Dogwood Day

May 15, 2018
Happy Isles
Total distance walked: 3.66 miles

Chris and I drove into Yosemite National Park for a fun afternoon we call, Dogwood Day.  We do this every year, but this time I was concerned that it was late in the season to view the blooms.  We drove deeper into the valley and indeed, white flowers still graced the branches of the deciduous trees.

Dogwoods, Yosemite National Park
Dogwoods in bloom.

From the dirt parking lot we walked in the shade of pines towards Happy Isles fen.  The fen—a mere pathway, is filled with unique plants not found elsewhere in the valley such as invasive Himalayan blackberry bushes.  As we approached the fen’s boardwalk, a woman gave us the “sh” sign (index finger to her mouth).  She and a small group of people were watching a cinnamon bear forage in the distance.  The male bear was crouched low behind the bushes so I could never really see him.

Merced River, Happy Isles, Yosemite National Park
The Merced River runs through Happy Isles.

We left the fen and wandered through Happy Isles along the paved trails and across bridges that spanned the swift-moving Merced River.  Dogwood trees heavy in bloom surrounded us—blooms large and old-looking, many with brown spots and holes.

Yosemite National Park, dogwoods
Dogwood blooms.

We sauntered behind the Nature Center until we reached a fork in the road: a trail or a roadway for NPS vehicles.  We chose to walk the trail.

Yosemite National Park
The sweet smell of spring wafted through the grove.

How astonishing it was to find a deserted path when Happy Isles and Yosemite Valley were buzzing with people.

Yosemite National Park, North Dome, dogwoods
Looking up at North Dome.

Knowing my inclination to walk for miles, I made a conscious effort to be aware of Chris’s desires.  Nevertheless, I bounded up this new (to me) trail with excitement.

Yosemite National Park
Beyond the rocks was a hidden beach at the Merced River’s edge.

From the trail we saw the Merced River raging with energy.  I sensed we were heading towards the Vernal Fall footbridge but didn’t know for sure.  Looking at a map, we were taking a horse trail through Illilouette Gorge towards the John Muir Trail, the High Sierra camps and beyond.

We crossed two bridges over Illilouette Creek.

We continued up, up, up until Chris mentioned that it was nearing lunchtime and we should turn around.  Every year we have lunch at Half Dome Village.  Heeding his advice, we headed back walking once again through Happy Isles, the fen and the shaded forest.

Yosemite National Park, robin, dogwood
An American robin in a dogwood tree.

In the forest, we came upon two bears.  I couldn’t believe our luck!

Yosemite National Park, bear
A black bear.

One bear walked behind a behemoth boulder to the left of the trail, while the other pulled apart a log looking for bugs.

Yosemite National Park, black bear
Black bear in Yosemite National Park

In order to get to the Village, we had to walk between both bears hoping not to become their lunch.


We arrived safely at Half Dome Village and enjoyed pizza and beer while talking with the bartender whom we’ve become acquainted with over the years.

Yosemite National Park, Half Dome Village
Relaxing at Half Dome Village after lunch.

This was a fantastic Dogwood Day trip.  Yosemite always holds a surprise or two and never disappoints.

JOHN MUIR TRAIL UPDATE:  My schedule is set for hiking the John Muir Trail.  I will start at Tuolumne Meadows and be on the trail for 24 days walking a total of 180 miles ending 20 miles short of the climb up Mt. Whitney—the official end of the JMT.  I will carry a SPOT locator to keep in touch with family, and have purchased a new lightweight, single-person tent.  That and the rest of the equipment are waiting to be shoved into the backpack.  Now I’m working on a 24-day menu.  It still seems like a dream, but is only three months away.