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Making a Scrapbook album of a hike to Little Yosemite Valley and rock climbing The Half Dome

The Half Dome hike has a reputation for being one of the most unforgettable hikes, reaching 4,800 feet over the Yosemite Valley. It’s a hike you’ll remember for a lifetime. But, more to the point, it’s a hike that requires some planning for obvious permit reasons. Did you know that until 1865, the Half Dome was declared to be “perfectly inaccessible” and would never be “trodden by human foot”? The first cable route allowing hikers to reach the summit was laid in 1875.

 

One seasoned hiker shares her 3-day trip planning experience, and a detailed account of her hiking trip to Little Yosemite Valley and rock climbing the Half Dome, and making her Scrapbook album in the Routespunkt Hiking Grid Diary app.

Using a Scrapbook to journal and preserve moments, pics and emotions of my hike

Embarking on a hiking adventure is thrilling, and there's no better way to cherish those memories than by documenting them. I make a habit of writing my hiking stories in my scrapbook app. More than a diary, I find my digital scrapbooking allows me to mix beautiful nature photography with handwritten text, or even lettering art when I am feeling creative.

 

For me, this goes beyond sharing journey photos with friends. It is all about creating my personal guide and storybook about the adventure.

 

So, it comes as no surprise that the first thing I packed on my Half Dome and Little Yosemite Valley hike was my Apple Pencil and iPad with my digital scrapbook app.

 

Capturing memories in real-time enhances the experience, allowing me to preserve the emotions and details of each moment. From the serene beauty of Little Yosemite Valley, to the exhilarating climb up the Half Dome cables, I like to document every step of my journey. I think of it as both a companion and a guide for future hikes.

It makes me a better hiker who is respectful of her environment. Truth be told, nothing humbles you more than the Half Dome hike, from the physical and mental challenges to the breathtaking beauty of the wilderness. And these are memories I never want to forget.

Breathtaking snapshot of the Half Dome at Yosemite, taken at sunset from Glacier Point

So why the Little Yosemite Valley and Half Dome hike? Let me take you through a hiking journey!

Part 1: Trip Planning phase

Deciding on my next hiking destination wasn’t difficult. The iconic Half Dome and the serene Little Yosemite Valley had been on my bucket list for years. As an avid hiker and adventure traveler, I thrive on exploring new trails, climbing challenging peaks, and immersing myself in the beauty of nature. This time, I aimed for a multi-day hike that would not only test my physical and mental endurance but also offer me the chance to camp under the stars.

Half Dome hiking permit

For the Half Dome hike, I had a few options: winning the pre-season permit lottery or applying for the daily permit lottery two days before the hike. Lottery permit means that essentially only a few hikers will win a permit. Pre-season permit lottery grants 300 permits a day, and daily permit lottery 50 permits a day. And if you’re still unlucky with the lottery, you can try to permit jump by using an empty permit slot from another hiker.


Truth be told, using an overnight Wilderness permit for Little Yosemite Valley with an overnight close to the Half Dome is the best option. You can add an option for the Half Dome hike permit without needing the lottery.

Packing for the Trip

My gear list included the essentials: a sturdy backpack, sleeping bag, tent, cooking supplies, and plenty of food and water. Additionally, I packed appropriate clothing for various weather conditions. Believe it or not but it is absolutely freezing on top of the Half Dome even mid-summer!

 

Footwear was particularly important, so I chose my most reliable hiking boots paired with gloves for extra grip for the journey on the cable path.

One unique aspect of my packing is my digital scrapbook setup. My Apple Pencil and iPad are a must-have. I use a scrapbooking app to document my journey and capture every moment while it is still fresh in my mind. To keep my iPad charged, I packed a portable solar panel and extra battery packs. These gadgets would allow me to take nature photos, write journal entries, and design scrapbook pages even in the wilderness.

Camping tent surrounded by trees shot at night time, at Little Yosemite Valley

Food and hydration are top priorities. Staying hydrated is critical, especially given the strenuous nature of the hike. I always pack a stove and a mix of dehydrated meals, energy bars, nuts, and dried fruits - this should sustain me over the 3-day adventure.

 

For sleeping, I have a backpacking tent, an ultralight sleeping pad and a compact, down-filled sleeping bag that would keep me warm during the chilly nights in Little Yosemite Valley.

 

Finally, I prepare for safety with a first aid kit, a map and compass for navigation, a headlamp with extra batteries, and a multi-tool. I also pack sunscreen, insect repellent, and a hat to protect against sunburn.

A scenic waterfall and a beautiful reflection in the flooded waters of Yosemite valley

Part 2: Beginning of the Journey

The plan was simple:

  • First the Little Yosemite Valley trail

  • Then the Half Dome hike

 

Here’s a tip for you: You don’t want to park too far from the start of the trail. Unfortunately, there is no parking available next to Happy Isles where the trail starts. The closest parking is approximately half a mile from Happy Isles, beyond Curry Village. You can walk the distance, or you can take the shuttle bus to the trailhead.

