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New Orleans to Yosemite - 7 days with my boy!

10:51 p.m. on April 1, 2012 (EDT)
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Hey Everyone,

I'm brand new to Trailspace, but am really appreciating the great information I've found so far.

My 13 year old son and I will be traveling to Yosemite in late May.  I worked in Yosemite one summer while I was in college, but that was 20 years ago!  We will be flying out of New Orleans to San Francisco on May 23rd and returning May 30th.

I would really appreciate any feedback you could share with us.  Here's a breakdown of what we have planned so far:

  1. Travel from SFO to Yosemite valley.  While I plan to rent a car to drive from SFO to Yosemite valley, I hate the idea of spending $500 to park a car for a week! Any thoughts on ride sharing opportunities or services?
  2. Would you suggest we check our backpacks (in covers to hopefully protect from the unforgiving airline equipment and handling) and carry on only our day packs with a change of clothes?
  3. Camp site gear - We will be camping in the valley campgrounds for most of our trip (couldn't get a back country pass).  So access to potable water and facilities is not a concern.  We have a small, two person tent.  My son has a new, compact mummy bag rated for 35 degrees (I remember it getting COLD at night!).  I'm planning on getting a 4 Liter bladder for water, and a Jetboil cooking system.  I'm thinking I'll get Jetboil fuel, noodles, soup, jerky, nuts, and energy bars at the Yosemite store.  Would you?  I would really appreciate your feedback and thoughts on my logic so far, and a "check list" of camp site gear you would bring to feel totally prepared (but not overly cluttered).
  4. Clothing - We are trying to travel light, so my thinking is two of each of the following: quality hiking socks, Hi-Tec boots (they were the standard 20 years ago, and I got my son a new pair that he is currently breaking in), zip-off pants/shorts, Under armor-type under shirts and underpants.  We will both have a Gortex-type shell for hiking up the mist trail and in case of rain. Caps.  Am I forgetting anything or going overkill?
  5. Hikes - I'm thinking we will spend our first two days acclimating to the elevation shock (we are traveling from below sea level New Orleans to 4,000 ft Yosemite Valley) with a few short hikes. The third day we plan to make a run at Half Dome.  I'm in the lottery for the cables permit.  Already stashed gloves in my son's pack.  We've got led headlamps to get a pre-dawn start (and in case of a post sunset return!).  I want to try to find hidden falls again.  Any MUST SEE spots you would suggest for us?

That's about as far as I've gotten.  Thanks again for reading my rambling post and I would appreciate any sage advice you can share to keep us out of the rookie pitfalls.

Sincerely,

Rango

12:24 a.m. on April 2, 2012 (EDT)
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Welcome to Trailspace Rango. 

Personally I would see if I could get a day or two at curry village.  A week in a small 2 man tent is going to be cramped. 

I would also suggest getting a GCS pot for your JetBoil the 1 liter (.8 on the new models) pot is pretty small when it comes to cooking for more than one. 

There are several Walmarts in or near Oakland.  Go there to get your fuel and food.  Way cheaper.  

Any last minute hiking gear purchases could be made at the REI in San Francisco.

What brand and model sleeping bag did you get for your son? I'm pretty sure that a 35 degree sleeping bag is not going to be enough. I was there in late July of 2010 and it was cold.  Also do you have sleeping pads?  

7:57 a.m. on April 2, 2012 (EDT)
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Hey OCG,

Thank you for the advice.

  1. Because of the holiday weekend, we have to move around to a few camp grounds.  Another great reason to pack light, right?  I did reserve a tent-cabin for 2 days the night before and night after we plan to hike half dome.  I figured we would need as much good sleep as possible before, and will collapse after.
  2. I'll check out the GCS pot and we will do several dry run weekends to see how well or poorly our gear (and logic) performs.
  3. 10-4 on the Walmart.  I remember hitch hiking to Modesto for groceries was a real bummer back in the day. 
  4. My son's bag is a No Limits 32 degree bag.  While you sweat in it down here, I share your concerns about those cold nights.  I'm totally lost about how to shop for, and travel with, sleeping pads.  Maybe I can gather great advice now, and get them at REI after we land?

Again, I appreciate your time.  These bits of wisdom are preparing us for an experience of a lifetime. 

