Sunday, September 20, 2009

Yosemite National Park, Visiting Yosemite Valley

As we rounded the curve, after passing through the tunnel, we could see El Capitan and Half Dome. We were still a ways away from the Yosemite Valley but the beauty almost caused me to run off the narrow park road and send us plunging thousands of feet through the air to a certain death below. "I will let you do the sightseeing as driving is all I can do", I said to Renita. She continued to give me verbal descriptions that were almost too much to listen to and I couldn't wait till we reached the valley and I could pull over.
Finally, we reached the valley floor and drove along the Merced river. We reached a pullover spot near El Capitan and got out to marvel at the wall, almost 3000 feet of exfoliated light granite. Behind us someone pointed out a coyote and we watched in amazement as it ran after a ground squirrel, which hurried into it's burrow. Undeterred the large coyote dug and dug and soon it carried the squirrel away, to snack in private!
Back in the car we drove on past Cathedral Spires, Bridelveil Falls, The Upper and Lower Falls and finally reached our destination, the Curry Village parking area near Half Dome. Sharon and Alan had told us about this place and said the parking was easy and that it allowed you to board the free shuttle service for the valley,(the only sane way, other than bikes, to tour the place).
Our first stop was the visitor center where we got a good map of the park. Next to it was a small museum which showed art and Paiute baskets. From there it was a short hike to the Lower Falls Trail, Our first hike of the day.
The trail started and immediately Renita spotted an Acorn Woodpecker, not a new bird for us but we actually saw it with an acorn in it's beak! As we started up the trail we passed through a redwood grove of Sequoias and stopped and marveled at their size.
There were a lot of people hiking the trail and as we reached the lower falls we paused and glassed the rock for obvious climbing routes. It didn't take long to see several white slings attached to bolts, apparently where people had bailed off and left them,(They might also be there so climbers could quickly clip into them but I would never trust an old sling on a bolt).
Finding a redwood bench we sat down and took out our lunch. People passed by as we ate and talked about how beautiful the falls must be when they had water,(spring and early summer), and how we would have to return another year at an earlier time.
Getting onto the El Capitan Shuttle, we rode to a place where a climbing tourist project was set up, called "Ask a Climber". There the climbers had set up a telescope and told about the routes on El Capitan. There were about thirty climbers on the Zodiac and the Nose routes.
Watching the climbers we could see that they were on aid pitches and the memories of aid climbing at Devils Tower came flooding back. I could feel the rock and hear the tings as a piton was being driven. The sirens of the rock called to me and stirred my soul. It was so nice to actually see the places I had only dreamed about and we enjoyed watching a team near the top slowly hauling their sacks.
Soon it was time to board the shuttle and head to our last hike of the day, Mirror Lake and Half Dome. We arrived at stop 17 and found an asphalt road leading up the valley. Taking it we soon veered off and onto a dirt and rock path along the east side of the stream.
The trail was pretty easy but we had to step carefully as horse apples were common, it turned out to be the donkey trail! The path steepened and I stopped to measure my heart rate and I was doing ok. Renita led the way and had gotten ahead so I had to hurry up to catch her.
We reached Mirror Lake and crossed the old lake bed. It was completely dry now and had filled in with sand and rock,a far cry from the clear pool of water which use to reflect Half Dome. A sign warned that the Ahwiyah trail ahead was closed from a huge rock slide that had happened in March, and we could easily see the fresh scars left on Ahwiyah Point where the rock had peeled away.
Posing for pictures we paused and I fell in love with the valley, hoping to someday return and hike up further, it was my favorite place so far and I felt a moment of peace, but I have talked of that before. Turning down the trail we hiked back to the shuttle stop and boarded for our truck and the long drive home.
Renita drove on the way back, so I could sight see and she hated the narrow winding and crumbing road as much as I did,(the driver can't do any sightseeing as the road is so narrow and the drop offs so acrophobic and this is from people that lived 30 plus years in Wyoming). It was a beautiful drive home and I enjoyed the scenery as much as Renita had on the way in. We both loved our day in the park and hope to return again. The beauty that Sharon and Alan had talked about and their love for the place, so easily seen in their faces, had also touched us. Clear skies.

Can you see the clinbers in the images, you might have to download them and increase the magnification?

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