After reading all your very helpful posts, I'm starting to not be so gung-ho about climbing Half Dome. I knew it would likely be busy, but it really sounds like a potential nightmare, depending on when we're there of course. I think we'll just play that one by ear. If we're there and it's not overly busy, we may try it if we can get a permit. If not, I won't sweat it. Lots of other spectacular places. My friend will only be more than happy not hiking a busy place - if he sees 2 people on a trail, he thinks it's busy
Hiking less busy places sounds alot more motivating! I definitely will visit the valley, regardless, and may do the 4-mile/Panorama loop one day, perhaps North Dome or Clouds Rest another and try to get one or two overnighters (whatever happens to be available)....then do something in Ansel Adams Wilderness/Mammoth Lakes area and check out SEKI.
I take it one must reserve a permit for Rae Lakes loop months in advance as well? Are there last minute permits for this one? This really sounds like an amazing loop trip!