It's been a long time since I set foot in Yosemite, other than stopping for a moment on my way through. In fact, I can't recall a single substantial visit since the early/mid 90s. Stupid, considering how close it is (4 hours to the Valley), and how much I like it there.
Two of the members of my road trip had never been before, so I decided to spend a few hours in the park before we headed back towards the Bay.
Here's how the day went, in brief bites...
Bye Bye BFE: Hawthorne's so small that even gassing up the car at 7 a.m. I run into people I know...specifically, my brother in-law, on his way home from the graveyard shift.
Tioga Parties: Bad jokes about "Tioga parties" abound as we drive up and through Tioga Pass (elevation el. 9,943 ft. / 3,031 m); portal to Yosemite from the Nevada facing side.
The High Country: First stop is Tuolumne Meadows (pronounced "too-all-oh-mee"), which is not far into the park's eastern end. I've stopped there before, but never really hiked around, so I decided to stroll the ½ mile to Soda Springs.
High points: dipping my toes into the Tuolumne River, and following an animal which we jokingly referred to as a "beadger" (not beaver nor badger), but which, on reflection, was probably a marmot.
A Wet One: shortly down the road from Tuolumne Meadows I pull over at Tenaya Lake. Ever since I went to New Zealand in 2002 I like to not just look, but immerse myself in places I visit. At Tenaya Lake, this takes the form of wading in the surprisingly temperate (for a mountain lake) water. Ahh... refreshing!
View from the Top: Shortly up the road from Tenaya Lake I pull out to Olmsted Point, a spectacular view of Tenaya Lake, Tenaya Canyon, Clouds Rest, and-most impressively-Half Dome, peaking (I meant that word) up from a not-yet visible Yosemite Valley. Clambered over the rocks here to get some photos of each other. I love this spot!
The long down: Highway 120 down towards the Valley is a 45 minute gauntlet of trees, the view of which no one but me really seemed to appreciate very much.
Grin & Bearing It: Spotting the Tuolumne Grove pullout, I did just that, and we hiked down the one mile and 400 feet in altitude to the grove, through a beautiful old forest of white fir, Douglas-fir, sugar pine, and incense-cedar. At the bottom, half the party went into the grove and the other half walked all that way for nothing, since they sat at a picnic table instead of doing the couple of hundred yards through the "Sequoia Gigantea", thus missing out on the change to walk along, atop, and crawl though one of these fallen giants. Their loss.
Highlights: we saw a bear in the trees at a bend in the path. We heard then saw baby birds in a small hole in the side wall of a tunnel tree. We saw a mule deer doe on the return loop. Hope the bear didn't find her!
Lowlights: See the next entry!
Flattened Cranes: Knowing we'd probably not be having a full meal until after leaving the park, I pulled into the Crane Flat rest area. An ice cream bar, egg salad sandwich, water and one Lunchables later, I felt ready for the rest of the afternoon. The name of Crane Flat led to a series of smart-aleck comments about various flattened wildlife, mostly from me.
The Valley Floor:
Too many people at Bridalveil Falls, so I didn't stay at the bottom long. I led my party back along the path, then took a detour to wade in the stream flowing down from the falls. It was 97°F, so, whew, did that feel good! I sat on a rock in the stream and enjoyed the cool. As at Tuolomne Grove, half of my little party didn't join in this. Again, their loss!
As we drove towards Half Dome, we pulled over to gawk at some Mule Deer. Four of them. Two bucks and two does. No bears this time.
Exit, stage west: Our brief tour of the Valley over, I set the Prius for points west.
Sushi: Not a conversation. More a dissertation on it. Not everyone found this appetizing.
Cooing o'er Cows: Someone in the car likes cows. We saw a lot of them. We heard a lot of "awww"s.
No Chains Required: Upon reaching the outskirts of the East Bay, it was suggested that we stop in Livermore or Dublin to get dinner. After it turned out there wasn't a Marie Callender's for 30 miles, there was a consensus about going to an Applebee's. Once we got there I recalled why I never go to these places. The menu is...bland. S.F. has spoiled me for restaurants.
Cool sweet cool: Arrive back in my neck of S.F. It's 59°F. That's a 38° drop from afternoon in Yosemite.
It's good to be home.