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Yosemite Yosemite

27th July 2010

A Magical Walk Along the Ridges and High Peaks Above Yosemite Valley

Bridalveil Fall in the Early Morning Sun
    As I sat by the river sipping my coffee after breakfast, the camp warden came by, and I exchanged greetings with him. He was doing his rounds to check who had moved in late last night and needed to register with him, and pay the fees of course. He caught me poring over maps as I decided my plan for the day. We discussed hiking in general, and he mentioned that his son did an 80 mile hike across the Yosemite Wilderness. The conversation moved on to camping in the wilderness. Apparently large groups took to setting up large camps as they did multiday hikes across large expanses. This was creating no end of problems due to non ideal communal toilet practices, food being left around, trash and the consequent bear problems around such sites. This was why dispersed camping was introduced; spread the campers out as a damage limitation exercise.
    The forestry department had outsourced the upkeep and running of campsites to Californian Land Management, and that was who employed the warden. He had a long stretch by the Merced River as his patch. He was a fairly dedicated chap, who worked long hours.
    My plan today was to keep to the cooler highlands, and try and capture some of the essence of Yosemite. This transpired to be a hike to Sentinel Dome, then Glacier Point, followed by a decent hike across to Taft Point before heading back. This would keep me well over 7,000' all day.
    I set off fairly early, and since my route took me past Bridalveil Fall, I took some time out there. An old chap (gramps) was there with his family, and he recalled how you couldn't see the falls because of the mist (hence Bridalveil). However, that must have been at spring time when the snows were melting and torrents were pouring from the hanging valley. Today, there was not sufficient water flow to create the veil.
Stellar Jay
    Whilst at the base of the falls, a Stellar Jay came hopping by. I had seen many of these birds, and they seemed to be pretty good at scavenging.
    I proceeded up Wawona Road in order to reach Glacier Point Road. This brought me to Tunnel View, a superb viewpoint looking straight down Yosemite Valley. From this breathtaking view of Yosemite Valley, I could see three of its remarkable features: El Capitan, Half Dome, and Bridal Veil Fall. In March 1851, a local militia (know as the Mariposa Battalion), was dispatched to the area in search of Miwok people suspected of attacking a trading post. The group stumbled upon this view and became the first Euro-Americans to enter Yosemite Valley.

