When: April 14-15th 2017
Who: Ben & Sarah Where: Hite Cove in El Portal, Ca (right outside of Yosemite on Hwy 140)
Hite Cove is a random little spot that I happened to stumble upon while searching for early season backpacking options not too far from our home in Oakland, Ca. (especially difficult in this crazy high snow year!) It is just outside of Yosemite National Park and is a 4.5 mile trail (9 mile round trip) out and back along the Merced River. No permits are required or fees, just a campfire permit to operate your stove (no campfires are allowed) So me and Sarah picked a random Friday in April to go for an overnight escape.
We got up real early as usual and were out the door by 6:30am for the 3 hour drive. I love driving in the early morning when the sun is just coming up over the hills! The drive went by in no time, aided by the beautiful rolling green hills around us. Soon we came to the trailhead sign along Hwy 140 and parked across the street, along the road. We grabbed our bags and headed up the hill immediately along the flowing Merced.
The views were awesome and the weather perfect. Bonus that the thin trail along the mountain side was lined with several different wildflowers, blooming succulents, and newts, SO DREAMY!
We followed the river along the whole way, closely watching the trail for newt friends and different flowers. The only downside to this trail is that there is TONS of poison oak trying to ruin your life. Like SO much of it sneaking out from other bushes and then just straight up clumps in your way not even trying to hide. Poison Oak is the honey badger of the plant world.
It’s hella pretty here though so we just do our best to avoid it and are thankful for long sleeves and pants. About halfway in we drop down to parallel the river, finding a neat spot for a snack break with some cool wavy lined rock jutting into the river.
After a lovely snack time of Cheese It’s (I always love a naughty salty snack for backpacking) and trail mix, we were on our way again. We wove along the trail some more and then into a sandy pine area with creepy old gold mining equipment.
History time: “The Ahwahneechees were the first inhabitants of Hite Cove area for more than a thousand years, using the area in winter and spring, and returning to their ancestral land in Yosemite Valley. In the 1850s, the mariposa Battalion were the first European Americans. John Hite settled in 1862 and owned and operated a gold mine for 17 years here. By 1874, the facility had increased from a crude circular stone arrastra pulled by mules to a 20 unit stamp mill to break rock to extract the gold. Historical dollar production of gold removed was valued at $3,000,000″ – Info from Yosemite.com.
So needless to say white colonists stole the land from the Native American people to mine for gold here until it ran out in the early 1900s. Then they left the equipment behind and sold the land to someone else, who at least preserved it mostly for trail use (the first 3/4 mile is on private property). I think it’s important to know this stuff so when we visit these lands we can be mindful and honor those for whom this land was truly their home for MORE THAN A THOUSAND YEARS, rather than ooh and ahh over rusting machines. Real history is what’s up.
We moved past the machines and into the end of the established trail. There are only a few sites here that are flat for camping and we chose a spot up on a hill overlooking the river below with a tributary stream nearby. It was peaceful and had a good breeze to cool us in the afternoon sun. We set camp, took naps, snacked, and explored. I scrambled down to the river below and found some cool rocks, a piece of an old glass bottle, and a piece of an old looking ceramic plate with flowers on. I left the rocks behind but packed out the human trash stuff.
Sarah was still napping when I returned from exploring but soon hiker hunger had her up and we boiled water for mac n cheese and cheesy potato soup dinners. We made some hot peppermint tea after since as soon as the sun dipped behind the mountains it got chilly. Then we retired to our warm sleeping bags to read until we passed out to the sound of the river rushing below and drowning out any ghost noises.
The morning dawned cold and our tent was covered in condensation from the surrounding grass. We got coffee in us ASAP and tried to wait for the sun to hit our little spot.
It seemed that it would be a long time coming so I stuffed the wet tent in my outer pocket of my awesome Gossamer Gear bag (its maiden voyage trip and I’m in love 😍 ) and we headed off with thoughts of warm lunch in the little town of Mariposa on the way home. We passed a few tents in the sandy spot near the mining equipment and finally into a sunny spot to warm up along the river.
It was about this point in the sun when we both realized how good we felt and the rejuvenating effects of even just one night in the wilderness. We practically floated the 4.5 miles out, making it back to the car in under 2 hours. On the way out we passed a few wildflower peeping day hikers and a big group of backpackers coming in. There were also tons of newts out this morning, so we really had to watch our steps.
After we hit the car, we quickly changed clothes in the hopes we could avoid getting the dreaded poison oak (only time will tell 😐) and drove to Mariposa for really good Mexican food. Soon we were back home with our fur beasts and looking forward to our next adventure on the Southern portion of the Lost Coast the end of May. Thanks for reading and cheers!