Campsite

You can find campsites all along Yosemite Valley, and I also settled for one of those before I did my research. If you want to add the Half Dome hike to your overnight Wilderness permit, you will need to camp very close to the start of the Half Dome hike. So, this is where the Little Yosemite Valley trek will make all the difference.

Timing my hikes

Starting at Happy Isles, the Little Yosemite Valley route follows either the Mist Trail or John Muir Trail, both passing by the stunning Vernal Falls and Nevada Fall, leading up to Little Yosemite Valley Camp. The Mist Trail is steeper and can be slippery in spring and early summer. But the view is breathtaking. Most hikers take the Mist Trail going up and the John Muir Trail coming down, and this is what I did too.

 

The 7.6-mile trek to Little Yosemite Valley is known to be demanding, with an average time of 4 hours and 39 minutes to complete. At this point you’re only heading to your campsite, so you want to time your first day's hike to leave plenty of time to set the tent, and rest before the next day.

 

Understanding the logistics is crucial for the Half Dome hike. I specifically planned to start early to avoid the peak hours on the Half Dome cables, which are from 11 AM to 2 PM. During peak hours, the ascent could take up to 60 minutes, compared to 20-30 minutes when the trail is less crowded. The peak descent during peak times takes around 30 minutes, as opposed to 10-15 minutes during off-peak hours.

Climbing the granite slope of the Half Dome, with assistance from wooden boards, cables and poles

Part 3: Daily Adventures

Day 1: Little Yosemite Valley and Setup

The day of departure finally arrived, and I could hardly contain my excitement. With my backpack neatly packed and all my gear double-checked, I headed to the trailhead at Happy Isles. The morning air was crisp and filled with the scent of pine and earth, a perfect start for the long journey ahead. The anticipation of seeing the majestic Half Dome and the tranquil Little Yosemite Valley drove my eagerness as I took my first steps on the trail.

The initial part of the hike was invigorating. The sound of the Merced River flowing alongside the trail was soothing, creating a sense of tranquility that contrasted with the physical exertion of the climb. The first major landmark was the Vernal Fall bridge, where the trail splits into the Mist Trail and the John Muir Trail. Opting for the Mist Trail, I prepared myself for the steep ascent and the breathtaking views it promised.

The Mist Trail

The Mist Trail lives up to its name, especially in the early summer when the falls are at their peak. I climbed the granite steps carved into the rock and the spray from Vernal Fall drenched me a little. But it was a refreshing respite from the strenuous climb. Each step brings you closer to the thundering waterfall - with a misty atmosphere, and sometimes including rainbows!

 

The trail is steep and challenging if you are not familiar with hiking, so make sure to get some leg days behind you first. One thing is for sure though - the incredible views of the cascading water make every effort worthwhile.

Rainbow and mist at Vernal Fall, Yosemite, shot from the Mist Trail

I regularly took breaks to capture the stunning scenery on my iPad, ensuring I documented the journey in my scrapbook pages. With the feature to jot down text on images, it’s easy to showcase the essence of each captured moment.

Reaching the top of Vernal Falls is an exhilarating milestone. The view from above was breathtaking, offering a panoramic perspective of the valley below. You should take a moment to rest, rehydrate, and snack here. I snapped a picture of my celebratory snack before continuing toward Nevada Fall. The path leveled out briefly, providing a welcome relief from the constant upward climb.

Nevada Fall and beyond

The trail to Nevada Fall is equally demanding, but the rewards are just as grand. The powerful rush of water over the edge and the cool breeze it generates are invigorating. The trail gets steeper the closer you get to the fall.

Again, I paused to document the scene, capturing both wide-angle shots of the fall and close-ups of the flora thriving in the misty environment.

Past Nevada Fall, the trail continued to climb, but the terrain began to change. The dense forest opened up into more expansive views, revealing the grandeur of Yosemite’s peaks. The sound of the falls faded and got replaced by the rustling of leaves and the distant calls of wildlife. This part of the trail is significantly less crowded. So, if you need a longer break, this is the right spot for it.

 

The path eventually levels into Little Yosemite Valley. Here, the trail splits, with one path leading directly toward Half Dome and you will find camp signs on the other path. Altogether the hike took a little over 5 hours, including breaks for beautiful nature photography here and there.

Setting up Camp

Setting up camp is a methodical process but if you’re a seasoned hiker, it’s no bother. I pitched my tent, arranged my gear, and prepared a simple meal on my portable stove all well under an hour.

After dinner, I usually update my scrapbook pages in my iPad. I make a DIY layout of a selection of my hiking-day-photos and write text across or under these photos for good visual effects. When I am feeling fancy, I add cursive lettering as a legend to write down where I took each photo. It gives my scrapbooking entries an old feel - like reading an explorer's diary - and I absolutely adore it.

 

This daily ritual of documenting my adventures not only preserves my memories but also provides a moment of introspection and gratitude. I also make note of the different challenges faced, as part of my journey stories.

