Backpacking in Yosemite, 4th of July Tradition

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Glen Aulin, Yosemite
July 3-6, 2014

For the last three years, I’ve spent the 4th of July in one of the most beautiful places in the United States – Yosemite National Park.

My first trip was in July 2012, the year I moved back from New York. I had just torn my MCL and meniscus 5 months prior, but my craving for nature since being deprived while living in a concrete jungle (and stubbornness) opened a window to an unforgettable experience I look forward to every year.

The Glen Aulin hiking trip is an easy way to introduce beginners to backpacking. As a first timer 3 years ago, I had no idea what I was getting myself into but was open to Experiencing the Unexpected.

The hike in from Tuolome is about 5.6 miles (although we think it’s closer to 7). As soon as we started the trail, we were greeted with jaw dropping views of nature in its true self – untouched endless meadows, mountains in the far distance, and water so clear nature can see it’s own reflection of beauty. After two hours of hiking (and a few swimming stops to cool off), we started to make our way down into the canyon to the Glen Aulin camp.

The waterfall at Glen Aulin is breathtaking. I remember being in awe the first time I saw it and every year my breath is continuously taken away by its grandeur and beauty. The fun fact about it is that you can actually climb the rocks to go behind the falls – it’s loud and a bit scary (I will fully admit I usually have a little panic attack every time), but swimming under literally tons of water crashing into the natural pool below is quite the adrenaline rush.

After a full day of hiking with 30-35 pounds on my back and swimming in ice cold but refreshing pools, the camp rewards us with hearty and delicious 4-course dinner. Granted visitors do need to get their hands on one of the limited meal passes or have a reservation in order to stay in one of their tents, the camp makes backpacking easy. Instead of carrying in all of your food for three days, Glen Aulin provides breakfast and dinner for a limited number of campers every day – and surprisingly the food is actually quite good.

Between sliding down natural water slides, swimming in some of the most beautiful pools with breathtaking views, relaxing under the sun with warming rocks beneath you, and playing with danger by standing in a cascading waterfall that can be the end of you with one wrong step, the hike to Waterwheel Falls is like playing in nature’s hidden playground. There’s nothing else like it and by far beats any expensive vacation I’ve had abroad. Not only is it a cheap vacation ($130 for the wilderness and meal pass), but you have to work for every moment of it so it’s much more rewarding. The hike down to the falls isn’t too difficult but hiking back up out of the canyon is definitely a strenuous workout.

Disconnecting for four days is like pressing a reset button. No phones, no tv, no radio, no electricity, nothing connecting you to the outside world. It’s just you, the people you’re with, and the things you could carry on your back surrounded by nature at its best. Having next to nothing makes you appreciate what you do have and helps you realize more important things beyond materialistic matters that usually fill our daily concerns – like water conservation, the preservation of natural forests and national parks, and one’s self. Looking inward is important. Focusing on how to be a better person, your contributions to the world, to Mother Earth, and to those around you become far more important than any petty matter back home. It’s a time for reflection, appreciation, and a time to feel alive, triggered by nature itself.

And who do I have to thank for introducing me to one of God’s greatest gifts, one of my best friends, Micah Black, and his family.

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