Hetch Hetchy – Yosemite without the crowds

I’ve visited Yosemite National Park 18 times since coming to California in 1988.  It wasn’t until this past week that my family and I took the ‘road less traveled’ and entered the park via Evergreen Road about 30 minutes outside of Groveland, CA on Hwy 120.  The winding 8 mile drive into the park is beautiful, pine laden National Forest land interspersed with a 2 mile stretch of private land with striking meadows.  As you pass the Evergreen Lodge on your left, remind yourself that this is where dinner is after your hike ( more on this later ).  Just past the lodge you’ll drive through Camp Mather, a San Francisco Parks and Rec property.  Another half mile and you come to the Yosemite entrance to Hetch Hetchy.  We paid our $20 park fee (good for 7 days) and pulled into the parking lot above the reservoir.  In case you don’t know, Hetch Hetchy is the primary water source for San Francisco created by damming the Tuolumne River.  It’s a fascinating story in it’s own right.  I won’t discuss it here but there is a quiet but growing movement to restore the valley to it’s natural state.  Just a brief diversion…anyway we gathered our water for the hike and set out across O’Shaughnessy dam that creates the reservoir.  With the immense snow pack this year our first view of Wapama Falls from across the water was incredible!!  The Tuolumne river explodes over the spillway and starts it’s journey west.  Crossing the dam we entered a tunnel carved from the granite as part of the dam creation.  Exiting the far side we begin the 2.5 mile trek to the falls and the wooden bridges that cross the falls.  You can count this among the easiest hikes in Yosemite as there is very little elevation gain and footing is quite good the entire way.  None of us wore hiking boots for this trek and they weren’t needed.  The roar of the overflow at the dam faded as we skirted the edge of the lake and quickly approached Wapama Falls.  We could hear the water pounding before we turned the corner and saw the entire set of falls above us.  This is the best part of the hike as the temperature dropped from 93 to 75 as we walked across the bridges set into the granite by the Park Service to allow access to the trail on the far side.  Too noisy to talk, we just took in the incredible power of the water surrounding us with the occasional shower as bit more water hit an outcropping of rock just above us.   Thoroughly refreshed, we started heading back towards the dam where we could dry off and snack before we hiked back.  This is where SunRidge Farms snacks really come in handy.  Try Mountain Rainbow Mix or Berries and Chocolate Antioxidant Mix (pick up SunRidge bulk mix at the Groveland Market in Groveland about 30 miles before the Hetch Hetchy turnoff ) when you hike and you’ll find the energy and nutrition that tastes absolutely incredible for your hike back where you can cool off in the spray from the dam overflow.   Take the time to look back at the falls you just hiked to and just imagine the valley and canyon that John Muir described long before the dam was built.   Agree or disagree with the dam, it is still an amazing place and worthy of being part of the NPS and Yosemite.  The fact that you’ll see only a couple dozen hikers during the entire walk will have you coming back to enjoy Yosemite beauty without the crowds.   Here’s a link to some info on how to get there – http://www.yosemitehikes.com/hetch-hetchy/wapama-falls/wapama-falls.htm

Here’s the other hidden gem:  The Evergreen Lodge !!  Whatever you do, finish the hike by 4:00 so you have time to meander back to the Lodge parking lot and visit the Tavern.  Have a RedBreast Irish Whiskey (yes they pour RedBreast) and toast your day.  Grab a seat outside the entrance to the dinner hall and be among the first in line for dinner at 5:30 as it will be packed.  If your lucky you can sit outside and await a magnificent meal, which it will be.  Just trust me!  My wife and I liked it so much we drove back two nights later just to be sure that we weren’t crazy.  We weren’t.  Here’s the info for the lodge – http://www.evergreenlodge.com/ I just couldn’t keep this a secret…

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