Yosemite Adventure 2017

When your favorite Aid Station Captain (Tunnel Creek A/S – Tahoe Rim Trail 100) invites your family on a weekend camping trip to Yosemite… you say yes.

Fresh beignets, anyone? Mike Holmes in his element. Yosemite 2017

Mike and Dorothy were planning a trip for their grandkids to Yosemite, and they thought, hey, why not invite everyone else and their kids too? This was so ideal for me, as I’ve been too intimidated to bring my kids on my own. I had a rough couple of days leading up to the trip, but Mike’s meticulous planning and attention to detail (and packing lists, down to “toothbrush”) left me with nothing to do but follow his instructions and focus on the task at hand. As a result, the car was packed and ready to go before I even left for work Friday morning (this has NEVER happened before).

The community kitchen/gathering area that Mike and Dorothy provided. Note the “fire” – we didn’t build one in the mornings since we were all heading out for the day, but Mike didn’t want anyone to go cold.

The kids and I had a gorgeous 4 + hour drive down the Eastern Sierras to the Park. During the drive, my kids reiterated their proclamations from earlier in the week: “You aren’t going to make us hike there, right?” “We hate hiking”. “You can’t make us”, etc. I responded that there will be lots of “activities” and we can figure out what we want to do (secretly hoping “they better want to hike when we get there or I’m going to freak out“)

Photo Oct 27, 6 21 43 PM
Avian at sunset on the drive into the park.

We arrived after dark at the Hodgdon Meadows Campground, and quickly found Mike’s campsite (he had white canopies, lights, a fire, and about 30 people hanging out) but before we were directed to our own campsite (that Mike saved for us), they fed us dinner (stew) and dessert (fresh cobbler made in the dutch oven over the fire).

Very festive atmosphere at Mike’s campsite. Hodgdon Meadows doesn’t take reservations, so Mike arrived Thursday to claim enough spots for the group.

Saturday morning, we convened for coffee and breakfast. The menu was hobo omelettes or breakfast burritos – Mike and Dorothy provided a huge pot of boiling water, ziplock bags, and sharpies, and the campers brought their own ingredients (eggs, veggies, cheese, etc) to throw in the personalized ziplock bags. It was both fun and delicious!

Kids playing and decorating rocks (Thanks, Cynthia) at our campsite, which was only about 100 yards from Mike’s kitchen area.

After breakfast, Mike sat down with a paper and pen to coordinate transportation for the hikers. Mike, Dorothy and Steve gave up their entire day to drive 15 hikers around so that we could do a one-way hike from the top (Glacier Point) to the valley floor.

One of our fellow campers, Kieran, on his first camping trip ever.

We opted for the “7” mile “all downhill” option, thanks to another family with kids similar ages (Jenny and Steve’s boys are 11 and 13), and a few other fun adults who were going- I told my kids, “it’s all downhill!” and since others were going, they said, “ok, fine”.

On the way to Glacier Point (90 minute drive from the campground), Mike and Dorothy stopped at various spots to let us see the best views, and give us some orientation of where we would be going.

views along the drive.
Avian, Steve, Andrew, Mike, Matthew, and Stephen
Stephen; pretty happy to see Yosemite for the first time!
Avian and Stephen. And yes, I did freak out and yell at them not to go any closer to the edge.
But Stephen doesn’t always listen so well.
Don’t worry Mom it’s fine!

As we left Glacier Point, the sign said 8 miles (not 7) to Yosemite Valley. Oops.

Avian, Jenny and Andrew descending from Glacier Point.
Yosemite in the fall. Splashes of color along the route.

The first few miles flew by, the kids took turns running ahead down the trail, and Jenny and I wondered out loud, maybe we will finish in about 2 hours!?

Stephen, patiently waiting for us on the trail, after he had run his “fastest mile ever” in the initial descent.
We stopped by a creek to have our lunch.
Refilling water.

It’s a good thing we took a break here, because the next mile or two were not even close to being “downhill”. Despite the adults having “lied”┬áto the children (we really didn’t know), everyone marched along and their enthusiasm fully returned when we crested the top and began descending again. The adults also started to realize that our mileage was going to be significantly off…

waterfalls along our route
Love these giant pinecones.

When we reached Nevada Falls, we chatted with a couple that had come up from the valley – it took them 3 hours. Hmmm, this is going to be QUITE a bit longer than we thought. The kids accepted their fate and pretty happily continued down the now very rocky, steep trail. As we descended, the colors along the way were even more beautiful. We could now hear and/or see waterfalls continuously. It was breathtaking.