Thanks,

Rango

2:12 p.m. on April 2, 2012 (EDT)
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Sleeping pads are easy. 

There are three main types. Self-inflating, Blow them up yourself and closed cell.

The self-inflating pads are open-cell type foam surrounded by and air tight casing.  All you do is lay them down and open the valve.  Once the pad is inflated you put a couple of puffs of air in and close the valve.   The Alps pads I have are somewhat bulky and a little on the heavy side, but they are very comfortable at 2 inches thick. 

The blow up types are similar to the blow-up pool mattresses except they are thinner, made out of puncture resistant material and have insulation inside them.  These pack very small.

Closed cell foam.  These are usually blue pads like the exercise mats.  I believe that they provide better insulation and you don't have worry about puncturing them, however they don't compact down and usually are not very thick.  These are sometimes used to supplement one of the other kinds of mattresses in the winter.

You have a Dicks Sporting Goods and Sports Authority nearby and both have sleeping pads on their websites.  They may carry them in the store, so you could get a look at them and possibly try one out.  If you side sleep I highly recommend at least 1.5" thick. The thickness will eliminate pressure points. 

You will want to purchase off the internet.   These things are expensive otherwise.

2:45 p.m. on April 2, 2012 (EDT)
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20F sleeping bag will give you more comfort and peace of mind.  You may spend a few hours on top of it, but when it gets into the 20F's (any month) you will enjoy not having to wear everything you brought or at worse, having to spend the night stomping around to keep warm. Make sure you have an appropriate sleeping pad as well. 3/4 ThermaRest rolls to about 6x9" and is light(er) weight. Rolls of blue foam are seen everywhere rolled up and stuft on top or bottom or even part of a 'frame' on some packs.  REI has all kinds of pads.  They are almost everywhere in California - except where it would be most convenient to you.   Check on locations and availability of what you think you might want to pick up there.

Here is a link (and forum) that discusses public transportation from Reno, Fresno, Sacramento, SF and LA to Yosemite (and other Sierra destinations). 

http://www.highsierratopix.com/community/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=7327

Tioga Meadows and the upper reaches of the Sierra (over 10,000') will still be under significant layers of Sierra 'concrete' and the run offs should give spectacular waterfall displays and adventurous stream crossings.

Let your backpack with all of its loose and exposed straps, fly in a duffel that will hold it and all the other stuff you will be needing to pack.  Take your full pack(fill it with pillows if need be) to a sporting goods store and find something just a tad bigger.  You can then put your boots in as well.  Duct tape (or remove) the dangling straps on the duffel.  If heavy you will appreciate one with wheel$$ or at least good handles.  One duffel per pack.  You can not pack any fuel of any type in that pack - includes empty fuel bottles/stoves that smell of fuel.   Check with Yosemite store to see if the fuel they sell fits your particular cooking system.  There may be personal lockers in the Valley that you can stow your duffels while you rubberneck the park.

You may not need to worry to much about acclimating to the Valley floor's altitude.  99% of the people that show up there and go romping and skiing are from sea level and few have any problems at the relatively low altitude.

I don't go anywhere in the Sierra without a zippered 200 Polartec (or equivalent) jacket.  I put it on every time I take a rest break (low humidity, wind and wet sweaty back can chill you) and evenings get downright chilly.  A hooded parka  and heavy sock ankle protection help keep the mosquitoes at bay.  You will be in prime skeeter season, so plan accordingly.  Most use DEET (sparingly) and often. After applying it wipe your hands on your parka hood and shoulders.

Make sure you have plenty of HIGH SPF UV protection and sunglasses or eye protection of some kind.  Even at the lower altitude of the Valley floor you can become a crispy critter in no time.  If you get on the snow, make sure you protect the inside of your nose and your throat under your chin and if shirtless your underarms (especially if using trek poles) and back of your knees if in shorts.

Bring lots of money, battery power and picture storage.

2:55 p.m. on April 2, 2012 (EDT)
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I camped and hiked from January to May 1980 in Yosemite Park. Its a very nice place. That was my last big snow country winter hike.

2:00 a.m. on April 3, 2012 (EDT)
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You mention getting a stove.  Purchase the fuel after you land; FAA doesn't allow transporting fuels on passenger jets.  The air line will advise you remove the shoulder straps and whatever other such articles from your pack, prior to checking it on board.  If you are still concerned get a navy duffle from the surplus store and stow your pack in that.

