Monday, April 29, 2013

Weekend Trip into Yosemite National Park

I have only one problem with Yosemite National Park: leaving! This trip was the earliest in the year I've visited yet. I figured the Valley wouldn't be as crowded, but I figured wrong. The weekend forecast was for mid to high 70s, and the waterfalls were all booming full blast, so it seemed like everybody plus their brothers and cousins decided to come see. We had to stay in Curry Village because Yosemite Lodge was fully booked, but that was okay (well, all except for the neighbor's screaming temper tantrum toddler who went off both nights around 3am, but that's why it's always smart to pack earplugs).

Anyway, Yosemite Valley was just gorgeous. Dogwoods were blooming, deer were roaming about, and we got a lot of good hiking in. Here's Chelle and me on the trail on the way back from Vernal Fall. Here, too, is video of Vernal Fall and the Merced River (although I mistakenly say it's May when it's not). The cables to Half Dome were not yet up, and on Sunday, we tried to go up to Glacier Point, but the road was still closed. So I guess there's still snow, or rockfalls, or who knows why the road was closed. Curry Village was under construction as well--the Signature cabins that had the nesting mice carrying hantavirus last year have all been torn down and replaced. And, of course, the back of Curry Village where a rockfall off Glacier Point took out about fifty cabins is still being reconstructed. As it was, the tent cabin we stayed in was brand new.

We stopped for a snack at the bridge at Vernal Fall, and though you are not supposed to feed the animals, there was one squirrel who simply would not take "no" for an answer.  Naturally, we called our friend Lisa "the squirrel whisperer" for the remainder of the weekend.

The next morning, we struck out early for Mirror Lake before all the hordes of people could get there, where we stumbled across the "found art" cairns (see yesterday's post). The reason it's called Mirror Lake should be pretty obvious from the photo below.

Next up was a walk to the Ahwahnee for an early lunch, and from there we caught the shuttle to Lower Yosemite Fall. In all the times I've visited Yosemite, I'd never actually walked that trail. I've climbed the 3500 feet to the top of Upper Yosemite Fall, but that's a day's commitment. I've backpacked from Glacier Point to Little Yosemite Valley and then hiked to Half Dome (though, alas, my fear of heights kept me from going the final 400 feet--too exposed for me, and somebody dies on those cables every year, either from simply slipping or from being hit by lightning). Yeah, I'm a chicken.

But below is video of Lower Yosemite Fall.

It was quite windy, as you can tell, and mist was flying far enough from the fall to spray us on the bridge. I had to keep wiping my glasses!

Now, together, Lower Yosemite Fall and Upper Yosemite Fall comprise Yosemite Falls, which, at 2,425 feet, makes it the highest waterfall in North America and the sixth highest in the entire world. Here's a shot of the whole thing:

Hard to believe that by late August/early September, the falls are gone. Nary a trickle. Dry as a bone. Keep that in mind if you ever want to visit Yosemite National Park.

After this, we headed back to Curry Village, where I snapped from the parking lot this classic shot of Half Dome.

As I said, the next day, our final day, we wanted to go up to Glacier Point but got stymied, so we simply headed back down into the Valley and checked out Bridalveil Fall, then, on our way out of the park, swung by Valley View to snap some photos. (Tunnel View in the morning is awful, by the way. The light is way too bright to get a good photo. That shot is best taken in the late afternoon or at sunset.) Still, I managed to get "the money shot" at Valley View. I took the photo because I liked the way the sun was shining at the top of Bridalveil Fall, lighting up the water so that it looked white against the granite faces of the surrounding rock. I couldn't see the sun's rays at all because of the glare. So imagine my surprise when, later on, I was looking through all the photos I'd taken on my iPhone and saw this:

It's truly extraordinary. Then again, Yosemite is an extraordinary place.

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