Photo Oct 29, 10 42 14 PM
Matthew, Stephen and Avian
Avian, Jenny, and Andrew
Photo Oct 29, 10 42 22 PM
Cynthia, me, and Jenny (Photo: Andy Pasternak)
Avian, who battled stomach problems for the last half of the hike, but never complained.
Avian and I taking a little rest. Photo: Andy

Cynthia, Jenny and the boys continued down the trail, and Avian and I hung with Quinn, Andy, JoAnn, and JoAnn’s mom, Marisa for the rest of the way. Two lost young boys approached JoAnn, and she coordinated a rescue (utilizing a small window of cell service) with a 9-11 call, discussions with the park service, and the eventual safe return to their father along the way. Her mother, Marisa, was a huge source of inspiration to all of us, as she fearlessly descended the steep, sometimes slippery steps.

Photo Oct 28, 5 02 12 PM
I was the most scared at this point, even with the railing. Fortunately, my 12 year old daughter led the way.
Photo Oct 28, 5 08 49 PM
Marisa (blue shirt) and Quinn (red shirt) coming down the Mist Trail
Photo Oct 28, 5 08 43 PM
Avian, appearing very small compared to her surroundings.
Avian and I on the Mist Trail. Photo by Jack Meyers, who came up the trail to meet us.
Vernal Fall
Photo Oct 28, 5 48 32 PM
Avian and I at the trailhead, almost done.
Photo Oct 29, 10 14 15 PM
Jack, Avian, and I walking through the valley. Photo: Andy Pasternak

When we met up with the rest of the group at the bottom, EVERYONE was happy. We were so impressed with the kids, who’d thought they’d be doing 7 miles downhill, and ended up with over 12 miles, over 1,100′ of climbing, and a ridiculous amount of descent.

elevation profile of hike

Photo Oct 28, 6 04 03 PM
Me and my hero, Marisa, at the end.

That night, back at the campground, our group cooking activity was foil-wrapped dinners, over the coals. Stephen prepared and cooked our family’s salmon, steak, and potatoes, and it was incredible. Mike’s dessert for everyone was “banana splits” – banana’s, halved, with chocolate chunks and mini marshmallows all baked in foil envelopes over the fire. We also finished off about 3 bags of roasted marshmallows.

kids cooking dinner over the fire.

Sunday morning, Mike prepared fresh beignets for all of us and our neighbors (who were very forgiving of our roudy shenanigans the night before). The beignets were AMAZING.

Mike’s kitchen. He always had an audience.
In addition to making food, Mike gave us an endless supply of hot water for the drink table.

After packing up camp, and saying our goodbyes, we stopped at a sequoia grove along the way for a short hike. We were all pretty sore from the day before.

Photo Oct 29, 1 10 33 PM
giant sequoia in the Tuolomne Grove

To further break up the drive home, the kids and I stopped at the Travertine Hot Springs near Bridgeport. This was Stephen and Avian’s first time, and they were thrilled with the experience. Avian and I stayed in one tub, but Stephen ran all over the place checking out each pool and reporting back to us.

It was the trip of a lifetime for me and my kids, and I will be forever grateful to Mike and Dorothy for being such gracious hosts and letting us all tag along on their family vacation.

5 responses to Yosemite Adventure 2017

  1. Marisa Ellero says:

    Thank you Jenelle ,for such a good description of our wonderful and adventures weekend !!! Love your photos too…. I was so happy to see you and your darling Kids !!! Hope to see you soon,… and break bread together…..or hike !!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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  1. […] Avian with D on October 7, 2017, after a day of barrel racing in Nevada. Avian is leasing D from her good friend Renee, whom she spent a lot of time with over the past year. Stephen, his dad, Jon, Avian, and their dog Stratton at Donner Lake on October 4, 2017. Photo shoot for a picture to be featured on a poster at the Truckee Chamber of Commerce Awards Dinner. Stephen’s team, the Blue Raptors, after winning the Truckee Cup soccer tournament on October 17, 2017. Avian also played AYSO soccer this season. Avian and Stephen in Yosemite on October 28, 2017. It was my first time to the Valley in 15 years, and the kids first time ever, made possible by our good friends from Reno, the Holmes, who organized and hosted a family-friendly trip. […]