A Yosemite family backpacking trip spanning three generations and dozens of miles.
Words and photos by Kara Maceross, Lasting Adventures guide
As I was preparing for my last trip of the season with Lasting Adventures I looked at the forms to find out about my next crew and I had to look twice. There were five people in total—a husband and wife team in their fifties, two 11-year-olds that I assumed were twins and barely weighed 70 pounds a pop, and their 76-year-old grandfather! I thought right away that this might present some challenges but
I was beyond stoked and grateful that I could be a part of this family’s epic journey of the generations through Yosemite.
When I met the family in Yosemite Valley at Curry Village they weren’t hard to find and the twins (yes, confirmed) were quite inquisitive and not shy to ask plenty of questions about their upcoming adventure. It did turn out that this would be the first backpacking trip for all of them (minus the boy who had been on one overnight in Death Valley). Epic. While chatting more with the grandfather, it didn’t take long to figure out that Yosemite held a special place in his heart. A climber that used to stomp around the grounds at Camp 4, he had climbed routes with the legendary Peter Croft and even scaled Half Dome (the side withOUT the cables).
For the grandfather, coming back to Yosemite you could tell was like a trip back in time, it fit like a warm glove.
Taking this trip was a chance to not only discover more about this place that he knew and loved so dearly, but also to share this amazing space with several more generations of his family.
After chatting for a bit we went over the gear to bring and how to pack the packs and then we set off to backpackers’ camp, the first test of how our packs would feel. We got there in no time, ditched the gear and headed back to the dining hall for dinner. On the way back
the twins decided to embrace being away from Los Angeles and being in wild Yosemite, splashing and playing in the Merced River.
No school for another week. This is how to tackle life!
The next morning we arose bright and early (5:45) to allow enough time to pack up, walk back to Curry Village, and grab some breakfast before catching the hikers’ shuttle to our trailhead. As we were walking to the village Harper spotted a bear and the excitement was high.
Following the bear sighting, we all saw three deer in the parking lot, including a buck with a big rack. What a start to the trip!
All went smooth as butter with the shuttle and we finally left Yosemite Creek trailhead at 10:30 am, embarking into the Yosemite wilderness so few who visit the park ever see. The day was long and a challenge to all because of not being used to the packs and some pretty decent heat. We took advantage of a stream crossing our path and stopped to drench ourselves with water before carrying on. Trees were sniffed and flowers were id’ed along the way.
Arrival at camp was many riddles and several new games down the trail. Despite being tired from hiking all day and being anxious to get to camp, the family was uplifted once packs were off, with another promise of soaking in some water just down the way.
We all gorged on some tortellini pesto pasta with sausage and fresh veggies for dinner, and the evening entertainment that followed was a talk on how to poop in the woods. Great bedtime material.
The following morning all were awarded with a little extra sleep since a day hike was all that was on the agenda. Everyone was excited to wander off into the woods towards El Capitan, that good ‘ol granite monolith, with just day packs on. The hike would still be hefty though, covering 8.8 miles by days end, which included a jaunt up to Eagle Peak with spectacular views of the Valley below.
We broke for some thimbleberry picking along the way and to watch a grouse, contemplating whether they could fly or not, before it so graciously answered our queries by flying up into a high tree branch. At camp, the entertainment of the evening was watching a squirrel knock down, drag, and eat some pine cones that weighed three times what it did. National Geographic Channel, eat your heart out!
As I laid in my comfy sleeping bag at the end of an exhausting third day out where we covered almost 11 miles and about 3,000 thousand feet elevation gain, I stared up at the sky only to immediately see a blazing shooting star.
I am grateful beyond words. Today everyone was challenged in some way, previously dreading the ‘big mile day’ and yet everyone was rewarded in even greater ways. The top of Yosemite Falls was the first pit stop, followed by Yosemite Point where the vast valley looked like it could swallow you from below.
Creeks were stopped at to splash about and soak the tired feet. Moments were frozen in time when we all watched a deer and its adorable fawn cross our paths.
We had lunch after a tough climb in the meandering forest where the view opened up to the valley, North Dome just oh so slightly below, and Half Dome right smack dab across the way. After lunch it was still a challenge to cover those last miles until camp and more trail games were needed and initiated promptly. We celebrated our most challenging day yet with another soak in the water, a Thanksgiving dinner followed by Red Velvet cake made over the fire while we shared what we were grateful for. Best night entertainment yet.
The last and final day we all arose and were in no immediate rush to pack up camp. The rest of the hike was all downhill, but still a challenging downhill aka the Snow Creek Trail. This trail drops 2,600 feet In elevation in only 1.7 miles. It’s definitely a foot and knee pounder.
Meandering down the 100+ switchbacks, staring out at the valley and Half Dome we all had time to ponder the various moments of the trip and the memories that would last a lifetime.
This family got to experience something most families do not. They wandered out into the Yosemite backcountry with only the things that they needed on their backs, three generations strong.
They hiked many hot miles. They soaked numerous tired feet. They ate many delicious meals. They saw many, many spectacular views that were well earned. They witnessed wildlife in its natural habitat and were entertained by its shenanigans. They endured sore backs and stared up at the Milky Way when waking up in the middle of the night to take care of business. They stopped to sniff the flowers and the trees. They really embraced being out in nature and exploring all that it had to offer. And they did it together. This is what backpacking trips are made for after all and these are the lasting adventures that Yosemite captures, if only for a moment in time. –Kara Maceross, Lasting Adventures guide