Upper Pines Campground in Yosemite National Park was our home for five nights, and what an experience it was. It was beautiful, being surrounded by the towering trees. But it was also a few other things; It was loud, crowded, and full of mischievous and bold squirrels. But those things are not negative, and neither was our experience, regardless of how bizarre and surprising it was at times. We lucked out on the site we chose (which we had to reserve 5 months in advance) and ended up getting one of the bigger sites available. Though it’s hard to see from pictures due to there not being any explicit borders separating the campsites from each other, ours was enormous. As far as National Parks go, this is the biggest site I have gotten out of any of the National Park sites I’ve stayed in.
Not only was our sight huge, but it was in a prime location compared to some of the other campsites available throughout Yosemite. Within a 5 minute walk was the Merced River, a number of trail heads, Half Dome Village, and the free shuttle stops that took us to places like Yosemite Village, El Capitan, and Bridalveil falls among many others. No matter if you were looking for a 2 minute walk to the bottom of a waterfall or a huge rock formation, or a strenuous all day hike to multiple sights, Upper Pines was close to all of it.
Out of the all the interesting and peculiar people we met, a man named Pony was the most unique. Pony looked to be in his mid 30’s and had a long brown pony-tail, and also just happened to be Native-American.
As we were setting up camp the first night, the man we would later find out was Pony came up to us asking if he could borrow a air pump for his blow-up mattress . Jacqueline looked at me wearily but I said yes. Our mattresses were already blown up, and really who steals those things? He even offered us some beers in exchange for us allowing him to borrow ours. We said sure and then thought nothing. As he begin to leave I went for the handshake which he somewhat aggressively pushed away and grabbed my forearm and spoke in some type of Native tongue I was not familiar with. I smiled and went with it, not knowing what to do until he made his exit.
It was an odd experience, just because it came so far out of left field. But the thing was, he didn’t end up bringing it back that night and we thought we got jacked for our air pump – So be it. But about three nights later, Pony made a reoccurrence and surprised us late at night by slowly walking into our campsite with a hoody on. It wasn’t until I was about 3 feet away from him with my flashlight in his face that I realized who it was. Talk about creepy. He brought back our air pump and offered us beers and other substances, but we declined due to his weirdness and the general vibe about him. We might have dodged a bullet, who knows.
We made a few trips to Half Dome Village for things like ice and Souvenir t-shirts but what we got in addition to those things were sightings of wild animals. These animals showed no fear, or even care for that matter, to the human presence all around them. Seeing these large bucks and small does being so tranquil and unbothered by the human encroachment was surreal. Unfortunately, many people did not respect these animals personal space and got too close for comfort in order to get photos. Fortunately for them, the animals didn’t seem to mind their presence and continued on their way. But the biggest disappointment of this trip, and probably the only one, was the lack of bear sightings, which was my biggest summer goal.
After our first day of hiking, our second day consisted of relaxation at the river which was about a 4 minute walk from our campsite. I wasn’t playing when I said our campground was in a prime location. As we sat our butts in the sand and the hot sun glared upon us, we could only sit and sip on our cider beers and marvel at the immensity of the granite walls that seemed to enclose us on all sides, completely dwarfing the huge trees that grew on them.
Even with the amazing view we had, it got better as we had the calm river in front of us and a spot underneath a shady tree where all kinds of bluejays came and went throughout the day. The water was freezing cold, but that didn’t stop Olivia, Jacqueline, and I from wading and diving in, which you can see in the videos below.
Whether it was after a full day of hiking up a mountain or a day of relaxing at the beach on the river, we always came back to camp ready to eat – And eat we did. Thanks to the girl’s grocery buying abilities and planning, we had gourmet meals every night after our day activities. They were gourmet meals at least compared to what Jacqueline and I have eaten in the past. Check out a few of the meals we made in the slide show below.∇∇
The peculiar experiences with people did not stop at Pony. As we were roasting marshmallows we heard people yelling out something which sounded like a name. We immediately begin to worry that someone or someone’s pet had been lost and at this time it was dark so one can imagine that fear. The yelling continued until we actually came across a couple with accents, that had to be some type of European, who told us what was going on. They were lost all right, but only could not find there camp site which had to have been close. So the yelling was probably unnecessary.
They said that they were yelling “Elmer”, which us three didn’t give any thought to except for the peculiarity of the name itself. We were annoyed and wanted to relax without hearing people yelling and flashing their flashlights to and fro.
But a day or two later while waiting to talk to a ranger, I overhead him talking about how he was there in the 50’s when a little boy “Elmer” went missing. Turns out he was found but his mother’s frantic screaming was made into a joke the next day and a tradition was started. Too bad for us, the traditional yelling of the name started a bit late that night at around 10 PM instead of the supposed dusk.
With the fun we had in Yosemite every day and the people and things we met along the way (conniving squirrels named Francis), every night ended the same way – With three friends huddled around the campfire enjoying each other’s company and talking until our minds caught up with our sore bodies and forced us to go to our tents.
Upper Pines was the perfect home base while in Yosemite but the real adventures started right outside the campsite with the incredible scenery, hiking, and company, which you will be able to check out and read about in the coming days.