Hetch Hetchy

(Written by Bill)

Haven’t posted for a few weeks for two reasons; 1) hard drive was acting up which took a while to resolve, and 2) doing some renovation at home which took most of my time.

Everything is beginning to get back to normal so we would like to share a backpacking trip we took on Fathers day weekend back in 2010 to the Hetch Hetchy Valley (Reservoir), which is a part of Yosemite National Park.  John Muir, who devoted most of his time to the preservation of the Western forests, described this valley as “one of nature’s rarest and most precious mountain temples.”

Although Hetch Hetchy was initially protected in 1890 by the establishment of Yosemite National Park (thanks in large part to John Muir for his dedication and persistence), in 1913 the city of San Francisco won congressional approval to build the O’Shaughnessy Dam which buried this extraordinary wilderness valley under 300 feet of water.  This reservoir supplies San Francisco, as well as other bay area cities with some of the cleanest purest water in the world.

With this being said, we have posted some photo’s taken during our three day backpacking trip in this breathtaking wilderness.

On day 1 we took off from our trail-head at O’Shaughnessy Dam (3,815′), and hiked up through Beehive Meadow to Lake Vernon (6,564′) where we set up camp for our first night. This was almost all up hill and a moderate to strenuous climb covering about 10 miles, but well worth the effort.  Lake Vernon is beautiful.

On day 2 we hiked another 10 miles from Lake Vernon through Tiltill Valley (5,580) and set-up camp (night 2) at Rancheria Falls (4,640′). What a spectacular raging torrent of water roaring down the hillside.  Because of the late season heavy snow fall in the sierra’s we had the opportunity to see the falls in all it’s glory.

Our last day would have us hiking above, and parallel to, the reservoir’s banks for most the the day as we headed back to the trail-head (O’Shaughnessy Dam).  This was one of the prettiest sections of our hike, giving us dramatic views of the majestic waters not far below and two beautiful peaks on either side of us.  Hetch Hetchy Dome (6,197′) on our right and Kolana Rock (5,772′) on our left.

About 3 miles into the days hike we came  to Wapama Falls.  This particular waterfall comes barreling down the rock face crashing into the boulders just above the reservoir sending water spraying in all directions.  The park services built some bridges (wooden and metal structures) that allow hikers to walk through the spray and just above the rapids.  It is quite exhilarating, refreshing, and very wet to say the least. I must add that this bridge section can also be very dangerous.  Two hikers lost their lives when they were swept off the bridge the weekend following our trip.

After getting through the gauntlet of water at Wapama Falls, we passed under a much smaller Tueeulala Falls shortly before getting back to the Dam (~6.3 miles).

With the first day all up hill and the second day mostly down, down down you can expect some blisters, this is a tough one. Although we did not see any bears, we did receive strong warnings from the Rangers that there was one particular black bear that was so bold, it would come right up to a backpacker and take his/her pack right off their back. You have to think twice about this one!

Hope you enjoy…

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48 Responses to Hetch Hetchy

  1. myuzickman says:

    Very nice photos!!!

  2. likeitiz says:

    This is where our drinking water comes from? Wow!

  3. Jerry says:

    Beautiful photos. Man, what I’d give not to live in Texas.

    • motioners says:

      My sister use to live in Texas and always said she loved it. I have been to Texas many times and really love it as well. But…..I get your point! Thanks for your feedback. bill

      • Jerry says:

        You know, it’s funny Bill. Those that live in the mountains seem to yearn for the flat lands, those that live in the flat lands yearn for the mountains.

    • melanietoulouse says:

      I do believe you, young man! :-) I lived in Houston, TX for 5 years, next to NASA and we spent all our vacation weeks out of Texas… :-) Good luck and have a serene weekend! :-)

  4. Makes me tired just reading this but thanks so much for sharing photos of places that I know I’ll never get to see..!

    • motioners says:

      Ouch…why can’t you put it on your bucket list. Once on the list, you then have to find a way to make it happen. If it’s any consolation, I have been to Marblehead many times and absolutely love it there. Twin lobsters at The Barnacle enjoying libations with friends. bill

  5. renxkyoko says:

    Been there several times. It’s really beautiful.

    • motioners says:

      Outstanding! There are many people in the San Francisco Bay Area that don’t even know of Hetch Hetchy, and many who are not aware of the terrific hiking in and around the reservoir. Thanks for adding your comment. bill

  6. Ingrid says:

    Amazing photos….thanks for sharing. We’re hoping to explore some of these stunning sites in CA real soon :-)

    • motioners says:

      Love what you’re doing – traveling! I was stationed at ENT AFB in Colorado Springs many years ago and we loved the area. I’m sure you will find a lot to do, and plenty to see, out here in sunny California. Happy travels. Thanks for your feedback. bill

  7. Thanks for taking all of us to a place that few will be lucky enough to visit in person. Wonderful photos – a real delight to browse through the collection. D

    • motioners says:

      Thanks Pairodox. Glad you enjoyed the set as much as I enjoy your blogs. Loved the piece titled Ricketts Glen … RAW. We vote for going RAW full time!! :) bill

      • Something tells me there’s lots of money to be made selling t-shirts to photographers … how about “Photographers do it in the RAW.” Sorry … couldn’t resist! D

  8. mamacormier says:

    Beautiful scenery!. Thanks for sharing.

  9. lignumdraco says:

    Wonderful photos as usual.

  10. lensandpensbysally says:

    Very nice set of photographs–inspiring scenery.

  11. prashlive says:

    Beautiful pics bill. The water is sometimes so beautiful and sometimes scary.

  12. bradvanfleet says:

    Awesome shots! The landscape there looks incredible.

    • motioners says:

      As we climbed up on day one, we hiked through a burned out section. It was a bit unsettling, seeing the devastation, but I guess this is a part of the forests. Thanks for your wonderful feedback. bill

  13. Wonderful shots!!! Third one is fabulous!!!!

  14. Glad you’re back! :-)

  15. fifot says:

    Great shots of a great landscape!

  16. Fantastic photos, I enjoyed always your journey story. Once more really great and fantastic photos :) Regards

  17. Patty B says:

    WOW great photos of a beautiful place. Glad to have you back!

  18. melanietoulouse says:

    Oh, Bill, you’re killin’ me softly(Eartha Kitt)… :-) Lucky you! I miss all these awesome spots and I hope to return to California some day… friendly hugs, Mélanie

  19. ideflex says:

    Your blog is a wonderful resource for great facts on wonderful places to go!
    Across the Bored has nominated you for a Bouquet of Awards at http://acrossthebored.com/2013/05/07/a-bouquet-of-awards/. If you choose to accept, feel free to cut and paste whatever you need from the post to make the process easier! If not, know that your blog is well appreciated and a source of inspiration for us.

  20. Janet says:

    Beautiful! I hope to do this backpacking trip one day.

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