We got back from Yosemite about a week and a half ago and I am finally almost caught up. (What? You didn’t notice I was gone? That’s because of the secrets I learned in the Orient which enable me to pass invisibly among men.)
We stayed in the Wawona Hotel which is one of the lodges in the park and did day hikes. The first day we hiked in the west end of the Yosemite Valley, and here is El Capitan:
We were walking along the Merced River when a black bear came out of the woods on the other side and had himself a bath.
So much for my theory that the bears might be hibernating. I had brought a couple of bags of trail snacks and it was very hard to know what to do with them — the park doesn’t want you to leave them in your car or the bears will rip your car apart, and the hotel doesn’t want them in the rooms because they’ll attract mice. Yeah, carry them with you, but you can’t walk all the time (especially me).
This is Cathedral Peak, same day. I didn’t connect it with the Bierstadt painting of Cathedral Rock until later — his view is from way down the valley.
The next day my knee was trashed so we had a mostly driving day. We drove out the Tioga Road which crosses the park east-west and is a winding chain of sheer drops with no guard rails. We stopped at Tenaya Lake, famous from the Ansel Adams photograph.
The jet trails are coming from Reno, I believe.
On to Mono Lake (actually a little east of the park). I had a vague impression that the tufa towers were caused by pollution but that’s not quite the story.
They form natually underwater when the calcium carbonate in the lake water reacts with something in the fresh water entering the lake. They’re visible now because Los Angeles has been siphoning water off from the feeder streams for years. This has been very bad for the lake and everything trying to live in it. A few years ago an agreement was reached that half the drop in water level would be replaced, and the lake is within about 10 feet of the target level, if I recall. The last 10 feet will take much longer because of the larger area to fill. The bird in the water is a western grebe. This does not count as an animal picture.
We stopped at Tuolumne meadow on the way back and walked to Soda Springs (a naturally carbonated spring) just for a place to go. We saw this coyote on the way back.
We visited a couple of sequoia groves. Here’s the upper grove at Mariposa Grove:
The building is a museum which was closed for the winter. And yes, we saw the tree in Bierstadt’s painting, the Grizzly Giant!
They had been burning the grove (lower down; you can’t tell from this picture). For a long time there haven’t been any new sequoias getting started because they need fire, and the Park Service has been on a no-fires mission for years and years. A managed burn clears away the pine litter on the ground so the seeds can germinate, the ash nourishes the young trees, and the fire doesn’t hurt the old trees.
The Mariposa grove was full of tame animals. I refused to take pictures of the mule deer, although I pointed some out to a woman who was taking pictures of every animal she saw. She crept up on the deer very slowly, taking pictures all the way, only to discover that the deer probably would only have moved if she had kicked it (and maybe not then). I do like ground squirrels:
The markings on their fur look like feathers. This guy was completely focused on his digging and only moved when I stepped around him.
I took a lot of pictures of Half Dome from various angles. Here’s Half Dome and Tenaya canyon from Glacier Point:
Glacier Point is at about 7200 feet with a 270-degree view, and there is a 4-mile trail from it down to the valley, which I think is at least a 4000-foot drop. Must be quite a trail.
When we got home, I went through a lot of Bierstadt paintings on a couple of web sites to see what his views were like. He painted at least 100 pictures of Yosemite’s domes, peaks, waterfalls, and canyons, but as far as I can find, not a single picture of Half Dome. That seems very strange. Maybe Half Dome wasn’t really famous until Ansel Adams photographed it.
We also walked down Tenaya canyon one day. It passes Mirror Lake which is the brown spot among the trees at the lower center of the picture. The Park Service has allowed it to silt up (they used to dredge it each year), and while there may be water after the snow melts, in the fall it’s just a sand pit. It’s on a list of “most overrated” destinations in Yosemite. One guy who hadn’t gotten the word asked us where Mirror Lake was, and was very put out when we told him he was looking at it.
We had beautiful weather with chilly nights and daytime highs of about 70, and it was really a relaxing trip, in no small part because there was no TV, no radio, no internet, no email, no cell service (we were apparently the ONLY people in Yosemite not getting cell service, but I think they were the ones losing by it — what sense is there in climbing to a beautiful spot and calling the office?).