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Monday, June 28, 2021

Chiluana Falls Backpack

 Arturo suggested Chilnualna Falls as a place in Yosemite that nobody ever considers for a backcountry camping trip, and indeed when I looked on the website I saw that the permit was available for Sunday, May 30th->May 31st. May 31st was memorial day, so we could easily make it. I got the backcountry permit and then got reservations at the Oakhurst Lodge for May 29th, so we could arrive the day before to collect our backcountry permit, and maybe do a day hike. In contrast to the previous year, when the ranger briefing was conducted over the phone, this year they wanted us to show up in person. Also, while the park entrance permit was good for 7 days, this year it was only good for 3!

On Saturday, we drove to the park. Arriving at the park entrance around 1:00pm, it took us until 2:30pm to clear the park entrance, a horrifying wait. The park ranger told us that for our entry the next day from Oakhurst, we should plan to be at the entrance by 7am, because the Wawona entrance was even more impacted! We got to the wilderness permit area just as we started hearing thunder, but the rangers were friendly and gave me the usual spiel about backcountry camping in Yosemite.

By the time I was done with all that it was 4pm. We drove to the mist trail trailhead, but Boen balked at doing the walk. Xiaoqin had also gotten some sort of food poisoning from her trip to the hairdresser on Friday, but Bowen talked Boen into taking the walk by carrying him for a few steps, after which he was OK.

We got to Happy Isles before they decided they were done and wanted to visit the hotel. Xiaoqin was feeling too ill to even walk much, so at the hotel we asked if she could stay an extra night instead of backcountry camping. The hotel manager said they reserved a room precisely for this, so they charged us an extra night.

The next morning I got the kids up at 5:30am, ate a quick breakfast and was on the road by 6:15, arriving at the Wawona entrance by 6:45am. There were 5 cars ahead of us, but when we got to the front gate we saw that it was a self-registration system with no one checking slow computers for permits, so we just drove straight through. It was much faster, and we arrived at the trailhead around 7:00am. I repacked the contents of my backpack for 3 people instead of 4, and then we embarked up the trail.

The trail already had people on it, but as we hiked past the stock trail intersection we stopped seeing many people. The trail was beautifully maintained, lined with shrubs with white flowers that were likely pollinated by mosquitoes. I started feeling bites and we stopped to put on sunscreen and insect repellant.
At a natural river access point, I hiked down to the river to get fresh water, and was horrified when at first my Katadyn BeFree refused to filter. I looked at the bottle and saw that it told me to swish the filter, so I took it out and did so and finally it produced water. Lesson learned: always bring a spare!

The hike up got warmer as we got higher, but not uncomfortably so. We were told by some hikers to eat lunch at a place with weeping walls, and it was indeed nice. They even gave us water!

It was a good call, because right after that we left the shade to climb the last 600 feet to the trail intersection signs. We all ran out of water then.

Lots of hikers coming down told us that there was great camping, including a site between the two waterfalls. But when I got there I saw that most of the sites were actually illegal, except for one, and it was already occupied. I finally settled for a spot that was barely hospitable, but was next to another spot that a couple of families that were camping, which was how I met Naomi, Naomi (there were 2), Ansel, Avi, Shoshana, and more people whose names I couldn't remember. I pitched the tent, fetched water, but the exposure was too much, so I took the hammock down and we went in search for a shaded place with views of the cascades.

In the evening, I realized I'd forgotten toothpaste, and offered to trade marshmallows to the other families in exchange for toothpaste. The kids were enthusiastic, and started a campfire in less time then it took for me to pee.

The next morning I woke up with a sore back but the trip down promised to be short and fast, so after a quick breakfast, we packed up and left around 7:45am. The hike down was gorgeous but we were soon reminded that mosquitoes were active.

The kids ate the rest of the marshmallows on the way down, and we took one last look at the waterfall before heading down to the parking lot and home.

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