Yosemite – Chilnualna Falls

July 2015


For the past few years we have venturing out with our longtime friends, ‘The Small’s’. We are comprised of two couples in their early 40’s and their children…4 elementary aged and 1 entering high school.

This past weekend my wife and kids spent a few days in Tahoe and were kind enough to drop me off at the I-80 Donner Summit Rest Area to tackle another section of the PCT. (PCT Day 9– blog post)

IMG_4793 (1)

This weekend we are joining up with the Small Family in Yosemite. It is our year to pick the trail…we dilly dallied on making a selection until finally, a few weeks before the scheduled weekend,My wife suggested a river with granite slides…in Yosemite. Sounds great…But, Yosemite requires reservations and we are looking at doing this in 2 weeks???

I jump online and go through the painful ‘recreation.gov’ website. Painful in the sense that 1) I still have a problem with making reservations and having to paying to enter public lands, and 2) having make reservations and pay to visit public land.

Don’t get me wrong. I completely understand this reality, I just do not like admitting it. I was lucky enough to spend my childhood roaming national forest lands where it was just me forming a relationship of respect with the land… I didn’t have to pay the government for that right or privilege.

Looking at the reservation list for the various trail heads in Yosemite, it is quickly apparent that the next available open slot for the majority of trails is in about 6 months or November/December. Yet, Chilnualna was wide open, Yay! I guess nobody wants to hike the Southwest corner of Yosemite…

We leave around 5 am to make the 5 hour drive to the trail head. We make it into Wawona, pick up our backcountry permit and drive up to the trail head. By midday we are on the trail climbing the 2330 feet in 4 miles. Our 9 year old and myself break from the family pack and are making great time up the hill. Once on the top we scout a camping spot, drop our gear and head back down the trail to help carry some of the others gear.

We found a nice spot at the base of a large boulder with ample space for the 4 tents. We relax this evening with short walks to see the falls and the gathering of firewood. We enjoy a nice beef stroganoff dinner and some roasted marshmallows.  Would a strange treat it is to have a fire.IMG_4767

The following morning we gear up to make a day of hiking up stream to hit some of the natural granite slides and a day of swimming in the river.

It is July after 3 years of drought, so not much water is flowing, but enough to have some sliding and swimming fun.

The most important aspect of this annual hike into the woods is the simple fact of getting our children out into the wilderness for a few days of backcountry experience.

The teenager really wanted her phone, but that was denied. Nobody complains that they can’t watch TV or play on the Ipad. Everyone is happy and using their own creativity in using what is available…sticks and rocks. Forts are built and occupied, the girls building their hut and the boys either trying to build their own or destroy the one the girls are constructing.

Our last day was pretty much eat breakfast, pack up camp and make our way back down the trail to the car. IMG_4825

We stop at the little market to buy everyone a cold soda and then we proceed to make our way north through the park. We realized that we have never taken our kids to Yosemite Valley, so we have to make that detour. Within an hour we are among the hordes of other tourists fighting for space to get a perfect family picture, stand in line for a t-shirt, or wait forever until the overpriced well done burger flies onto the cafeteria tray.

The most disturbing aspect of all was the traffic jam we had to sit in just trying to get into the Valley. We were lucky enough to squeeze into a parking spot in front of the chapel and walk the rest of the way. The traffic was simply not moving.

We walked for a few hours, saw the sites and by 8 pm we were back at our car and ready to head home…Thankfully the traffic was gone and we made good time.

Overall a great long weekend outing into one of the most beautiful spots in the world.