Mount Manuel, Big Sur

View of the Pacific Ocean from the Mount Manuel Trail

View of the Pacific Ocean from the Mount Manuel Trail

This weekend, we’re SUPER excited to be heading back to Yosemite National Park to celebrate our 7th wedding anniversary! It’s become a tradition for us to go to a national park to celebrate every year. Last year we went to Muir Woods and Yosemite National Park and the year before, we celebrated at Zion National Park.

Aside from some good old R&R, our plan is to hike Mount Dana, a 7-mile round-trip hike with 3,000 feet elevation gain. The hike begins at nearly 10,000 feet elevation and reaches just over 13,000 feet. It is one of the highest peaks in Yosemite, higher than El Capitan (7,569 ft) and Half Dome (8,839 ft)! We picked it because it is a strenuous hike we could accomplish together, and because it will be a great test to see how Onur does at altitude before he attempts Mount Whitney in the coming weeks.

Beautiful views of the Santa Lucia Mountains from the trail

Beautiful views of the Santa Lucia Mountains from the trail

To prepare for our Yosemite weekend, we’ve done increasingly difficult hikes together over the past months. The latest was Mount Manuel, a 9.8-mile round-trip hike with 3285 feet elevation gain. Research revealed it was brushy and the typical turn-around point was not the true summit, but a false summit nearby. (Thanks to redwoodhikes.com for this helpful post.) I was excited to check it out, hoping this could become a new training hike for me.

Well, it didn’t quite turn out the way we expected—it was brushier, buggier, and more eroded than we anticipated. The hike was also exposed, and the constant sunshine was a challenge for me. To top it all off, just before your reach the top there is a seemingly vertical final climb, gaining 135 feet over 265 feet. In the end we both felt it would be a spectacular hike if the brush was cleared out. A half-mile below the summit, there is a brutal, 1-mile stretch of brush drifting into the middle of the trail.

The final, steep climb to reach the false summit

The final, steep climb to reach the false summit

But..we pushed through and made it! The bright side of this hike is that it starts in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, which has the Big Sur River running through it, beautiful coast redwoods, and a lodge with a store and cafe. When we finished our hike, we changed out of our hiking shoes, picked up our towels, and waded down the bank of the river into the frigid water. It felt so cold and wonderful after those long hot miles. Afterwards, we headed to the Big Sure Lodge where they sell ice cream, coffee, tea, and sandwiches. We both got waffle cones—cookie dough for me, and vanilla and chocolate for Onur. It was the best treat after a hot day on the trail. :)

Aside from our training hikes, I’m continuing to stay busy writing for Modern Hiker. After finishing a series of Golden Gate Bridge View hikes, I’m now working on shady hikes, many in redwood forests. I’m excited to share those with you in the coming months! It’s hard to believe, but as of this week, I’ve written over 40 write-ups for Modern Hiker. I can’t wait to hit 50 :)

Happy weekend :)