Tunnel View Outlook - El Capitan on the Left, Half Dome in the Distance, and Bridalveil Fall on the Right
Mono Meadow
Mono Meadow Flower
    After driving through the long tunnel, I made the tortuous drive up to Chinquapin, tortuous in the sense that there were multiple roadworks and holdups. However, once I was on Glacier Point Road it was plain sailing. I took time out to visit Mono Meadow on the way. It was a long hike down to the meadow, and an even longer hike back up, but worth it. The lush grassy meadow contained a multitude of flowers, and there was a constant chatter of birds and their singing. A delightful little area, but it was diverting me from my main objective of the day.
    I eventually arrived at the trailhead for Sentinel Dome, parked up, filled my backpack with liquids and food, and set off. It was a pleasant hike across the ridge to the Dome, and of course got quite steep climbing the dome. However, the views from the top of the 8,122' Sentinel Dome were astounding. In one direction I could see Half Dome with the Nevada Fall to its right. Turning around I got a first class view of the Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls, and El Capitan.
Close to the Top of Sentinel Dome
Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls
Half Dome and Nevada Fall
    Looking up Yosemite to the horizon, I could see sharp jagged peaks with smoother U-shaped valleys. During the formation of the valley, glaciers probably only reached as high as Half Dome. The sharp peaks were proud of the glaciers and did not ground down by the glaciers, but were quarried by them, where as in the valley, all rock was ground and polished. As time passed on, more glaciers were formed which deepened and steepened the valley further. When the glaciers finally disappeared, a moraine at the end of the valley helped to form a shallow lake in the valley, which eventually filled up with sediment leaving the flat floor that existed now.
    I met an Irish family on the Dome, who had been out to America a few times, visiting Disney World as well as Yosemite. This year the parents had asked their children where they would like to visit, and the unanimous response was Yosemite. At one time they had had to take a driving test over here to drive hire vehicles, I think it was because of an elongated stay. They were extremely interested in the fact that I had circumnavigated that when Autotourusa had got me insured, and they took the company's details off me. We wished each other safe journey and went our separate ways.
    My route dropped down 1,000' to Glacier Point, which was accessible by car, so naturally there were throngs of people around. Looking over the side of Glacier Point I was looking straight down onto the top of Yosemite Village and Curry Village. The Merced River meandered along the valley floor, and rafts lazily drifted down its course; what a wonderful viewpoint. A display board said that 25% of National Park could be viewed from this vantage point.
Half Dome, Nevada and Vernal Falls from Glacier Point
Curry Village 3,000' Down from Glacier Point
    I climbed 1,000' back up to the ridge and started the trek across to Taft Point. It was interesting to observe how the vegetation changed over this 1,000' climb, particularly the trees. It was a good stretch across to the point, skirting Yosemite Valley on the way and getting marvelous glimpses across to the Yosemite Falls was a bonus.
Yellow and Black Butterfly
    On the way, a yellow and black butterfly fluttered by me and landed on some pretty flowers. It was as big as my hand and its weight almost bending the stalks right over.
El Capitan from Taft Point
    I reached Taft Point, where there were a set of vertical fissures in the granite, the splits seeming to go down forever, like slot canyons suspended way up in the skies. From the point magnificent views of Yosemite Falls and El Capitan could be had across the valley, the latter a favourite for seasoned climbers.
    I walked from the viewing area across to an overhang that hung 3,000' above the valley floor. It was there that I met Stephen Weldon who was taking some time out from his job to enjoy the spirit of this beautiful park. We sat there on the overhang, three feet away from a 3,000' vertical drop, and chatted.
    Stephen had trained in law and had become an expert in estate planning and tax issues. However, he had now found a new and rewarding direction, and was Director of Leadership Giving at the University of California, Santa Cruz. By Leadership Giving I mean that by partnering with the University of California through an individual/company philanthropic investment, then the donor became a pillar on which university could continue to build state-of-the-art programmes for ethical practices. In essence he was involved in a programme which aimed to build communication bridges within dysfunctional families, mainly through trying to get the older generations to discuss their experiences and family histories with the younger generations, thus helping the whole family unit to gel, get a sense of identity and their place in the world. Each family would be given a helpful kick start by the professionals involved in the programme, and a financial incentive, and then left to develop themselves, with the proviso that they return after a year to relate how they had got on. There was 85-87% success rate in families returning to discuss how they had developed, and varying degrees of depth of improvement. Overall it was seen as a successful programme, and was being extended across the world. One of the challenges Stephen relished was getting sponsorship for the programme through Leadership Giving, and there seemed to be a fair amount of interest from financial institutions. At this point I must admit to getting lost in the argument; here was a programme dedicated to showing people that there was more to life than wealth, and my experience of the financial world was that they were only concerned with wealth. Maybe there is something for me to learn here. I am absolutely certain that many of the worlds problems could be resolved if only the human race learned how to communicate better (we are really not as civilised as we think we are), and this programme was a small step in the right direction.
    The university was also involved in the Human Genome Project. As far as I understood it, the project was an international scientific research project with a primary goal to determine the sequence of chemical base pairs which make up DNA and to identify and map the approximately 20,000-25,000 genes of the human genome from both a physical and functional standpoint. Knowledge about the effects of DNA variations among individuals could lead to revolutionary new ways to diagnose, treat, and someday prevent the thousands of disorders that affect us.
    His university was trying to build up a colossal database containing all manner of data on degenerative diseases, including the dreaded cancer. They were in competition with Princeton University to be the first to provide the ultimate database. However, where as the university at Santa Cruz were willing to open the database to the medical world for free, Princeton wanted to charge for it. A nice political conflict to resolve there, and I am in no doubt that there would be many conflicts of interests within all collaborations.
    Stephen and I walked back together across the ridge to where we had both parked our vehicles, talking about our families. He, like many Americans, was locked into the financial burden of supporting children through university. We reached our destination, said our farewells, shook hands, and went our separate ways, but our chat together had really stirred my mind up about the voluntary work I did for over 25 years with people with learning difficulties, and perhaps I ought to get out there and do some more such work instead of gallivanting about.
    I returned to the campsite, cooked myself some chilli, then later had a chat with my new neighbours; a chap with his two children. They offered my some pizza they had brought in from a take-away, but I had to decline since I was stuffed with chilli. A kind offer I thought. The chap used to come here for his birthday when he was a child, and now he had brought his own kids here for the first time. He had made a wood fire, and the kids were fascinated with it, and could not resist playing with it. All kids at campsites seemed to love playing with fire or water. The camp warden came by and he got involved in the chat too. My neighbour had got confused about the bridges across the Merced River in this area, he was certain that there had been at least one more down at Indian Flat. The warden said that during the floods of 1997, three bridges were washed away and never replaced. I remembered seeing some pictures taken of a point a few miles up the road, when the storms came, the river had risen to thirty feet above normal levels and taken out part of the road. Nature was still king around here.
    It was almost dark, and I had my days notes to type up, so I retired to the van to get on with the story. However, the minimal sleep from a day ago had caught up with me, so much so that I packed up after an hour, leaving the rest for morning. The day's explore across the top ridges had been absolutely wonderful; anyone visiting Yosemite must get this high up perspective of the valley, truly magical.
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Yosemite Yosemite

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

Last updated 29.7.2010