North Dome

July 26, 2016

Today, decided on an oldie but goodie hike; it’d been two or three years since we’d been out on North Dome.

North Dome trailhead, which takes off from Porcupine Creek, is about seventeen miles from Tuolumne Meadows Lodge, so today was a get-in-car-and-drive day. The no-longer-free shuttles (don’t get me started), go only as far as Olmsted Point–twelve miles from the lodge.

Oh, now I’m started…. the no-longer-free shuttles….here’s the scoop:

With longtime Yosemite concessionaire Delaware North out and Aramark in, there are just untold dramas playing out. There’s the high profile trademark kerfuffle that’s resulted in the name changing of landmark institutions (for example, the historic and beloved Ahwahnee Hotel is now the Majestic... and other such silly things), and there are the dozens of other smaller, lower profile changes that are noticeable to people like us who return year after year and have well-established routines and practices that are now sort of.. different.

Like, for instance, the shuttle busses that were once free and are now not. Worst decision ever. The result of charging $12 (per person) for the 15-minute ride from the lodge to Olmsted Point, for example, is that nobody’s going to ride the shuttle. We’d always appreciated the ability to just grab day packs, climb on a shuttle and get dropped off at a trailhead. Or to flag down a bus if we emerged at some random place along the road after some off trail adventure. Easy peasy. Free. Convenient. And so relaxing. I mean, who wants to drive? But $36 for the three of us, plus the added hassle of now having to carry money/credit cards, plus the time it takes for everyone climbing on board to deal with these transactions… for crying out loud.

Worst of all, the result of people forgoing the now expensive and far-less convenient busses is bumper-to-bumper LA-style congestion all through the twelve-mile Tuolumne Meadows area, and super impacted parking at trailheads. It’s beyond ridiculous. Their goal has always been to minimize traffic impact in the park, for a zillion excellent reasons. The result of this boneheaded move is more cars, more traffic jams, likely more accidents and empty shuttle busses. Word among the lodge staff is they’ll reverse this decision. Hoping for that by next year.


Not only am I dealing with an arthritis-challenged hip, but last Saturday’s first-day acclimation hike up Murphy Creek, for some reason, left me with a whole slew of crazy end-of-toe blisters. Now, these are boots I’ve owned since the spring of 2011, boots I wore all over the Himalayas, and for years up and down the mountains of the Sierra (and wherever else I may have hiked). My boots. My totally worn in, trail-tested, perfectly fitted boots. Last year, I wore these well-worn boots on day one of our summer hiking season and, out of the blue,  ended up with a major case of toe jam which lead to the loss of a several nails…a week before we were leaving for three weeks in Europe, I might add, where walking the streets of major European cities and hiking in the mountains of Norway and Switzerland were very much a part of the plan. So I was pretty let down by my boots last year. I promptly forgot about that, however, until I found myself hobbling down the Murphy Creek trail two days ago with that same annoying toe jam. Which turned into all these annoying blisters.

Really baffled by this, but there it is.

Jim was kind enough to administer first aid this morning:


I was grateful, but a horrible subject… as the procedure included a needle. Won’t go into detail.


Back to the North Dome hike: it’s a great one.. a mile-ish down to numerous forks of the small Porcupine Creek; another mile and a half, or so, out to a junction, where one can catch a trail down to the valley, as well as other notable remote spots; and then up and up another mile, maybe, to a nice ridge and another trail that takes you to Indian Rock. This ridge forms the western edge (I think western) of Tenaya Canyon, on the eastern side of which is gorgeous Cloud’s Rest and the spectacular Half Dome. You’ll never get a better view of Half Dome. The canyon’s granite wall is just simply breathtaking, a word invented for this view.

Once out of the trees and onto the dome, I set up on a rock under a tree, amid all the towering granite (my happy place), and Jim and Peter continued to the very end of the ridge and the official rounded mound of granite known as North Dome. This is maybe another half mile of granite scrambling and is really fun. I hated not to go, but I’ve been out there numerous times. I missed the chance to peer over the edge down into the main Yosemite valley itself, but I knew my hip wouldn’t handle it well. (On the blister front, they still hurt like hell, but were small zones of pain, limited to discreet, tiny circles. The hip…. that’s another category of hurt with sharp, gasp-worthy shooting pains and sometimes radiating tendrils of pain that aren’t quite as endurable.)

So…happy enough to sit.

The only problem was I’d left both the camera and my iPhone in the car. No pics! I did remember the binocs, so amused myself looking at amazing details in nature near and far.

And again, will have to post some of Jim’s pictures later. Come back.