Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Temples of Nature

"It is by far the grandest of all the special temples of Nature I was ever permitted to enter." John Muir, on Yosemite National Park

rainbow under Vernal Falls

view on the hike up to Glacier Point

hiking up to 8000 ft, some scary drops

Amazing rock formations

View of Half Dome from Glacier Point

View of Nevada Fall (top) and Vernal Fall from Glacier Point

View of Illilouette Fall through the trees

At the midpoint, waterfall pools, perfect swimming

View of Half Dome from the other side

At the top of Nevada Falls- so scary

Nevada Falls

I have been lucky enough to spend the past four days soaking up the wonders of Yosemite. A magical place, without doubt, and a place I've wanted to visit for years and years. I think of cartoons I watched as a kid that depicted Yosemite. And now I live only 3 hours away! 

We planned the trip last minute, and so chanced the lack of reservations. I think it worked out perfectly. At first, we stayed in White Wolf, a first-come campground north of the valley, and much higher in elevation. There were plenty of spots, but it was very cold at night. Then we went down to the valley and were able to snag the spots that people canceled for the rest of the time. We were pretty lucky because there were only 5 open spots one of those nights, and we still got one. The spots in the valley though are much more crowded and noisy. We had a very, very inconsiderate group next to us the last night, so I was a little grouchy the next morning.

We spent time wandering around, and driving through the park (it's an hour from White Wolf to the valley, and from the valley to Mariposa (the sequoia grove). And the speed limit in the park is 25 or 35- plenty of time to see the beauty.

The best part of the trip, besides the campfires and brilliant night skies and wildlife and fresh air and great food, was the epic hike we took on Monday. We originally decided to do the 4 mile trail, which is actually 4.8 miles up to Glacier Point... a 4000 ft elevation gain. We did this, and it was breathtaking, literally. The higher up we got, the more my fear of heights kicked in. In some spots, straying off the trail is a straight shot down-- so far down. But it was beautiful beyond measure. When we got to the top, it was a bit disappointing because you can also drive up to the point. So it was full of tourists in REI gear eating ice cream on the way from their cars to the viewpoint. I had to wait my turn to even get a picture. Blah. We talked to a man who said he'd met another man who made it up in 3 hours and so decided to take the Panorama Trail back down to the valley. We looked at eachother, realized we'd made it up in less than 3 hours, and decided to take that trail as well. Sure beat heading straight back down. From Glacier Point it's 8.5 miles back around to the other side and down to the valley, but you get views of 3 more falls and the entire valley. So we started down, down, down. We passed Illilouette Falls, and then found the most magical place in the states, yet. It's a series of pools and little falls, cascading down the mountain into the valley. The water in the pools has no current, so it's not like swimming near a waterfall. The pools are surrounded by granite, and the views are incredible. The water was brisk and fresh, and we took a little swim. So refreshing. This was the perfect thing to get us going again. We soon came to the top of Nevada Falls, which is one of the scarier spots I've been. You can look straight over the top of the falls, and if you walk down to the rocks beside, there are rails, and if you look out over the rail, you are so close to the rapidly falling water, and you can watch it hit the rocks straight down. Ugh. Awe inducing. Hiking from there to Vernal Falls below was the most difficult part of the day for me. The trail was pure rock covered in dirt, and my shoes are wearing out so they were not gripping. It was slippery and steep and there was not much room for error. Luckily I had a stick, and I just took it super slow. I need some better shoes. It was worth it, though. We made it back down to the valley around 7 pm, after starting at 10 am. It was the perfect day, with epic views.

Before leaving, we drove to the south side of the park to check out the giant sequoias at Mariposa grove. You had to take a shuttle to the grove and deal with hordes of tourists aimlessly wandering through the area. More ice cream there, too. (What's up with all the ice cream in Yosemite?) It was difficult for me to appreciate fully the beauty of those trees because of all the people around. I guess after a day of being away from all the people, that kind of energy is more intrusive. Some of the trees there are 2000 years old. Blows my mind. But they didn't seem so large. I may be spoiled by all the redwoods. 

This place, overall, is indescribable. What a wonderful getaway into nature. I really miss going on hikes regularly, and getting out into the wilderness. The Bay Area is so crowded- it seems impossible to really get out there.

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