Day 2: Half Dome Hike

The morning of the Half Dome ascent begins before dawn. I woke up in the crisp, pre-dawn darkness, eager and a bit anxious about the challenging day ahead. You need to get there early if you want to avoid the crowd. After a quick breakfast, I pack my day essentials, including water, snacks, gloves for the cables, and my trusty Apple Pencil and iPad for documenting the experience. Altogether, you want to count around 9 to 10 hours for the Half Dome hike.

Approaching the Sub Dome

The hike to the Sub Dome is a rigorous uphill trek, if anything it’s the perfect warm-up before the cable ascent. There is still time to hydrate and catch a snack before you get to the cables. As a rule of thumb, I’d recommend arriving between 8 and 9 AM to start the cable climb. There will be only a handful of hikers so it’s definitely less stressful.

1.1-Sub-Dome-Half-Dome-Yosemite.jpg

The Cable Climb

Standing at the base of the Half Dome cables is both exhilarating and daunting. In fact, you want to prepare yourself mentally before you approach it. A lot of hikers of all experience levels turn around when they reach the cable climb - and there’s no shame to it.

 

The cables span approximately 400 feet up the granite face, inclined at a steep 45-degree angle. The sheer drop-offs on either side are intimidating, but the excitement of reaching the summit has thankfully kept my nerves in check. I find it easier to look only at my feet on the granite, to stay focused.

Steady Ascent

Climbing the cables requires focus, steady nerves, patience, and grippy gloves. Each step has to be deliberate. You can use the wooden boards placed at intervals for brief rests.

 

One thing to remember is that neither the boards nor the poles are fixed. They can be a little wobbly, or a lot! So, you should be holding onto the cables instead. The granite surface is smooth. In the event of rain, you want to cancel the hike because it is going to be too slippery and dangerous.

Reaching the Summit

After about 30 minutes of careful climbing, the summit of Half Dome comes into view. The feeling of reaching the top is indescribable. The panoramic views of Yosemite National Park stretched out in every direction, offering a sense of accomplishment and awe.

I took time to document the moment, capturing photos before heading back down.

Descending the Cables

The descent is quicker but requires just as much caution. Here, there are two schools - some hikers prefer to face down as they descend, and others find they have a better balance by stepping backward. There’s no rule. I went with my back against the descent.

 

By the time I reached the base, a wave of relief and pride washed over me. The hike back to camp was filled with reflection on the incredible journey.

Nevada Fall, Yosemite - Tunnel View shot from the John Muir Trail

Day 3: Additional adventures and Relaxation

With Half Dome conquered, I spent another night at the camp. The final day was a mix of relaxation and exploration. I woke up to the sound of birds chirping and the soft rustle of leaves. The day was dedicated to exploring the valley. I embarked on several smaller hikes, each offering breathtaking views and unique experiences. This part of the trip is all about the serenity of the wilderness.

My scrapbook entries for this day were filled with photos of serene landscapes, playful squirrels, and even bears.

A Mother Bear and her two cubs, playing in the woods at Yosemite

Part 4: Returning Home

Packing up is fairly quick and easy as a backpacking hiker. But you still want to make sure you’re not accidentally leaving garbage or waste behind. The hike back to the trailhead can feel bittersweet, knowing that you are leaving behind such a beautiful place.

 

Here’s a  tip  for the Little Yosemite Valley trail:

The John Muir Trail is less steep and less slippery than the Mist Trail, providing a safer and more relaxed journey back.

Along the way, I took moments to snap a few last photos, capturing the ageless beauty of Yosemite.

A body of water flowing by the mountain at day time in Yosemite

From the Happy Isles, you can easily take the shuttle bus to the parking.

Travel back Home

The journey back home was a time to reflect on my experiences. I used the travel time to review my scrapbook entries and add any final details. The app’s capabilities are incredibly useful, letting you design a hiking scrapbook from start to finish rapidly. By the time I arrived home, my scrapbook was nearly complete, and I couldn’t wait to share it with my friends and family.

Handwritten text across photo written with Calligraphy Pen, in PDF Canvas of Scrapbook app, annotates a serene reflection in a water body at Yosemite

Importance of making Daily scrapbook entries

As a hiker, scrapbooking can be a game-changer to not only manage my mood but also improve my overall experience. I use it to reflect both on the journey stories and photos, as also to review my general endurance. Was a trail particularly challenging? Where is the best spot to rest? I can simply use my images in a DIY layout and write text on photos to highlight specific areas of interest.

 

One of the key aspects of creating a wonderful and usable scrapbook is making regular entries. By documenting my experiences daily, I was able to capture the emotions and details of each moment, ensuring that nothing was forgotten. Regular updates also helped me stay organized, making it easier to become a better and safer hiker.

 

The scrapbooking app on my iPad was a game-changer. Its user-friendly interface made it easy to add photos, handwritten text, and even doodle decorations to my scrapbooking pages, along with the map of my routes. As someone who wants to stay on top of my hiking hobby, I love the opportunity to note down anecdotes practically in real time.

Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or new to the trails, I hope my story inspires you to document your own adventures and create lasting memories. Happy hiking and scrapbooking!

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