Hiking Yosemite

Yesterday we drove up to Yosemite for the day.  It’s a 2 hour drive from Mom’s to Yosemite Valley.  We left at 7am, and after stopping at Starbucks for fuel we were on schedule for an early hike.  My goal was to walk to the top of Vernal Falls, then see how we felt.  We ended up going twice that far!

We parked at Curry Village.  The logistics of the park has changed over the years.  I remember when there was plenty of parking for everyone, mainly because there weren’t as many visitors.  Then it became so crowded and busy that there was air pollution from all the cars.  Then came the big floods of 1996 and ’97 (nice video here) and a lot of accommodation was moved outside the park and more visitors were bused in instead of driving in.  Yesterday, at the beginning of high season, it felt busy, but not overwhelmingly crowded.  The parking lot wasn’t full.  We got seats on the bus.  And thanks to some recent rain and wind, the air was crystal clear.

The weather could not have been better for our hike.  The sky was clear blue, temps in the low 80’sF (~25C) and just a slight breeze.

We left the car at Curry Village and walked to Happy Isles.  From there you cross a bridge over the Merced River and trail starts heading up to Vernal Falls.  It was only 9:30am when we got to the bridge but already we got busy with sun glasses and shorts.

On the way up to the base of Vernal Falls we saw plenty of grey squirrels.  Even though all the signs say not to feed the animals, people still do, and the squirrels aren’t afraid of people at all.

From Happy Isles all the way to the top of Nevada Falls it’s uphill all the way.  You are climbing up and out of Yosemite Valley up the side of granite cliffs.  The trails were made by blasting the sides of mountains with dynamite and making steps from the blasted pieces of stone.

Here we are at the bridge at the base of Vernal Falls.  Our day had just begun.  No sore muscles yet.

This section of the walk is called the Mist Trail.  As you get closer to the falls you can see why.  We got wet in the mist of the falls but the weather was so nice, and we were working hard, so were dry in no time.

I tried to get some clever photos of the falls.  I love my new camera (Nikon D5100, 18-105 lens) but I need to learn more about how to get the photos I want.  I tried to get photos with a slow shutter speed making the water look like a flowing cloud.  All those photos were terribly over exposed.  Ah well.  I learned something anyway.  I should have either checked the results in the screen (I shoot everything through the viewfinder) and adjusted, or set up a special setting for this beforehand.  I think if I lower the ISO to the minimum next time it will work.  I need another week in the Valley to hike this trail again and again so I get the photography better!

Here’s my best “arty” shot of the falls.

There were quite a few people already at the top when we got there.  They must have started very early!

After Vernal Falls we decided to continue walking to the top of Nevada Falls.  From the Valley floor, the top of Vernal Falls is 1000 ft (300m) higher.  The top of Nevada Falls is another 900 ft (250m) higher still.  You have a choice of route to get to the top of Nevada Falls.  We chose to take the shorter, steeper route going up.  It was definitely steep!  At some points it was a little scary even.  Don’t make a wrong step or you’ll tumble down very far on sharp granite rock.

Part way up DB spotted a couple of little lizards.  We figured this one was a male.  He was busy doing his pushups to impress the other lizard (who simply ran away, clearly unimpressed).

Here are some photos of Nevada Falls.  The big dome is called Liberty Cap.

We walked back to the base of Vernal Falls, downhill all the way, via the longer and less steep trail.  This was part of the John Muir Trail.  Just after starting downhill my left knee started to really hurt.  By the time we got to the base of the falls I could hardly walk on it!  I walked slowly with as little knee bending as possible.  Once we got down to the Valley and on level ground it was fine!  I have to go to my physical therapist when I get back and see what the problem is and how to make it better.  How am I ever going to walk to the top of Half Dome with a knee like this?  My right knee, the one that was operated on 2 years ago, was perfect.  At least the operation was a big success!

When we got back to the valley floor we took the shutter bus to the Visitor’s Center.  I wanted to get some more info on hiking to the top of Half Dome.  I found a book there that gave us the bad news:  it’s a lottery to get a permit to do the hike.  Wow.  Not only will the training for such a trip be difficult, but after training to be physically ready, we might not even get a permit to do it!  I should have made that trip years ago when 1) I was younger and better able to make it and 2) lived in the same country.  Ah well.  We’ll see if this “bucket list” item gets checked off or not.

We went back to Curry Village, got some burgers and fries at the burger joint, and then drove home.  We got to Mom’s about 12 hours after we had left that morning.  Later that evening I had the feeling that the whole day was just a dream.  It’s strange to have been in such a beautiful place, for a short time, and then not any more.  We should plan a longer stay there.

If you want to see more of my photos from the day, I have a set on Flickr here.

4 thoughts on “Hiking Yosemite

  1. Cybele June 8, 2012 / 22:46

    Stunning photos Alex! Really beautiful photos of beautiful countryside. Makes me want to book a trip to the States immediately.
    By the way, your post a few days ago about Bas made me cry too 😦 He’s been a part of your blog for as long as I’ve been reading!

  2. Lou June 10, 2012 / 19:08

    Wow..I love these pics. As someone who is virtually unable to travel but loves the outdoors reading your stories and looking at your photos is the next best thing to going myself. Hope the knee is better soon (I have both mine strapped up today…bah!)

  3. Aunt Judy June 11, 2012 / 06:07

    Your photos are really great. Of course it reminds me of my trek to Vernal Falls bridge and the Muir Trail. I looked at your Flicker pics too. Have you checked on the hikes up in the High Country of Yosemite? They use to have guided week long and day hikes with stays in special camps that provided beds, showers, and hot meals.
    Aunt Judy

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