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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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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Yosemite Part 3 Omnibus - Mariposa Grove, Vernal Falls and Mirror lake

This final Yosemite travelblogue is about the other places we hiked. Although these hikes did not merit separate blog posts in my judgment, these places are worth visiting. Hopefully, after reading this post, you'll know why.

Mariposa Grove is a large grove of giant redwoods. These are the rather stubby and huge Giant Sierra Redwoods, known as sequoia Gigantum.These trees agre very wide around the base and produce low quality wood that isn't good for much beyond toothpicks. I find the cleaner shaped and taller Coastal Redwoods (Sequioa Semper Verens) to be more attractive.

Our hike was at Mariposa Grove had a fair amount of elevation, about 1,000 feet over the day. We walked from the lower grove to the upper grove. Our trail was crisscrossed by a paved road carrying loads of people in theme-park style trams. that made the whole thing kind of weird. The trams give passengers headphones, so we couldn't hear the nature interpretation rap. The trams just kept on sneaking up on us.

The trees were pretty cool. Like all frequently visited Giant Redwood Groves, the trees had all sorts of corny names and lore. This famous tree is around 1,900 to 2,400 years old.

A group picture in front of a giant tree is mandatory here.

I found this almost perfectly shaped ponderosa pine on a ridge during our walk from the upper grove back to the lower grove.

This place is an important place in the history of land preservation and National Parks.

Mariposa Grove was the home of Galen Clark in the 1860s. He is a great guardian of the world's beautiful natural places. He convinced President Lincoln and Congress to declare Yosemite a preserve (at that time, management of the preserve was given to the State of California). This was the first time in Western Civilization that land was set aside as a nature preserve. It is amazing this was done in during the difficult years of the Civil War. Clark was known as the "guardian of Yosemite". Although Clark played an equally vital role in preserving this land, John Muir got all the ink.

Clark built a cabin in the upper grove and lived there for years. He was probably as surprised as anybody,since he came to Yosemite after his doctor gave him six months to live. He found his cure in the mountain air.

Galen's cabin is now a small museum, and the trams stop there.

Vernal Falls is a contrary name, since this was the only waterfall in Yosemite Valley that was still running in September.

The approach to the fall is via mist trail,which starts at a trail head accessible by the Park Service bus. The hike starts on mist trail, a pretty level hike that would have taken us through the waterfall's mist if there was more water falling.

The last stretch of the trail is a little more difficult, following a steep staircase cut into the canyon's wall. The staircase gave great views of the fall.

Even with a view, after a few hundred stairs, it started feeling like Cirith Ungol from Lord of The Rings. It all depends on how you set the shutter speed.

But there's nothing like a 300 foot waterfall.

Every few steps, the view changed.

We stopped at the top of the falls for a while. The river created a large,smoothed surface from its spring flows.

We could look up to Nevada Falls, another break further up the bluffs. Nevada Falls has a similar staircase trail, but we decided to skip that. Up close, it's reputed to look like Vernal Falls - The Sequel.

We continued to a junction to the John Muir Trail, which we took us back to the trail head via a much more gradual but less interesting route At the junction, we were greeted by an man with a John Muir beard walking in the opposite direction. When we first spotted him at a distance, we wondered if we were fated to meet John Muir's ghost. He let me take his picture, so you don't have to believe me; here's the truth.

At this high point of the trail, we had great views of Grizzly and Liberty domes across the valley, with half dome peeking over their ridge.

Our last hike was from the end of Yosemite Valley on the Mirror Lake Trail. Mirror lake has pretty much drained out since the natural dam that formed the lake shook loose after an earthquake. The trail head is at the last bus stop in the valley (you can't drive there). This gentle trail goes into the narrow and high-walled Tenaya valley. We were in the shadows for the entire walk.

Not surprising, there's a lot of loose rocks around. This warning sign made me laugh.

The most striking scene on this trail was man-made - a grove of cairns. No one seems to know who built the cairns or why someone took the time to move all those stones. It was like stumbling into a Japanese temple.

This was our last hike in Yosemite, we drove home in the afternoon.

These last three posts have all the pretty pictures. I may write further about the human aspects of visiting this National Park. It was a little strange

Until that day,

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

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