Sunday, July 8, 2007

that whirlwind trip to yosemite

[This trip happened on June 22nd, before I moved to Washington. I've been working on this post since then, because I am a dork and because I had eighty-seven billion things to do.]

We had grand plans for all the stuff we could fit into a one-day trip to Yosemite, but we ended up only doing some of them and still managed to have a great time. Imagine that! I plan to come back a lot, though, so it's cool.

The plan was to head out at 5am. I set my alarms for 4am and 430am. At 4am I figured I'd get up fully at 430...except the 430 alarm didn't sound. So at 5 til 5 I jumped off the couch, brushed teeth, said goodbye to the cats, and headed to the gas station/atm and finally to my friends' house to pick them up. We were only half an hour off a schedule really matters when you're going off into the wilderness.

We made good time on the road and stopped at Denny's for breakfast [because who doesn't love breakfast!?!?] then zoomed onward to Yosemite. We were struck by the lack of cars on the road, even within the park. So we changed plans on the fly and decided to go around the Valley floor and take some photos. We assumed it would be packed with people since it was the end of June after all, but I would say there were only about 30% more people than when we were there in March (and it was empty then).

We walked to the bottom of Bridalveil Fall but didn't get wet. Not even misty! However, I did meet a fellow from Scotland (I remarked "wow, someone's a little Scottish!" when I was eavesdropping on his conversation; he was probably happy someone recognized the accent and didn't think he was Irish). He was a chaperone for a group of teens from Scotland who won some sort of environmental studies award named for Muir, and their prize was a trip to Yosemite! Makes a lot of sense.

Bridalveil FallWe drove around the Valley floor and took some photos, such as the one seen here of Bridalveil [embiggen]. Compare the water flow in that photo to this one from March. What a difference!

You can compare the flow of Yosemite Falls as well. Check out the photo here and compare it to this one from March. Wherefore art thou, snowpack?

El Capitan from Valley FloorAs you can see in this photo of El Capitan, taken from El Cap Meadow, the weather was spectacular [embiggen]. We stopped momentarily at Tunnel View on our way to Glacier Point Road, where most of the action of the day was to take place. Speaking of action, I SAW A BEAR. Sure, I was in the car and did not stop at the meadow in which the bear was casually eating, but it was indeed a bear. There are no other round brown furry blobs in Yosemite, and besides there were others who did stop at the side of the road to see the bear. I figured doing the same would be bad bear karma.

Next, we stopped at Washburn Point. The Yosemite Hikes page for Washburn Point is hilarious, as it dutifully lists "Hike Distance" as "20 stair steps." Mary disputes this; she says it's 22. It's amazing the number of Yosemite highlights you can see from here. There's Clark Range, Red Peak and Mt. Starr King, Vernal & Nevada Falls, and Half Dome, among other peaks off in the distance like Lyell, which was one of the only ones with visible snow/glacier. At this time of the year, only the very highest peaks are still frosty.

Hanging Rock at Glacier PointWe continued down the road to Glacier Point, where you can stand and take photo after photo after photo, much like we did! At the end of Glacier Point is the Hanging Rock [embiggen], where crazy people used to go stand on the end of it. No way! I got a neat photo of the Mirror Lake/Tenaya Creek area; we hiked this 5+ mile loop in March. You're so high at Glacier Point that when you look down on Yosemite Falls they look teeeeeeny tiny.

After our time at Glacier Point, we went back down the road to the Taft Point/Sentinel Dome trailhead. We planned to do both, but after the first one we were plum tuckered out (I know it would have only been two more miles, but hey....all the better to use as an excuse to come back!).

Approaching Taft Point and the FissuresThe trail to Taft Point listed is a lovely saunter first out in the open and then under the cover of trees until you emerge into the open again. Once in the open again, you can walk along the cliff edge. I don't know why I wasn't scared, seeing as how a fall from here would kill me, but I wasn't [embiggen]. Crazy Mary wasn't scared at all. In the distance in this photo, you can see people standing at the railing at Taft Point. View Approaching Taft Point and the Fissures When approaching the point, if you turn your head to the right you have a hell of a view of the big peaks in the distance (Lyell is one of them, I think). When you look down, you can see the fissures. Here are some photos. I like the description given by the Yosemite Hikes folks: "These immense vertical gashes in the valley wall were caused, it is generally believed, by an epic battle between Mothra and Godzilla, during which Mothra slashed at his scaly foe but missed and raked his talons against the cliffside instead." I am sure that geologists would dispute the explanation, but I like it.

Approaching the Railing at Taft PointThere's nothing left to do but face your fears and step up to the railing at Taft Point. I did, but I couldn't take the final step and stand at the front railing. I stood approximately a foot and a half behind the front railing. Thus, all my photos from Taft Point, such as this one of El Capitan, have the railing in it. Oh well! Next time I'll do better. From Taft Point there are awesome views of El Capitan, the Three Brothers, Yosemite Falls, and then if you walk around to the left of the point, to a cliff without a railing, you have great views of Cathedral Rocks. So we went over there and Mary pretended she was sliding off the cliff while her husband smiled, seemingly unaware of it all. She's a ham, that one, because it's a hell of a long way down!

We spent about forty-five minutes hanging out at 7503 and then walked back. We were headed down to Wawona and to Mariposa Grove, but we stopped at the general store for some water (and ice cream) and decided we were all tired and besides it was late in the day and we'd have to rush through just one part of the grove...all the more reason to save it for another day.

Dusty and sunburned and happy, we drove off through the Central Valley and were back home by 10pm. If there's one thing I regret about my time in California, it's in a) not realizing just how close I actually lived to Yosemite, and b) not making cavort-in-the-wilderness friends sooner.