Sunday, June 29, 2008

Yosemite National Park, California

I just returned from six days of hiking in beautiful Yosemite National Park, California. Yosemite is spectacular; I have never before experienced such grandeur on such a majestic scale. In Yosemite, cliffs and waterfalls plunge thousands of feet, two thousand year old trees tower over two hundred feet, and wild rivers thunder into the valley below.

Day One Sunday June 22

Today we hiked Pohono Trail to Dewey Point at 7200 feet elevation, and also Crocker Point at 7100 feet. This was my first view of the majestic cliffs dropping into Yosemite Valley thousands of feet below. We could see Bridalveil Fall, Ribbon Fall, and the striking 3000 foot high El Capitan.

The Sierra Nevada forests are filled with towering majestic pines.

View of El Capitan and the triple peaks of Three Brothers

On top of Dewey Point

Spring is wildflower season.

The classic Valley view. El Capitan is on the left, Half Dome is visible in the center, and Bridalveil Fall flows to the right.

Day Two Monday June 23

Today we hiked the Mist Trail to the strikingly beautiful Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall.

The beautiful Merced River. Sometimes it is a bubbling creek, sometimes a placid and calm river, and other times a wild and thundering rapid.

First glimpse of the 317 foot Vernal Fall from the Mist Trail

If you catch the light just right you can see a rainbow.

Vernal Fall from the Mist Trail

Another beautiful view with a rainbow

Wild and wonderful Merced River thunders into the valley below

Close up view of the majestic 594 foot Nevada Fall

Nevada Fall roars into the Valley below

Merced River plunging over Vernal Fall

Liberty Cap and Vernal Fall

Our hike leaders, Sue and Dick. They did a wonderful job planning our trip, guiding our hikes, and ensuring our comfort and safety.

View of wildflowers and Nevada Fall

Nevada Fall from the John Muir trail.

Day Three, Tuesday June 24

Today was the most strenuous hike of our trip, the hike to the top of Yosemite Falls and beyond that to the dizzying view from Yosemite Point, which overlooks the Valley and the Falls below.

A view of Upper Yosemite Falls. Yosemite Falls is the highest waterfall in North America, and the fifth tallest in the world. It is a 2425 foot drop from the top of the Upper Fall to the base of the Lower Fall. The Upper Fall alone is a 1430 foot plunge.

A view from Yosemite Falls Trail

These beautiful waters plunge very quickly over Yosemite Falls

Day Four Wednesday June 25

Today we hiked in the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoia. Later we had a wonderful raft ride on the Merced River with views of Half Dome and Yosemite Falls.

A view of Half Dome rising 4737 feet above the valley floor.

A majestic Giant Sequoia. Sequoias are the world's largest living being in terms of volume. They average 165 to 280 feet tall. They grow in a limited area of the western Sierra Nevada. The oldest tree in the Mariposa Grove is 1900 to 2400 years old.

A photo of me with our hike leaders Sue and Dick

Majestic giants

A cluster of towering trees

A beautiful walk through a grove of some of the tallest trees in the world

I had to merge five photos together to capture the height of this majestic tree.

Bear! We were lucky enough to see an abundance of wildlife on the trails, including three adult bears and two cubs, two coyote, dozens of mule deer, and of course the western ground squirrel. Bird sightings include the beautiful stellar jay which is common in the West, an acorn woodpecker, and a western grosbeak. Mountain lions also exist in the park. We convinced ourselves we saw a print of a big cat, but it might have been a coyote. Who knows?

Day Five Thursday June 26

Today we hiked the Sentinel Loop to the 8,122 foot Sentinel Dome, the second highest point on Yosemite Valley's rim after Half Dome. We also hiked to Taft Point and saw the dramatic Fissure drop offs, and also saw Washburn Point and Glacier Point.

View of Half Dome in the distance.

View of Half Dome and Nevada and Vernal Falls

A surprise sighting of a coyote

Day Six Friday June 27

Today we hiked to Bridalveil Fall, around Mirror Lake, and also saw Lower Yosemite Fall. We spent some time in the Yosemite Village and Museum learning about the Native American culture and also the history of climbers in the park. Finally, we had dinner at Yosemite Lodge and then toured the historic Ahwahnee Hotel. On the way back to our cabin, we passed El Capitan and saw the lights from at least three climbers. Climbers can take several days to summit El Capitan.

Bridalveil Fall

A view of the aptly named Mirror Lake

Another reflection from Mirror Lake

This mule deer let us approach very close. Probably too close. Don't try this at home.

A respectable distance from a mule deer

A view of Upper Yosemite Fall and Lower Yosemite Fall

Lower Yosemite Fall

The historic Ahwahnee Hotel

Our final dinner and farewell. I am looking forward to many enduring friendships from this wonderful group of people I met on the trail. Here's hoping for many more adventures and many years of friendship!

In closing, here is the poetic and mystical description of Yosemite by the naturalist John Muir, a champion for the preservation of Yosemite National Park and founder of the Sierra Club, one of the most influential conservation organizations in the United States:

The most famous and accessible of these canyon valleys, and also the one that presents their most striking and sublime features on the grandest scale, is the Yosemite, situated in the basin of the Merced River at an elevation of 4000 feet above the level of the sea. It is about seven miles long, half a mile to a mile wide, and nearly a mile deep in the solid granite flank of the range. The walls are made up of rocks, mountains in size, partly separated from each other by side canyons, and they are so sheer in front, and so compactly and harmoniously arranged on a level floor, that the Valley, comprehensively seen, looks like an immense hall or temple lighted from above.

But no temple made with hands can compare with Yosemite. Every rock in its walls seems to glow with life. Some lean back in majestic repose; others, absolutely sheer or nearly so for thousands of feet, advance beyond their companions in thoughtful attitudes, giving welcome to storms and calms alike, seemingly aware, yet heedless, of everything going on about them. Awful in stern, immovable majesty, how softly these rocks are adorned, and how fine and reassuring the company they keep: their feet among beautiful groves and meadows, their brows in the sky, a thousand flowers leaning confidingly against their feet, bathed in floods of water, floods of light, while the snow and waterfalls, the winds and avalanches and clouds shine and sing and wreathe about them as the years go by, and myriads of small winged creatures birds, bees, butterflies--give glad animation and help to make all the air into music. Down through the middle of the Valley flows the crystal Merced, River of Mercy, peacefully quiet, reflecting lilies and trees and the onlooking rocks; things frail and fleeting and types of endurance meeting here and blending in countless forms, as if into this one mountain mansion Nature had gathered her choicest treasures, to draw her lovers into close and confiding communion with her.

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