Tour without a goal – 20 August 2014

Vernal Falls

But no temple made with hands can compare with Yosemite. Every rock in its walls seems to glow with life. Down through the middle of the Valley flows the crystal Merced, River of Mercy, peacefully quiet, reflecting lilies and trees and the onlooking rocks; things frail and fleeting and types of endurance meeting here and blending in countless forms as if into this one mountain mansion Nature had gathered her choicest treasures, to draw her lovers on close and confiding communion with her.
– John Muir

hanging valleys
Today was an entire day spent off the bicycle and hiking around Yosemite. I can’t of course do any real epic hikes, which I’ve come to believe is the best way to really experience these places. However I was able to do three short hikes and see some pretty stunning sights.

Half Dome over Mirror Lake

The first of these hikes was to Mirror Lake which I was able start from the North Pines campground and walk just a bit up the road to the trailhead. Once on use trail it a mile or so up the Tenaya River which was rusty and barely running over the rocks at this point. The trail was sandy, and through the trees with glimpses of the granite cliffs and the river now and again. Seasonally Mirror Lakes go dry so it was a big sandy pit with just a small amount of rusty water remaining. Historically they charged admission to see Half Dome and the other promontories reflected in these pools.

I rode the free shuttle system that runs all around the Valley to the Village and had lunch there and checked out the Ansel Adams Gallery which definitely has some stunning Yosemite Shots throughout the seasons. I was able to walk from the Village to the trailhead for Yosemite Falls which like Mirror Lake runs dry in the late summer. All of this is exacerbated by ongoing California Drought. The towering rocks, scoured with mineral deposits from the falling wasters was definitely still a sight. Clearly though earlier in the year is the time to see some of these sights.

View from the top of vernal Falls

Back on the shuttle bus I rode it out to the Mist Trailhead which would be my most extensive hike of the day. This was a pretty challenging 1.5 mile hike uphill the entire time. At first it’s a gently climbing, windy sandy path along the merrily bubbling Merced River that hugs the canyon walls. But soon enough you crossed the river and then the ascent begins in earnest. Steeper uphill with some rough widely spaced out stone steps. You begin to,go over and around bigger rocks and at one point a tunnel made up,of a big boulder leaning on a flat rock. But past that Vernal Falls comes into view.

Vernal Falls

The two falls on the Merced, of which Vernal Falls is the lower one are e only really active falls in the Valley in late summer. But it is a stunning falls, free falling over a shear rock face, which is striated with mineral patterns and water scoring. Beyond these stunning views of et falls you can then go up 700 rough hewn stone steps to the top. This I did and I have to say the views of the valley, the Merced and the Mist Trail which I took up here was stunning. There were people who jumped the fence and were playing it on the edge of the falls. Just seemed crazy, one guy leaning back right on e edge to take a selfie. The trip back was more harrowing, pounding down some uneven stone steps but my trail running holes gripped fine and I made it down safely.

Lee Stetson as John Muir

I returned to the Village to have a quick bite to eat before I went to the Yosemite Theater to see a the one man show: Conversation with a Tramp: John Muir Live, featuring Lee Stetson as John Muir. Stetson really captured Muir and I’ve read enough of Muir to know that he had his style down. He of course quoted quite a bit from Muir, I recognized a passage here and there. The play too, place on the night that Muir learned that Woodrow Wilson would not veto the bill allowing a part of the protected park, the Hetch Hetchy Valley be dammed as a reservoir for San Francisco. Stetson told a lot of stores from Muir’s youth of the long fight for the Hetch Hetchy and of course the wonders of nature. One of my favorite bits was his contempt for those who just drove through parks looking at scenic overlooks and driving on to the next. Behavior I’ve witnessed many times myself. He also passed on his mothers admonishment to eat apples and smell the lilies.

sitting beneath these hanging granite walls
thinking of impermanence

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