On the Road Again…week four

Remembrance of things past (and present)

Ah, Yosemite.  If you’ve never been there it’s a definite thing to add to your bucket list.  If you have visited, it’s worth a repeat visit.

From my sister’s home in Bodfish (Lake Isabella) we made the drive to Yosemite in a little over four hours.  We found the park to be completely clear of smoke from the Rim Fire although we could see plumes of it billowing up from the distant mountains.  We drove up to Glacier Point so I could give Susan an overview of the park and point out some of the things we would be visiting.

The Rim Fire

From Washburn Point I was able to show her both Vernal and Nevada Falls far below us and behind Half Dome.  Because of the lateness of the season (September) and the drought California was experiencing the falls were at a minimal amount.

Vernal Falls is the lower one & Nevada Falls the upper

I took Susan out to Glacier Point and showed her the spot from which they used to push the coals to create the Firefall.  In 1969, the last year the Firefall was held, I hiked a brief ways down the four mile trail that leads from Glacier Point to the valley floor with a group of boys from Devereaux Schools in Santa Barbara.  We packed sandwiches, brought flashlights, and watched in awe from a spot about halfway down the length of the Firefall as it took place.  I was prepared for the spectacular light show.  I was not prepared for the sounds that accompanied it.  As the coals turned white hot and crystallized as they cascaded down the cliff face they created a sound I can only characterize as a giant wind chime.  It was enough to mesmerize even a group of teenage boys and we hiked back up the trail with the aid of flashlights subdued by the sight we had witnessed.

Half Dome and Yosemite Valley below

To the right of the trees is where I watched the Firefall

From Glacier Point we drove down through the Wawona tunnel and saw what is probably the most famous view of the valley, El Capitan, Half Dome and Bridal Veil Falls (hardly a trickle in September).  We drove back to our accommodations in Oakhurst with many memories.

The view just through Wowana Tunnel

The next day we left early and made the more than one-hour drive to the parking lot at Curry Village where we caught the shuttle to Happy Isles.  We then hiked to the top of Vernal Falls and a little beyond.  Aside from the more than 900-foot elevation gain, those numerous steep granite steps (over 600) play havoc with old knees.  I had to rest a number of times at various spots on the way up.  Amazingly enough I can remember when as a (much) younger person I picked up a toddler who was having trouble negotiating the steps and carried her to the top where I returned her to her grateful parents.

Vernal Falls – normally the water is clear across the face

Climbing the more than 600 granite steps

Look closely to see the white granite stairs that snake up the mountain

From the top of Vernal Falls

One thing I have learned is that my mind hasn’t yet arrived at the same acceptance of my age (72) that my body has.  My mind still thinks I can do these things before my body says “That’s enough!” and calls a halt.  When I was younger I made the hike from Happy Isles to the top of Half Dome and back in a single day!  It is not only a 15+ mile round trip hike but you gain some 4,600 feet in elevation.  The last part of the ascent is done up cables.  I was hiking with a young lady I wanted to impress and so, after taking her picture, I went out and posed with my feet hanging over the rock ledge that extends out from Half Dome.  When I realized where I was, I crawled back to the point from which she took my picture before beginning the long hike back.  So much for my male bravado!

After our hike that day Susan and I spent some time gratefully soaking in the 2-person hot tub at our lodging.

The next day we decided to visit the Mariposa Grove of Big Trees.  For those of you who have never seen a giant Sequoia Redwood tree this is a site to behold.  We took a narrated tram ride up to the upper grove and the museum then hiked back some 2 ½ miles to where we caught the shuttle to the car.  We took 3 hours to do the hike only because we spent so much time admiring and photographing these amazing trees.  I remember being awestruck by these trees as a small child of 8 and I was equally awestruck as a 72 year old adult.  You have to see these forest giants to believe them!  We spent another night in the hot tub soaking out our aches and pains.

That’s me at the very bottom and this isn’t one of the largest trees

Susan and me at the California Tunnel Tree which was cut in 1895

The Giant Grizzly is the 25th largest living giant sequoia in the world and is 2,000+ years old. It is 209 feet tall, 25 feet in diameter with one of the limbs is 7 feet in diameter


Yesterday, our last day in Yosemite, we took in all the sights of the valley floor.  We went to Camp Curry and the amphitheater where I used to watch the evening’s entertainment before the Firefall started at 9 pm.  We went to Yosemite Village and purchased sandwiches at Degnan’s Deli for our lunch.  We took numerous pictures of Bridalveil Falls, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls (dry), El Capitan, the Merced River, and all in all played tourist.  I am amazed at how many languages we hear spoken among the visitors.  I recognized German, French, Spanish, Russian plus many others I wasn’t sure what they were.

El Capitan rises 3,000 above the valley floor

The Merced River and beautiful Yosemite

Views of Yosemite

Susan and I made a promise to each other to return to Yosemite in the springtime before the crowds descend upon the park but while the falls and river are still flowing near their peak.  Hopefully that will happen in the next year or two.

If you’ve never managed to visit some of the magnificent National Parks the USA has to offer I would urge you to do so.  I’ve been to the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Yosemite, Crater Lake, Carlsbad Caverns, Glacier, Denali and a number of others.  One day, now that I’m getting older, I hope to take a train trip and stay at some of the lodges.  I think I’m probably past the point of hiking into the Phantom Ranch Lodge at the bottom of the Grand Canyon but I might make it on mule back.  At least I’m not too old to dream!<

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