Our trip begins this afternoon in Yosemite National Park, where we meet our guides and backpacking companions for a full trip orientation, gear check and sumptuous dinner. After dinner we lean back to enjoy the stars and ponder John Muir's efforts to fight the Raker Act, the act that granted permission to build O'Shaughnessy Dam and flood the Hetch Hetchy Valley. "One may as well dam for water tanks the people's cathedrals and churches," Muir said, "for no holier temple has ever been consecrated by the heart of man." Dinner included.
Enjoy a filling breakfast in camp before packing up, we then start hiking to our backcountry campsite near Rancheria Falls. This is typically a full first day of backpacking, with time along the way for lunch and learning. Standing atop O’Shaughnessy Dam we imagine what the valley looked like to early explorers as we travel in their footsteps. Today's trail runs above the pristine and peaceful Hetch Hetchy Valley and Reservoir, and we start to see why this valley is called “The Other Yosemite Valley”. Photo ops and vistas abound, presented by the gentle Tueeulala and crashing Wapama waterfalls. The plethora of wildflowers and butterflies add color to our palate of experiences as our guides share the dramatic human history of this valley and the healthy debate around its use and protection. We end the day at our camp near Rancheria Falls. When swollen by snow melt, the falls add a wilderness sonata to our camping experience. All meals and snacks provided.
Backpacking: 6.7 miles; Elevation gain: +~1,000'
Morning coffee in the backcountry is certainly one of life’s simple pleasures. We enjoy a cup and a wonderful guide-prepared breakfast as we fuel up for another fantastic day. After breakfast, we continue exploring the Yosemite backcountry. Today we load up just our daypacks and set out for the serene Tiltill Valley. Looking for wildlife both large and small, as well as more flowers along the way, we experience the changing climate zones, going from arid landscapes to lush wetlands. As we climb up another 1,000 feet or so, our hearts will pound—as much from the breathtaking vistas as the ascent. We have lunch in the Tiltill Valley meadow surrounded by pines, a burbling creek, and among the wildlife and wildflowers. Look forward to a refreshing evening dip and dinner as we enjoy a calming campfire and our last night beneath a canopy of Sierra stars. All meals and snacks provided.
Hiking: 7.3 miles; Elevation gain/loss: +2,100’/-2,100’
Last days mean we are that much closer to our next first day, but still a bit sad to be leaving such a wonderful campsite embraced by soul restoring beauty. We lace up our boots and break camp, making our way out of the backcountry and retracing our path through forest, flowers, and misty rainbows from these magical and life-giving waterfalls. Completing our journey, we come to understand why the fight to reclaim this valley continues to this day. We plan to arrive back at our trailhead by 4pm but many factors could affect this, so those flying out of Fresno should plan no flights before 9:30pm, and those flying out of Oakland should plan no flights before 10:30pm. Breakfast, snacks, and lunch included.
Backpacking: 6.7 miles; Elevation loss: +~1,000'