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Buena Vista Peak from Chilnualna Falls, CA
mini location map2013-06-21
45 by photographer avatarJohn9L
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Buena Vista Peak from Chilnualna Falls, CA 
Buena Vista Peak from Chilnualna Falls, CA
Backpack avatar Jun 21 2013
Backpack30.51 Miles 7,070 AEG
Backpack30.51 Miles3 Days         
7,070 ft AEG
1st trip
Another wonderful trip to my favorite place on earth…Yosemite National Park! We spent three days and two nights completing a 30+ mile lasso loop. We camped in two prime locations and enjoyed a small fire each night. The highlight was scrambling to the top of Buena Vista Peak where the views were jaw dropping! We also had two bear encounters that were a thrill!

I wanted to do a short tune up backpack in preparation for a trip I have planned later this summer. I ran my plan by Chumley and he was game. We rented a car and left after work on Thursday. We arrived at a KOA in Coarsegold, CA around 2am and quickly turned in for the night. The plan was to wake early and drive into the park where we would get our permit and then start a lasso loop from Chilnualna Falls. We would complete our trip on Sunday and then make the return to Phoenix.

Day 1 - Friday June 21, 2013
Our day started at the Wawona Backcountry Office. We met with the ranger and he went over all the rules and made a recommendation for our first’s night’s camp. From there we drove over to the Chilnualna Falls trailhead and we were off. The trail immediately starts gaining elevation and it doesn’t let up. We grinded up the trail and stopped to catch our breath and take pics. There are some nice views of Wawona Dome and the falls along the way. Eventually we reached the top of the falls and took a break where again we took lots of pics and rested up. We continued on and the trail keeps gaining elevation. Our original goal was Grouse Lake (8 miles) but the ranger said we should push all the way to Royal Arch Lake (12+ miles). Luckily there were several lakes (Grouse, Crescent & Johnson) along the way and we took a short break at the latter two. We finally reached Royal Arch Lake, which was stunning, around 5pm and were glad to be done. We found a prime campsite that included a fire ring. We noticed the mosquitos right away. They were abundant and we knew they were going to be a pest. We then set up camp and gathered fire wood and settled in for the evening. The fire helped keep the mosquitos away. The temps were brisk but enjoyable especially with the fire.

Day 2 – Saturday June 22, 2013
We both woke relatively late for a backpacking trip and had a lazy morning in camp where we cooked breakfast and slowly prepared for the day. The plan was to summit Buena Vista Peak and then head west where we would hope to find a solid campsite for our second night. We started hiking and once again found ourselves gaining elevation as we ascended towards Buena Vista Pass. The going is relatively easy as it’s a mild grade up but we were hiking at 9,000 feet and our lungs could feel it. After an hour we reached the pass and took a short break. We dropped the bear canister and Chumley hung his pack. We didn’t want to haul everything to the summit just to return later.

From the pass, we went off trail towards Buena Vista Peak. We thought it was going to be a simple walk to the summit but we were wrong. The granite has exfoliated where it breaks apart forming a coarse path one needs to hop and scramble over, around and through. The going was slow but the views were magnificent. It took us a little under an hour to reach the summit and we were just blown away by the views. Yosemite is such an amazing place and I could sit in awe for hours soaking it in! Half Dome, Mount Starr King and Mount Hoffman loom to the north. Mount Clark, Grey Mountain and Red Peak dominate to the east. Our route the prior day past Crescent Lake and Johnson Lake is obvious to the south. I could have spent all day sitting here admiring!

Eventually we returned to Buena Vista Pass and continued heading north and then turning to the west. We stopped at Buena Vista Lake where we had an excellent view of the lake and the peak. It was hard to believe we were up there an hour earlier. From there we continued west as the trail dropped in elevation for the next few miles. While making the hike Chumley was up ahead and stopped and made a pointing signal. A large black bear we estimated weighed 400-500 lbs was just up ahead. I could clearly see it and man was it big! We both admired and took pics of it. It didn’t see us for a minute or two. As soon as it did see us it turned and ran a couple hundred yards and then stopped to look back at us. I took a couple more pics and then we bolted down the trail. It was a thrill seeing a bear in its natural habitat! From there we continued and reached a trail junction near a creek and found a nice campsite with a fire ring. We settled in for the night and enjoyed a small campfire once again. It really made for a nice evening.

Day 3 – Sunday June 23, 2013

The plan was to complete the hike back to the trailhead (about 8 miles) and then return to Phoenix. We both woke fairly early and had breakfast and then broke camp down. We started hiking shortly after 8am. We were only about 15 minutes up the trail when we heard a loud rustle up ahead and then we see another bear take off into the forest! It was another large black bear and I didn’t have time to take a pic. It was crazy fast for its size. There is no way to outrun a bear. The animal can really move!

The rest of the hike out was fairly uneventful. At one point we passed a ranger on horseback and had a five minute conversation with her. We were both surprised she didn’t ask to see our permit. From there we continued and reached the top of Chilnualna Falls and took a few more pics and then proceeded down the trail. As we neared the bottom we passed a bunch of day hikers starting their hike. We arrived back at the car around 11am. From there we made a quick stop at Wawona and then started the long drive back to Phoenix. I was home a little after 10pm.

We really crammed a lot in a short time. The entire trip flew by and was a blur. The good thing is I am just about ready for my trip this summer. It’s going to be epic! And thanks Chumley for coming along for this one. He did most of the driving and I’m very grateful for that! For anyone thinking about going to Yosemite now is the time! The park is spectacular and doesn’t disappoint! I started planning this trip three weeks prior and everything went flawlessly! I can’t wait to get back!
Sugar pine
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