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Bark Ranger Owen Reporting for Duty in Yosemite

We continued Owen’s grand adventure this past weekend with a quick trip up to Yosemite National Park. This was Owen’s first time to our favorite park, as well as his first time camping. Throughout the years of his outdoor adventures, he had never before done either of those activities, and we finally rectified that.

We headed up to Yosemite on an early Saturday toward the end of March. After packing up the car with the essentials for a quick camping trip, we picked up the pup and headed out, making just one quick stop at Starbucks for a morning cup of fuel. The drive along Interstates 210 and 5 were pretty easy, with little traffic in the wee hours of a Saturday. We made it to Fresno, our stop for petrol, in under four hours. After filling up the minivan and giving Owen and ourselves a quick break, we once again hit the road. Next stop: Yosemite.

As the weather is turning fair, especially in the lower parts of Yosemite, the end of March is a popular time to go. The reservation system implemented during Covid will be going into effect for the summer season, however it was not in place for this visit. We were able to have a fairly spur of the moment adventure without the additional requirement of a reservation. On the other hand, the line to enter from the South Entrance was longer than it had been during the pandemic. Still at about a half-hour wait, it wasn’t too bad. Soon enough, with a playlist of Taylor Swift and The Lumineers, we were driving through Yosemite National Park.

We followed the Wawona Road to Yosemite Valley. As we approached the tunnel heading into the Valley, our excitement began to build. We were all ready to share in a new Yosemite adventure together, this time including Owen.

The view from the tunnel

I never cease to be amazed at the sheer, rugged beauty of the Yosemite Valley. Every where we look there are examples of God’s creative hand in nature- from the ever-flowing Bridalveil Fall to the granite monoliths. Yosemite is a place that imprints itself in the heart. Of course those soft feelings subsided a bit with the difficulty in finding a parking spot by the visitor center. It took more than a few turns around the parking area to find a spot to park our vehicle. But by the power of more than a few prayers and Emily’s manifesting, or rather good eyes, we were able to squeeze into a spot and head on out.

Our first stops were to the Conservancy and then to lunch. Owen was a happy camper relaxing at the table outside Degnan’s, especially when chips were “accidentally” dropped on the ground. We did see a number of dogs chilling with their families at the outdoor dining tables. Owen was happy to meet a few of them, especially a small retriever puppy who got away from her family and ran right up to him. It was actually really sweet. Once we were done with lunch- Owen having had a couple bites of roast beef from Emily’s sandwich- we headed out to hike Yosemite Falls.

As mentioned in our Joshua Tree adventure, there are areas where dogs are not allowed to go. Before heading up, we checked Yosemite’s Bark Ranger site so that we knew where we could go with Owen and what fun we could have. The hike to Yosemite Falls is one trail that dogs are allowed to take as long as they are leashed, and it is a favorite of Sami’s. The trail to the Lower Falls is paved and easy, and so it was perfect for our group.

Owen had so much fun! He was a happy guy sniffing all the new smells and hiking with his favorite girls. Being the large dog he is, he did take up a lot of room on the trail. This was not a problem in most parts as the trail is really wide, however it did get a little squished as we arrived at the bridge at the base of the falls. There were a lot of people, and our family just takes up a lot of space. But not a problem; we kept him on a short leash and were able to get a ton of photos.

The falls were spectacular. I had never been to Yosemite in the early spring, when ample snowmelt feeds Yosemite Creek. There was so much water! We could feel the spray a ways downstream. Owen did not mind the gusts created by the moving water, and he looked at times as if he thought it would be fun to go swimming. Of course, that was a no-go, but he did get his other favorite thing: plenty of attention. He received plenty of free pets and compliments. He and Emily even were mistaken for junior park rangers and asked for directions. Emily had on an outfit of national parks green and a hikers hat, and Owen had on his Wolf Republic ranger pack, making them look almost official.

We completed the loop back to the visitor area. We stopped by the village store and spent more than a few dollars on essentials (matches and water) and accessory-essentials (a Yosemite print and Yosemite Cellars wine). We took turns watching Owen outside while shopping; pets are not allowed inside buildings. Once we paid for our items, we headed out for the next part of our weekend adventure.

It is always hard to leave Yosemite, and even as I’m driving out, I start to look forward to when we can come back. This time was especially tough to leave, with Owen in tow. He was such a happy pup, but with the sun hanging lower in the sky, it was time to drive off to our campsite to set up for the evening. And he did earn his B.A.R.K. Ranger tag at Yosemite National Park.

Some things to consider:

Early spring is a popular time to visit the park, however it is still considered the ‘off season.’ While the Valley was open, there were some campsites that were not open due to the risk of flooding. Our favorite part of the park, Tuolumne was closed as there was still plenty of snow in the High Sierra. The Tioga Road is also still closed for the winter, and the national forest campgrounds both in the Inyo National Forest to the east and Sierra National Forest south of the park were closed until April. This did make it harder to find a campsite either in the park or just outside of it.

The walk-up campground in Yosemite Valley, Camp 4, typically fills up by noon or even earlier. This was not an option for us as dogs are not permitted in any of the walk-up campgrounds or group campsites. They are allowed in other campgrounds throughout the park.

B.A.R.K Ranger means:
Bag your pet’s waste
Always leash your pet
Respect wildlife
Know where you can go

We tried our best to adhere to the guidelines set forth by the park. We made sure to leave no trace when it came to Owen’s waste. He was kept on his 6-foot leash while we hiked , however, he did try to wander off the trail at certain points. We saw plenty of squirrels, birds, and other small animals. Owen is not as reactive to animals as he was in his younger days, so this wasn’t a big a concern as it would have been in his earlier years. We didn’t get to see any bears on this trip, and when we did see deer, we were in the car driving out of the park. We had a fun time together while still trying to be respectful of our environment.

Remember to be weather ready. We had prepared for cooler temperatures based on the weather forecast, but it was really pleasant and almost was warm in the Valley. I recommend having layers and a jacket, along with plenty of sunscreen.

We love Yosemite and were so happy to be able to share it with our happy camper. Here’s to more national bark adventures! Happy tails.

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