Thursday, June 12, 2008

Hiking Yosemite's Half Dome & Paso Robles Wine-tasting for $160.50!

Last week, I decided to celebrate/suffer on my birthday by hiking up Half Dome (basically, a mile high hunk of granite rock) in Yosemite National Park. Because I just happily blew about $1000 the week earlier on a last minute trip to Costa Rica (more about that on my next post), Ugly Shoe and I decided to complete our hiking expedition semi-budget style.

Relatively last minute trip entailed little planning, which was fine on the fitness side of things but more difficult when it came to finding accommodations.

Training wise, although I wondered ‘Am I fit enough for a 4750ft elevation, 18 mile roundtrip hike?’ I was still too lazy to actually do any training to ensure I was physically ready--my one overly ambitious training session the Santa Monica stairs almost resulted in voluntary house-arrest since I could barely walk down to the street from my 2nd story apt for the next couple of days.

I started looking for accommodations a month prior to our Yosemite visit and discovered most hotel rooms in the Yosemite area are way overpriced—for example, Comfort Inn, Shilo Inn and Days Inn: typically in the $50-70 range in Anytown, USA were all around $150…and at that price, sold out!!) Most hotels are also booked solid months in advance (Who knew outdoor enthusiasts were so anally on the ball?).

It’s slim-pickin’s if you want to stay inside Yosemite National Park; you’ve got the semi-affordable Yosemite Lodge at the Falls & the historic Wawona Hotel (both $150+ but usually sold out 6 months in advance) the way pricey Four Seasons-nesque Anwahnee Hotel ($350-$1000) and the rustic Curry Village Camp Grounds ($20 per car if tent camping, $85-115 if renting a no-electricity, no-indoor plumbing hut).

Out of what was available, we picked Oakhurst Lodge for our first night; a no-frills motel lodge with a floral chintz bedspread and loud fan but free coffee and a AAA discount ($10 off our accommodations!)

Oakhurst is 16 miles from the Yosemite’s Southern Entrance gate, which translates to about an 1hr 15min drive from motel door to the base of Half Dome on the Valley floor.

Many others chronicle the hike in more detail, (I particularly like this one which gives a hiking timeline), but my three pieces of advice are;
• take the windy John Muir trail on the way up and the stairs-filled Mist trail on the way down (you’ll get soaked, but in a good, refreshing way, and the views of the gushing Nevada waterfall are amazing)
• Pack your lunch, then throw out half of it. You’ll eat way less than you think and enjoy the lighter pack. We shared a packet of beef jerky, two oranges and a Clif bar. Follow the maximum guidelines for water though, we finished our gallon CamelPak easily
• Buy cheapo suede gardening gloves at the 99c store! You’ll need them for the wire cables at the end, chances are there’s a pile of used gloves at the bottom of the cables to choose from, but the 99c investment will guarantee you have a left and right glove and save you from donning an ex-hiker’s sweaty, weather-beaten gloves.

It took us 4 hours to get to the top. I’ll let the pics do the talking regarding the view at the top. Worth it. I loved the patch of snow at the top and enjoyed the most delicious tasting orange ever up there.

The night after the hike, we stayed at Narrow Gauge Inn, a grandmama B&B located in the picturesque-sounding town of Fish Camp (2 miles from the Southern gate entrance). This was my birthday splurge accommodations and the fresh fruit-filled complimentary breakfast buffet and laser-beam intensity of the shower’s water pressure blasting off a 10hr hike’s worth of dirt and sticky sunscreen was so worth the extra $$.

The next morning, we cut across to the coast to Paso Robles—home to 200+ wineries--for some morning birthday drinking. It was a cheap birthday celebration; the majority of the wineries offer complimentary tastings.

We arbitrarily picked the winery pitstops based on convenience (most are off the main drag of the 46 highway), pretty looking grounds and if we liked the name of the winery. Our favorites were Vina Robles and Eberle Estates (where we bought a bottle of Muscat and where ex-Top Chef contestant, Tre Wilcox is going to host a dinner in the Eberle wine cellar in July). The steady stream tiny nips of alcohol perfectly balanced being non-tipsy enough to drive while relaxing our hike-tired muscles, saving them from achey pains on the drive home.

A big hike to commemorate that my legs still have it after 30 years and a pleasant wine-induced buzz on my 31st made this trip an awesome and affordable b’day getaway.

Oakhurst Lodge : $88 per person
Narrow Gauge Inn: $156 per person
Gas: 2 tanks in my Prius, $40
Yosemite National Park Pass: $20
Beef jerky, Clif bars and other roadtrip/hiking essentials: $15
Gardening Gloves: 99 c each
Wine-tasting: free!
Total: $320.98 for two, $160.49 per person

More visitor's info for Yosemite & Half Dome


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