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Life and Times of an itinerant slacker in Sacramento. Thrills, Spills Galore coming soon. Not to mention lots of opinions.

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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Looking Into Yosemite Valley

I'm starting this Yosemite trip report with what I thought was its most dramatic moment, our first view of the valley. Getting these views involved the better part of a full day hiking around. I strongly recommend this approach to Yosemite Valley for anyone visiting who is able to hike.

We walked in the same footprints and took in the same views as Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir. As if the scenery itself doesn't inspire enough awe.

Well, the view would have been the same, but at some point in the last 105 years, the National Park Service hired Disney inc. to colorize Yosemite Valley.

OK, in reality,our picture is from Sentinel Dome. Glacier point has been made accessible and rather unattractive since TR's day,but the view is still the same, but improved with Technicolor.

After packing up, we went directly to the Sentinel dome trail head on the south rim of Yosemite valley. About 1.1 miles with a good 400 ft elevation gain took us to Sentinel Dome. The last quarter mile or so was a scramble to the top of the exfoliating granite dome. We had to scramble up this slope to get the views.

In a National park,it usually takes a little work to reach something interesting that isn't bursting with screaming kids, snarling teens and shockingly unattractive adults.

The views from the dome were unbelievable. I have never seen anything like this in my life. Now I understand why taking in these views changed peoples lives, drove them to devote themselves to preserving the land. I have never experienced a breathtaking view before. This view really takes the breath away (some forest fires in the region helped, too). We looked across to the nearly mile high and wide vertical granite cliffs of El Capitan.

Since the views in every direction from Sentinel Dome were incredible, we went a little nuts with the cameras.

Here we are standing in front of the Yosemite Falls across Yosemite Valley. The falls were dry, but still cool to see. We stayed near the bottom of the falls the next three nights.

I was impressed with the view of El Capitan. A rock that big is just weird to see, especially when we could see down forever, and still not see the floor of the valley.

Sentinel Dome is a place where you can get a classic view of Half Dome to the East, without crowds pouring out of their campers. Somehow,we were more enchanted with the view looking West, although this view of half Dome to our East was compelling.

CJ the guide gave an impromptu talk about the geology of Yosemite Valley. He seemed to know a lot about the history and he was able to clearly share his knowledge. He looked like a model for REI while he gave his talk.

We took this trip with a tour company called Tahoe Trips and Trails. CJ was one of the three guides (two actual guides and one trainee) provided for our group of ten. Each day two hikers were offered, on e more strenuous and one less strenuous. I chose the more strenuous hike most days, with the exception of one day where the hikes sounded similar, only the more strenuous hike would have been much longer.

This is not the cheapest way to go, but we were assured a great trip, and we had a great trip. There's no way going it on our own would have been nearly the same experience. This is a good way to go if you can swing it.

Another two miles hike to the west brought us to Taft point, where the trail ends with a series of unimaginably deep fissures and vertical drop to the valley floor. From here I could really see how large these vistas were.

Standing on the edge of almost a mile vertical drop really made an impression of how big this all is. One of the advantages of walking a couple of miles from parking is that the park Service no longer feels the need to erect barriers. Even standing about five feet from the ledge was a little frightening.

One small area of the ledge had a railing to lean on, so I was able to get a couple of pictures looking down into Yosemite Valley. I needed the railing since I felt a little queasy whenever I went within a few feet of the ledge.

Here you can see all of El Capitan, from the bottom to the top.

This is the view looking down.

Here's a fissure you might fall into if you don't watch your step.

We ended our hiking with a 3 mile hike to Glacier point. This hike went between Sentinel Dome and the ledge. The trail rose about 300 feet before leveling into Glacier point. We saw the cutest fat little marmot beastie, sitting on a rock cantilevered over the edge of the bluff.

If I was there, I would be hunched down too.

We had an incredible view of Half Dome about a mile from Glacier point. This was one of several points where the trail walked along the edge of the valley's wall.

This is very similar to the distance view you can get from Glacier Point. However,the view seemed flatter from Glacier Point. Somehow the level paved surface and barriers surrounding Glacier Point made Half Dome appear more distant and less real. It seemed flat when I was looking out form a flat place. There's something to be said for the hightened presence you get when you know you are two steps from a 4000 foot drop.

We avoided the herds of pasty-faced flabby tourists until we came to Glacier point at the end of the day. Having hiked all day, we could have bathed ourselves in the smugness from quietly realizing only we and the European visitors appeared to have walked through anything except the giant parking lot.

However, once I noticed the Glacier Point Visitor Center sold ice cream bars, I got over the ugliness of the scene and enjoyed the creamy chocolate covered vanilla goodness.

We drove into Yosemite valley after our hiking. One entry to the valley is through the Wawona tunnel. I recommend this for anyone approaching the valley for the first time. As soon as we exited the tunnel, we were surrounded by granite walls bigger than the imagination can invent.

We stayed at the Yosemite Lodge, which is a frumpy but comfortable place to stay for some ungodly daily rate. The posh place in the valley, the Ahwanee, costs from $500 to $1,100 per night, depending on room and season. The restaurant at Yosemite lodge was pretty good. Although the west end of Yosemite Valley is full of Hotels, campgrounds and parking lots, there is still a lot of beauty right there. Frederick Olmstead's company did a brilliant job laying out the roads and trails.

This meadow scene was only a minute or two's walk our hotel's parking lot.

The views of the Valley's North walls were spectacular in the morning. I didn't expect a view like this from a parking lot. I never thought I'd see a hiking group's picture taken in a parking lot.

The morning light did cool things with the shadows.

That's Yosemite Valley. Look forward to reports from Mariposa Grove and Vernal Falls.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Looking at these pictures as I drink morning coffee getting ready to go to a job I hate - your pics are amazing. Wish I could have been there. Looking forward to seeing all your pics when you're here.

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