Day 162 – Yosemite and Beyond, May 8, 2011
Wow, what a day! A cool front, light rain or perhaps mist, and low clouds blew into the valley. I crossed my fingers and hoped the overcast skies would offer some good photo opportunities and not interfere with my sightseeing for the day. It was amazing how different the park looked with just a change of weather. Yesterday, El Capitan was gleaming in the sunlight, today it was barely poking up above the clouds.
Once I arrived at the parking lot, I began the day following the paved paths around Lower Yosemite Fall and then ventured up the path to Upper Yosemite Fall. To reach the top I would have had to follow more than sixty switchbacks over 3.6 miles. I had a 2 mile roundtrip from the parking lot to the trailhead, so I didn’t have enough time to do the whole trail with Petey in VANilla. I chose to climb to the base of Upper Yosemite Fall. I had hoped in so doing, that I would get a better glimpse of the middle cascades that seem to elude my camera slightly, but I was 100% unsuccessful! The view of the middle cascades was better from the valley floor. Since I didn’t make it to the top, I can’t say if the view of the middle cascades ever improves, but I will find out some day. This hike made it a requirement that I come back.
The incline was tough, but the switchbacks relieved the steep ascent I experienced yesterday at Vernal Fall. Yesterday, I felt like I was riding up Horsetooth Basin in the MS150 at 3.5 miles per hour…I had to keep pedaling to keep from falling over I was going so slow. Speaking of the MS150, my sister-in-law has MS, and I have participated in the ride the last four years to raise money for the cause. This year, while I’m not able to participate, I am a virtual team member, which means I have signed up to raise money. In the past, I have been able to raise nearly $5,000 annually. This year has been a struggle at best. I hope to reach the $2,000 mark. Any donations, even morning coffee money, would be greatly appreciated…simply click on this link…
Ok, back to Upper Yosemite Trail. The first mile consisted of constant switchbacks until I reached Columbia Rock which offered a superb view of the valley as clouds lingered near Taft Point and Half Dome. I continued on for the next half mile along a fine gravel, almost sandy path. It was almost demoralizing when the path turned back down the cliff before it finally twisted upward toward Upper Yosemite Fall where I earned my first glimpse of the powerful force crashing down the cliff before me. While I was as close as I had ever been to Upper Yosemite Fall, I couldn’t see the top…a cloud moved in and blocked the view, though it provided an ethereal feeling. I had a burning desire to get closer to the waterfall and to see the whole thing, so I kept going…up again.
The path returned to rocky switchbacks, only this time the rocks were wet from the waterfall’s mist. I counted seven small waterfalls that flowed through the path where I jumped from rock to rock in an attempt to keep my feet dry. I eventually gave up when the path acted as a waterfall itself at certain points in the trail. After about another half mile, I reached the base of the fall where water bounced off the enormous cliff that towered above me. I had to settle with being satisfied by this view and retrace my steps back to Petey and VANilla. The view was fantastic and as I scampered back down the trail to the area that provided the first glimpse of the fall, the cloud had shifted and the entire upper fall was in sight! As I passed many tired souls wondering how much further it was to the top, I concluded that I will have to return to Yosemite sans dog and attack a handful of trails. They are just too good to pass up.
While the views of the fall for the first two miles of the hike were few and far between, the trail was amazing for the following reasons: 1. It was natural…meaning not paved. 2. It was exhilarating…not too hard, but required effort. 3. I’m quite certain looking down from the top would be extraordinary. It went against all my competitive instincts to have to return to Petey, but he’s a living creature that loves me and depends on me, and I don’t like leaving him locked in VANilla for more than a few hours at a time.
He was so happy to see me as he entered into his high pitched whine when I reached the parking lot. After a quick lunch, I took him for a much deserved walk around a different part of the valley. This time we started near Sentinel Bridge, walked past Lower Yosemite Fall Trail, through Yosemite Lodge, across the meadow on Swinging Bridge, and back to the parking lot.
After our walk, we took another drive around the valley and went back to the park entry point on 140. I really enjoyed this entry point, but didn’t stop to take pictures because I wanted to assure myself a good parking spot and hiking time without mobs of people. We took in the view of Bridalveil Fall from across the valley, stopped at Arch Rock, and admired The Cascades that by August dwindle to a trickle. By this time it was mid-afternoon, so we went to claim our campsite in North Pines LOCATED IN THE VALLEY!
I left Petey with VANilla in the campgrounds and took one last walk for the day to Mirror Lake. Mirror Lake is seasonal, meaning the water isn’t always there. In fact, Nineteenth century tourists admired the reflections on the surface so much that entrepreneurs tried to expand the lake by piling boulders onto a natural dam. Ironically, this caused the pool to fill with silt and now requires regular dredging.
Given the river crested last night, I was quite certain that I’d find water…and I did. Even if water hadn’t filled the pool, the lake is situated beneath Half Dome’s 4,800 foot sheer face which was a tremendous sight itself. I had hoped to find Half Dome reflecting on the water’s surface, instead I found Mt. Watkins. While the area was pretty, having snapped the reflection of Yosemite Fall in the river the other day and being forced to follow the road to the lake as opposed to the trail since a landslide was blocking the path, I have to say Mirror Lake didn’t meet my expectations. Oh well, the Upper Yosemite Fall Trail more than made up for it. Tomorrow I plan to take Petey on one last walk near The Ahwahnee Hotel and the Royal Arches before I travel to Reno. For anyone who has visited Yosemite in the summer, I haven’t mentioned Glacier Point or the sights on Tioga Road because these roads are closed for the winter. I hope to visit these areas in October should the weather cooperate. ETB