To the timid traveler, fresh from the sedimentary levels of the lowlands, these highways, however picturesque and grand, seem terribly forbidding– cold, dead, gloomy gashes on the bones of the mountains, and all of Nature’s ways the ones to be most cautiously avoided. Yet the are full of the finest and most telling examples of Nature’s love; and though hard to travel, none are safer.
into the valley
This was quite possibly the coldest night I’ve camped in, certainly on this tour. All the backpackers had on stocking caps and I wished I’d brought mine, if for just this morning. However I’d be descending from the ~9000 feet of Tuolumne Meadows to around 3500 at Yosemite Meadows where it would be almost twenty degrees warmer.
It was a beautiful day for a ride through the park, sunny with tendrils of white cloud against the deep blue sky. Tioga road almost circumnavigates this massive park taking fifty miles to get to Yosemite Valley. Coming down from the Meadows the initial sights are just stunning. Massive jagged granite peaks, some with climbers on them, cut right into the blue sky. Tenaya Lake, is a stunning blue body of water right below these peaks and crumbling stone hills. At Olmstead Point who’s can see far down the valley toward the Cathedral Peaks and other promontories.
Tioga road then sinks down to Yosemite Creek and then you climb back to over 9000 feet again. But then it’s mostly downhill into Yosemite Valley. Some of this was pretty harrowing as a ride – long stretches with no shoulder, few turnouts and a a steep enough grade for a fast descent around the twisty curves. And of course it’s all heavily trafficked. I didn’t see any other cyclists on this road which is unusual – I almost always see roadies riding these classic roads, but at least today none. With the traffic I can see why this would be too appealing.
This whole section was in trees, with the only open areas in sections that had been devastated by wildfires. But once the road turns toward the valley, huge views begin to open up. Then you are in the valley with its massive towering rock faces. Half dome comes into view, way at the end of the valley, buttressed by layered groupings of peaks and rock faces. One rides through some tunnels, which are certainly better downhill then going up (in fact this whole section would be pretty bad uphill IMO – do it early is the best option), cross the Merced River and then you are on the valley floor.
Coming out of the trees, El Capitain springs into view, just massive and commanding your attention. One of those edifices that might seem to be over-rated, but once you are under it’s towering glory, it clearly is not. Around this area thou and into the Village and surrounding campgrounds it’s just a zoo though. So many people, come here, everything is packed. But there is everything here – showers, laundry, a big store, post office, restaurants and so on.
I set up in the North Pines Campground – I’d gotten a reservation here (which is required) via the website just two days ago – and then road around the valley trail system exploring the Yosemite and Curry Villages and taking advantage of some of those aforementioned services. As I rode from camp a gentle rain began but didn’t last, leaving dramatics clouds like fingerprinted streaks above the striated granite strictest that loom over the valley.
North Pines Campground, Yosemite National Park
under the towering granite cliffs,
a red-headed woodpecker knocks on a tree
standing on a rock a disheveled raven mutters to itself
the rising sun glimmers through the tall trees
a morning car alarm to wake us all up
as soon as it’s allowed the drone of generators begins
a soft rain falls for a few minutes
then the sun glimmers out of the
clouds as they fade away