That 30 degree sleeping bag will be fine for May in Yosemite Valley, but may not be suitable if you go overnight in the higher elevations.  The Valley is only about 4000' above sea level.  If it gets below the mid 40s at night, it will be cooler that usual for that time of year.  Likewise, a two day acclimation is not necessary; one day will deliver most of whatever acclimation you need for The Valley.  Just get fit beforehand, as every hike in the area that goes beyond the valley floor will feel like climbing stairs. 

Rain is common that time of year.  Bring rain suits.  Get a tarp that you can erect over the picnic table (Beats seeking refuge in the car or a cramped tent.)

You are allowed camp fires in The Valley.  You might plan accordingly, and get firewood somewhere on the way in.  Consider cooking over said fire as part of your food planning too.  Nothing beats a wood fire BBQ.

Get a cheap cooler for frozen food purchases such as meats, eggs and cheese.  Buy frozen what you can; it will stay wholesome longer, but buy no more perishables than you can eat in three days.  You can restock in the valley.  Otherwise get all the non perishable you need before climbing up the hill.

Bring ear plugs if you wish to sleep soundly. 

While you weren't able to get any back country permits in advance, they do issue day of trip backcountry permits.  You have to get up early and stand in line at the ranger station.  In any case consider at least one day spent in Upper Tuolumne Meadows; much less crowded, and very scenic as well.

Beware the bears.  Not so much for personal safety but rather obey park regulations.  Do not store food in your car!  The bears of The Valley and other popular locations in the park are among the more savvy, and could teach Yogi a thing or two.  For that matter the squirrels there are pretty tenacious too!

Ed

2:11 a.m. on April 3, 2012 (EDT)
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On Ed's suggestion about firewood. A web belt is a great way to transport it. I use mine for this purpose all the time. I can load up the belt and carry it over one shoulder and carry more in my opposite arm.

6:58 a.m. on April 3, 2012 (EDT)
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Ed Said:

Beware the bears.  Not so much for personal safety but rather obey park regulations.  Do not store food in your car!  The bears of The Valley and other popular locations in the park are among the more savvy, and could teach Yogi a thing or two.  For that matter the squirrels there are pretty tenacious too!

How big are the bear boxes?  When I passed through Yosemite I didn't get a chance to check out the area like I wanted to.

8:03 p.m. on April 3, 2012 (EDT)
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ocalacomputerguy said:

How big are the bear boxes?  When I passed through Yosemite I didn't get a chance to check out the area like I wanted to.

Last time I visited The Valley they varied between camp areas.  I remember the trail head boxes were large but communal.

Ed

9:49 a.m. on April 4, 2012 (EDT)
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When I was there, 20 years ago, I was an employee and ate at the cafeteria 99.9% of the time.  Are ice chests kept in the bear boxes too?

12:15 p.m. on April 4, 2012 (EDT)
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Most definitely.  Bears there have been known to open a car at the sight of a candy wrapper.  I don't know if it's as bad now as when the film I watched was filmed but the bears were so bad that you could not have anything that looked like it might be food or contain food in your car.  They would pry a car door off to get at the food.

http://yosemitefun.com/bears.htm

10:41 a.m. on April 5, 2012 (EDT)
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Hilarious cartoon that TOTALLY explains bears and food!!

11:42 a.m. on April 5, 2012 (EDT)
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 I had a bear in the late summer of 1977 in Little Yosemite Valley above Half Dome eat some of my clothing in the middle of the night, because they had been saturated with cooking grease after a cooking mishap. I was 21.

I remember that summer reading about bears that had to be destroyed because they had bitten into fuel cannisters mistaking them for food cans and getting their jaws blown apart. And seeing cars that had their windows ripped out by bears. The owners had left the windows rolled down just enough for air curculation and bears had apon smelling odors coming from the cars, peeled the windows out and climbed in. Some doors that could not handle the bears weight were ripped off too.

Or car seats that were ripped apart and eaten as the bears went for the smell of food spilled on them. Even trunks that had been popped from the inside as bears ate thru the back seat into the trunk then while rummaging in the trunk having it pop open from the force of the bear!

