Friday, July 6, 2012

Yosemite - Vernal Falls

We continued our exploration of Yosemite yesterday. We rode north from Oakhurst on California 49 to Mariposa. Highway 49 did not get its number accidentally. It runs the length of the gold country that was first explored by the 49'ers. From Mariposa we turned east and followed the Merced River to Yosemite Valley. The valley floor was very crowded as expected.

We decided to take the hike to Vernal Falls. Fortunately the scooter allowed us to park near a shuttle bus stop where the bus picked us up and took us to the start of the trail. The trail to the top of the falls was only 1.5 miles so we expected it to be a relatively short and enjoyable hike. Wrong!

After the first couple hundred yards the trail turned steeply upward. I know I'm not as young as I used to be, and I'm certainly not in prime hiking shape, but this was tough. There was no letup in grade. The trail continued upward at a steep angle all the way to the bridge and rest stop .8 miles from the start of the trail. It was a warm day and we were sweating.

After catching our breath for a while, we continued on. About .2 miles further up, and I emphasize the UP, we came to the bottom of the steps. The next half mile to the top of the falls consists of nonstop stairs cut into the granite. The steps were of all different heights, and many of them were really high. I made many stops along the way, and frankly Dianna did better than I did.

The view from the side of the falls and from the top were magnificent. We also had a special treat as we rested by the large pool above the falls. A brown bear ambled across the ledge above the other side of the pool. I got a couple pictures but missed the best shots. Shortly after the bear disappeared from sight, a gray fox ran along the bottom of the cliff that the bear had been on top of. It was too quick to get a photo of.

The hike back down was almost as strenuous. While not as bad lung wise, we used a completely different set of muscles to come down. By the time we reached the bottom our legs were literally shaking whenever we stopped to rest. The air conditioned bus ride back to the parking area was very welcome.

I can already hear everyone making comments about how "that would have been a walk in the park for Dale". Probably so. In fact, there were only a few people who were moving more slowly than we were, and there were many people who were moving much faster. The most demoralizing were the kids that were actually running up and down the trail. The fact that my age and my condition have caught up with me was very obvious. It was the most strenuous hike I have ever been on. It was really more like an exercise workout than a hike. I'm going to look for some easier hikes for a while until I build up some strength and stamina.


[caption id="attachment_725" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Dianna on the bridge across the Merced River with Vernal Falls in the background[/caption]


[caption id="attachment_726" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Some of the steps[/caption]


[caption id="attachment_727" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Taking a break below the falls[/caption]


[caption id="attachment_728" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Ever upward[/caption]


[caption id="attachment_729" align="aligncenter" width="300"] At the top looking back to where we came from[/caption]


[caption id="attachment_730" align="aligncenter" width="300"] The bear was on the top of that cliff across the pool, and the fox ran across the base of the cliff.[/caption]


[caption id="attachment_731" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Not a good picture of the whole bear, but he was not posing. We actually got a good look at him when the camera was not ready.[/caption]

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Yosemite - Mariposa Grove and Glacier Point

We left Lancaster and are now staying at another of the Escapee's parks near Coarsegold, CA. It is in the Sierra foothills, about 30 miles from Fresno and 25 miles from the south entrance of Yosemite. Unfortunately it is at an elevation of only 1700 feet so it is not the cool mountain experience we had hoped for. The average high temperature for this time of year is in the upper 90's. The good part is that it is a beautiful park that is built into the rolling hills and covered with oak trees. Each lot is individually owned but the owner's can put their lots into the rental pool when they are not using them. This time of year there are plenty of empty spaces. Our plans for the next month are to explore Yosemite and the surrounding country, visit relatives and old friends who live nearby, and have the fresh water tank I purchased last year installed on the truck.

We have been trying to remember when we last visited Yosemite. I remember being there with Bill Chapman in 1966, and with Dale in 1967. Dianna remembers being there with her family when she was young, but neither of us remember being there together. It is possible that we never took a family vacation there, although I vaguely remember driving over Tioga Pass in something other than my old Volkswagon. We remember family visits to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, and we have photos from those trips, but we are unable to find any photos that would confirm a trip to Yosemite. The other possibility is that we both have poor memories. Regardless, after 45 years, it is certainly time for another visit.

We began our exploration of Yosemite on Wed. the 27th with a visit to the Mariposa Grove of sequoias. The roads in this area are made for motorcycles and we plan to do most of our exploring that way. Based on our experiences in other areas we think it is the very best way to see places like national parks. There is something special about being outside where you can feel the air and smell all the wonderful aromas of the forest while gliding effortlessly along on scenic roadways. Another benefit is being able to find parking places in very crowded parking lots, such as the Mariposa Grove.

We took a short 2 1/2 mile hike through the giant sequoias. Some of the pictures are below. Of course, you can get better photos of the trees elsewhere, but not with Dianna in them to prove we were really there. Wandering through these old giants makes you feel very small.

[caption id="attachment_710" align="aligncenter" width="225"] Bachelor and Three Graces Trees - Dianna is not in this one[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_713" align="aligncenter" width="225"] Dianna in the California Tunnel Tree[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_714" align="aligncenter" width="225"] It really is her[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_712" align="aligncenter" width="225"] Dianna standing in front of the Grizzly Giant[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_715" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Dianna standing below the roots of a fallen sequoia.[/caption]

We then made a short trip in to Wawona where the Park Service has relocated many of the historic buildings from the Yosemite area into a historic park. There is also a covered bridge there that has stood for over 150 years.

Yesterday, the last day of June, we returned to Yosemite again. Since it was the Saturday before the 4th of July we expected it to be very crowded. It was, but not as bad as we feared, probably because we avoided the valley floor. Our trip this time was to visit Glacier Point, a vista above the valley floor. It provides magnificent views of the Yosemite back country, some of the falls, and incredible views of the valley floor below. We took a picnic lunch and ate it while sitting on a rock looking at incredible scenery.

Half Dome is to the left of Dianna. We could see dozens of people on top. They looked like ants.

[caption id="attachment_702" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Half Dome is to the left of Dianna[/caption]


[caption id="attachment_703" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Half Dome is the the left and Nevada Falls is to the right of Dianna[/caption]


After eating we took a hike along the ridge. Most of the view never changes, but there were some differences from when we were here before. The maps and markers along the rim showed Mirror Lake in the valley below, but we could not see it. I remembered a photo I took of Bill Chapman at Mirror Lake in 1966. We finally asked a ranger who told us that they stopped dredging it in the 1990's and it has filled in with silt. Mirror Lake is now Mirror Meadow. I think they need to change some signs.

[caption id="attachment_704" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Nevada Falls is the upper falls and Vernal Falls is the lower[/caption]


[caption id="attachment_705" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Yosemite Valley below and Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls in the center of the photo[/caption]

Yosemite is truly one of the most magnificent places on earth. We are looking forward to exploring the rest of it.