Dome (you can see those storm clouds in the distance).
Back to the car to head west to the trailhead for May Lake. One of the guides at the Lodge recommended it, and while it was beautiful, it was a pretty long hike uphill. By the time we got to the top, we were pooped, and S was getting blistery. Also, there were exceptional quantities of mosquitos.
By now, it's getting close to sunset, so we headed back to Olmstead Point to watch the sun fall off of the rock faces. Here's a nice shot of Half Dome bathed in pink.
By the time we got back to the Lodge, it was well after dark, and we were exhausted. We shared a burger and crashed. Monday would be a lighter day.