In the high country they had special bear lines. Cables suspended between trees high up with a line to hang food bags on. By the time I got in late to Lil Yosemite Valley the lines were so over weighted with food I had to get help to pull my bags up with the rest.

3:00 a.m. on April 6, 2012 (EDT)
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Rango, welcome to Trailspace!  I took the Amtrak out to visit Yosemite a couple of years ago from where I live on the Gulf Coast (left from New Orleans to Los Angeles).  It was July.  I camped in the Tuolumne Meadows area.  It got QUITE chilly at night, I remember (at least "chilly" for a Gulf Coastian), and my similar 32 bag didn't seem as cozy as I thought it might be in JULY.  I wish I had known more about base layers, neoair cushions, and wool socks that night--I have learned a lot from these Trailspace people!  Also, I remember the tourist congestion in the main valley area was fairly thick and slow and crowdy, but once I got to the outback and dark came, the stars were so FABULOUS (in between the chattering of my teeth)--your son will be amazed that so much celestial stuff is visible that just ISN'T in lower, urban elevations (I was, even though I had experienced it working with the Forest Service out west many years ago).  The bear boxes were about 3 cubic feet, as I recall, first come first served.  Anyway, you guys have a great time.  It's so wonderful to take your son on a trip like that while he's still so impressionable; you'll both have great fun!

4:20 a.m. on April 6, 2012 (EDT)
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Bunion said:

..my similar 32 bag didn't seem as cozy as I thought it might be in JULY...

The NPS web site provides highs and lows for the park system.  They post the typical May low for Yosemite as the mid forties.  A properly rated 30 bag should suffice.

Ed

7:51 p.m. on April 17, 2012 (EDT)
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Seems that without specific controls on the bag makers, the rating appears to be the temperature that you may survive in... not necessarily comfy, toasty warm.

Above 10,00 you can expect a night time temp in the 20F's in all summer months.  Not common but it does happen.  You will wake to frost in the summer if you are out long enough.

On the trail bear boxes at popular crossings or camps will at times get filled up.  They are expecting storage bags of food.  Suggest you have a spectacular colored bag and even reflecting tape.  They all get piled together.  Just plan to get to camp early.  In much of the Sierra you are also required to carry a personal approved canister.  The food you store in the bear boxes is the extra food you carry with you.

In popular areas there are several large boxes (about 3x2x4').  Nearer the trail head and in campgrounds these are used:

http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/lockers.htm

Keep ice chests in the trunk out of sight.  Bolt on campers for small pickups are not a safe place for storing food.

12:02 p.m. on May 1, 2012 (EDT)
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Hey Team,

Just a few weeks to go before we head out to Yosemite.  I'm feeling very well prepared based on the advice you have all shared with me.

Any thoughts on rental cars and companies (good or bad) that I should consider?

Yours outdoors,

Rango

2:01 p.m. on May 1, 2012 (EDT)
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Do you need the car once you are at Yosemite? 

If yes my wife usually goes with priceline.com and bids.  There are web sites that publish what rates people have paid recently so you know what to bid.

This site lists local rental agencies. http://www.carrentalexpress.com/places/san-francisco

If no, here are alternatives 

Also check out yarts.com it's the bus system inside Yosemite.

BTW,

Since you are in San Francisco you should spend at least one full day there. There is plenty of excellent things to do and see.  If you want to see Alcatrez YOU MUST MAKE RESERVATIONS NOW!  When I was out with my family a couple years ago we rented bicycles and rode across the Golden Gate bridge to Sausalito and returned via ferry. That was a blast, once you are over the bridge it's down hill from there. If you need a hotel this is the one I stayed at last year, it is the best place for the money.  I had an upper floor room with a bay view.  Fantastic. Comfort Inn by the Bay It's walking distance to the Fisherman's Warf and the staff are very friendly and the free breakfast was good. 

8:08 p.m. on May 1, 2012 (EDT)
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Scoma's does a good job on fish.  Put your name in and spend time looking at Fisherman's wharf while waiting for your number to come up.  They used to have valet parking a LOT cheaper than anywhere else within walking distance. It's been awhile since I was there so sniff it out first. Understand it can be pricy.

8:54 a.m. on May 2, 2012 (EDT)
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I haven't been so excited since the hogs ate my baby brother!

10:00 a.m. on May 2, 2012 (EDT)
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April 23, 2014
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