Friday, July 9, 2010

2010 Summer Trip Part 2 - Yosemite National Park

On Day 11 of our Summer Trip, we left Sequoia National Park and headed about 3 hours north to Yosemite National Park. We had tried to book campsites well in advance for Yosemite, but found out later that the campsites book up for the entire year in the first 7 minutes the reservation system opens for the season. So, we were just going to spend the afternoon in Yosemite Valley. As with most of this trip, we were seeing places not even the Canyon Man has seen. This would be everyone's first glimpse of this slice of Heaven on Earth.

We entered the park from the South, through Wawona. If you ever plan a trip to YOSE (pronounced Yo-see) and the Valley, I recommend coming through the South Entrance. Doing so offers up a dramatic entry into the Valley. You drive through a short tunnel and emerge into Eden. I had seen pictures and was in awe of the grandeur of this hallowed ground. You quickly understood why John Muir fought so vehemently to save this land for future generations to see. As beautiful as it looks in photographs, the 2-dimensional images do it no justice, it must be seen in person to behold.


Thanks to the late snow and the heavy snow melt, the waterfalls were gushing as if a dam had broken open. It was a site to see. You immediately are hit in the face with the distinctive Bridalveil Falls to the right and the behemoth slab of granite that is El Capitan. Immediately upon exiting the tunnel, there are turnouts and parking lots on either side of the road. You can stop and snap your own memory. Above is a panoramic I took.

We arrived to the valley around 2pm and we knew we only had a few hours. We headed straight away to Yosemite Village where we would park and grab some food and head out on a short hike. After speaking to some of the workers and explaining we wanted big payoff for little time, they recommended the short hike up to Lower Yosemite Falls. It's a short, paved trail leading you right to the base of the lower half of the two-part fall. Upper Yosemite Falls is reachable, but requires a bit more time than we had. We were not disappointed.

We passed through some groves of large pines and redwoods along Yosemite Creek. Although crowded, it is still quite peaceful. You round a bend and you notice immediately probably a 15-20 degree temperature drop and see large quantities of mist in the air. A few steps onto the bridge and you see the Lower Falls. Very impressive. I recommend wearing a light jacket when visiting any of the falls in Yosemite. The temperature drops dramatically and you will get wet. Here's a couple of shots of the Lower Yosemite Falls.



And from a distance, here is a shot of the Upper Yosemite Falls. There is a trail that leads you to the top.

On the way out of the Valley, we stopped near a meadow with a great shot of El Capitan. El Capitan is a revered climbing spot and often time requires multi-day climbs. If you are not familiar with how someone might achieve a multi-day climb, I offer this photo of a climbers PortaLedge. From Wikipedia
- A portaledge is a deployable hanging tent system designed for rock climbers who spend multiple days and nights on a big wall climb. There is also a picture of a couple of guys climbing up together with their gear hanging below them.



We were running out of daylight and wanted to get over Tioga Pass and off Tioga Road before dark. For those not familiar with this area, Tioga Road takes you through some of the majestic backcountry of Yosemite including the famed Tuolumne Meadows. The road reaches elevations near 10,000 feet and is impassable most of the year. It had been opened only a week or two before we arrived, and still had 8 foot snow drifts on the side of the road in places. It is a high winding road which is reason enough to not attempt the drive in the dark, but I also wanted to be able to see some of the backcountry areas I wish to return to at some time. This pristine backcountry appears to be very special and I look forward to spending time basking in it. Below is a shot of one of the lakes along Tioga Road, I believe it to be Siesta Lake, but I could be wrong.

Finally, just prior to darkness, we arrived at Lee Vining, the eastern end of Tioga Road. Here is a shot of the moon shining over the snow that lined most of the higher elevations of Tioga Road. It's unbelievable that this was the middle of June.

While our time in Yosemite was short, it was very memorable and inviting us to come back. Myself, my wife and my two oldest children are already booked for a backcountry trip towards the end of the summer, maybe 15 miles from the spot in this picture above. We are going backpacking in the Inyo National Forest and the Ansel Adams Wilderness. I am so looking forward to that.

I heard about that particular spot from Anthony Jones of Anthony's Audio Journal. His is a terrific podcast that details some of his day hikes and overnights in and around areas in Southern California, one of my favorite places to go. If you are a fan of the outdoors, I highly recommend giving him a listen, along with my faves, the Southeastern Backpackers, Rylan and Golden. These are two terrific ways to find some fabulous places to visit. They give you the sense of being there and make you want to follow in their footsteps.