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Bodie Ghost Town Yosemite

26th July 2010

My First Venture into Yosemite National Park, Aka Paradise

    I had been typing my notes until 1:30am, and there had been an almighty downpour through the night. It was also quite cool through the night, for a change, necessitating me to climb inside my sleeping bag. Coupling this with the fact that I rose at 6am in order to get an early start to Yosemite, and it was not surprising that I was not as fresh as a daisy.
    I made the long steep climb over the 11,526' Tioga Pass, to gain entry at the eastern side of the park at Tioga Pass Entrance. Yosemite National Park was a national park located largely in Mariposa and Tuolumne Counties, California. The park covered an area of 761,266 acres or 1,189 square miles and reached across the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountain chain. Yosemite was visited by over 3.5 million people each year, with most visitors only seeing the seven square miles of Yosemite Valley. Designated a World Heritage Site in 1984, Yosemite was internationally recognised for its spectacular granite cliffs, waterfalls, clear streams, Giant Sequoia groves, and biological diversity. About 89% of the park was designated wilderness. It was also the first park set aside by the U.S. federal government. Although not the first designated national park, Yosemite was a focal point in the development of the national park idea, largely owing to the work of people like John Muir.
    Yosemite was one of the largest and least fragmented habitat blocks in the Sierra Nevada, and the park supported a diversity of plants and animals. The park had an elevation range from 2,000' to 13,114' and contained five major vegetation zones: chaparral/oak woodland, lower montane, upper montane, subalpine, and alpine. Of California's 7,000 plant species, about 50% occurred in the Sierra Nevada and more than 20% within Yosemite. There was suitable habitat or documentation for more than 160 rare plants in the park, with rare local geologic formations and unique soils characterising the restricted ranges many of these plants occupied.
    The geology of the Yosemite area was characterised by granite rocks and remnants of older rock. About 10 million years ago, the Sierra Nevada was uplifted and then tilted to form its relatively gentle western slopes and the more dramatic eastern slopes. The uplift increased the steepness of stream and river beds, resulting in formation of deep, narrow canyons. About 1 million years ago, snow and ice accumulated, forming glaciers at the higher alpine meadows that moved down the river valleys. Ice thickness in Yosemite Valley may have reached 4,000' during the early glacial episode. The downslope movement of the ice masses cut and sculpted the U-shaped valley that attracted so many visitors to its scenic vistas today.
    The park contained thousands of lakes and ponds, 1,600 miles of streams, 800 miles of hiking trails, and 350 miles of roads. Two federally designated Wild and Scenic Rivers, the Merced and the Tuolumne, began within Yosemite's borders and flowed westward through the Sierra foothills, into the Central Valley of California.
Tuolumne Meadows
Tuolumne Meadows Again
    Once in the park I was soon driving through the delightful Tuolumne Meadows. This area provided a glimpse of the Wild and Scenic Tuolumne River, which wound through broad sub-alpine meadows surrounded by even higher granite domes and peaks. It was the starting place for countless hikes. I pulled in and took a stroll across a dew soaked meadow containing actual grass instead of sagebrush, until I came to a natural barrier, a swiftly flowing crystal clear stream. Across the meadow a couple of deer lazily munched the grass, oblivious to my presence. The sun was gently warm, the air fresh, and the feeling was good. I could have walked by the stream for hours, but the pressure of finding a place to stay on the west side of the park brought me to my senses. I returned to the van, my trainers the cleanest they had been for weeks.
Half Dome from Olmsted Point
    My journey continued through more lush meadows, followed by lake studded forests criss-crossed by countless trails, and across the sides of colossal, smooth granite domed mountains. I stopped off at Olmsted Point to take a short walk up to the dome of a granite outcrop, from which I had a magnificent view down Tenaya Canyon to the back view of Half Dome. If I had binoculars, I would have been able to see a line of hikers pulling themselves up the side of the peak using cables. Heaven knows how far in advance that hike would have had to been booked.
Yosemite Valley from Big Oak Flat Road
Bridalveil Fall in the Distance
    After an hour of driving, I found myself dropping down a long descent to the valley floor. Just after the first tunnel on Big Oak Flat Road, a viewpoint afforded a magnificent view up the steep, granite sided Yosemite Valley. In the distance the Bridalveil Fall could be seen dropping over a dizzy height into the green mass of forest on the valley floor; a classic picture. It
Upper Yosemite Fall
Only A Small Trickle at This Time of Year
was tempting to drive up the valley, but first priority was finding somewhere to stay. I headed down El Portal Road 140, until I came to a campsite just outside the park. It was full. I returned back up the valley, and pulled into a picnic area beside the Merced River. There I found a ranger busying himself with blowing leaves off the car parking areas. I asked him about dispersed parking outside the park. That was taboo. However, part of his job was also the upkeep of a couple of campgrounds on the other side of the river, and he knew he had spaces. He led the way to their location in his vehicle, I had first pick of the day, and the deal was struck. It was five miles to the west of the park, but that was nothing, and it had a lovely location by the river. I was a happy man.
    With that sorted, I headed straight up to Yosemite Valley, not having any intentions to do a lot of sightseeing or hiking, I just wanted to get myself orientated to the whats, wheres and hows in the valley. I called in at the visitor centre, and took in the 25 min. movie about Yosemite, and nearly fell asleep. I couldn't resist walking into the Ansel Adams gallery, even though I knew the danger that I could have spent all day there.
    What I needed was WiFi access so that I could touch base with my family. It took a while to find out where I could hook up, surprisingly most rangers did not know, indeed some had not even done the well known hikes. The place to go was just up from Yosemite Village, namely Curry Village. I soon shot up there. In my initial explore, I found I could get a shower there; towel, shampoo and soap provided. Also included was free use of the swimming pool. All that for $5. I didn't even think about it. For a good 90 mins, I swam, chilled out and had a shower. I was a new man. I picked up my laptop, and did the necessaries over the WiFi.
    By now it was getting late. The sun had already sunk behind the canyon walls, so it was murky light in the valley. I joined the throng of day trippers and headed out of the park. The beautiful surroundings made my return journey bearable, and I was soon parked at the campsite, drinking a cool beer by the river. I listened to the endless gurgles and splashes as the unseen water hurtled on its way to the sea. It would have been totally relaxing if it hadn't been for the non-stop cricket chorus. A diamond appeared in the sky, getting brighter by the minute, then I realised it was moon rise as it peeked out from behind the canyon top. Soon the whole place was lit up in monochrome grays, an enchanting scene. I enjoyed it and sipped my beer.
    It hadn't been an action packed day, just a drive, get my bearings, and chill out day. I looked forward to my stay in this gorgeous valley.
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Bodie Ghost Town Yosemite

Uploaded from Curry Village Lounge, Yosemite CA on 28/07/10 at 18:10

Last updated 29.7.2010