Juliet and her friend Courtney went backpacking in Yosemite over the Independence Day weekend. They hiked 28 miles in 2 days under what I was told was a cloud of mosquitoes. So upon Juliet’s return, she suggested that she and I go camping in Yosemite just 4 days later. On the one hand, I was thrilled that she wanted to spend time with me and hike together in one of the most beautiful of our national parks. On the other hand, the thought of camping and mosquitoes wasn’t too appealing. As many of you know, I’m happy to hike all day long. But camping? I prefer a shower and a bed.
Nevertheless, I say yes. Juliet works a half day on Friday. I work a full day. That means we have to wait until about 6:00 pm to leave and avoid traffic. It’s a three-hour drive, at least. I suggest that since our arrival will be so late, perhaps it would be advisable for the first night, to find a place to stay other than the great outdoors. The campground near where we will be hiking is closed requiring us to pitch the tent somewhere out in the dark wilderness in bear country. Juliet isn’t at all fond of the idea of staying in a cabin but she humors me. One night on the hard ground should be plenty.
So on our way to Groveland where we plan to spend the night, I get a text from my friend Sue asking “wondering if you’re still doing Yosemite with the fire that broke out today?” I say out loud “what fire?” We stop and Juliet immediately goes to the CalFire website and learns that the fire is exactly where we plan to hike and sleep the next night. In the morning, she checks a number of webcams that provide air quality and clarity and the verdict is abysmal. The hike she planned for us was to get a spectacular view of Half Dome which she learns is now enshrouded in smoke. It looks as though there will have to be a plan B.
This photo courtesy of Juliet from July 2020 and the view we expect to see.
This is what we see. The arrow points to Half Dome.
Turns out there is no plan B or any other viable alternative. The smoke from the Washburn Fire compromises every view. We drive the entire Tioga Pass Road from one gate to the other searching in vain for a hike that offers a crisp outlook to Half Dome or another iconic viewpoint.
Instead, we content ourselves by taking photos of lovely wildflowers and a placid pond along the road.
Feeling disappointed, and not knowing if the next day will bring clear weather or more smoke, we decide to leave Yosemite a day early and go home. We arrive as the sky turns dark. Juliet sets up the tent and sleeping bags in the backyard and we go camping in Oakland. There are no mosquitoes!