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]


  1. Isn't that always the way? You never have a camera ready when the shot presents itself. Pretty hike. I'm sure it would have been very challenging for many of us, but good it inspired you to get in better shape. The older I get, the harder my daily workout becomes. But I feel better when I push on and do it.

  2. I bet the altitude didn't help either. Even when you are in shape at low elevation, it gets harder up in the mountains.

    Was it a black bear? It almost looks like a grizzly from the picture, but it's hard to see clearly.

  3. According to some of the information we received in the park, there are no more grizzlies in Yosemite. It was a black bear, however many black bears are brown or tan.

  4. I didn't do so well either when I first hit the hills of Georgia :).

  5. I thought I saw a grizzly-like hump on the shoulders, but it was hard to tell from the picture. I'm sure it was just a brown black bear.

  6. The only grizzlies in Yosemite were a subspecies called the California Golden Bear, the bear on the state flag. They are now extinct with the last one being shot in 1922.

  7. I thought the California Golden Bears were alive and well at the University of California at Berkley. Some years I wish they were extinct! ;)