Monday, March 10, 2014

Where's Whale-do?

It had been the coldest night I had dealt with since the redwoods, but I managed to get a good nights rest in, it was daylight before I could no longer stand it. I walked over to the car, turning it on to allow the heat to get working. I packed up my tent and belongings as quickly as possible, trying desperately to get out of the cold and into the fractionally warmer vehicle. I had only one trail that the ranger had suggested to me left to explore. I drove to the trail head as the sun crept its way over the mountains, graciously filling the valley with its warm light. 
Me taking pictures of myself!
I decided to hold off climbing the trail until the temperature had reached something above arctic winter, instead I sat in my car and read, periodically taking long breaks to watch the frost bitten Yosemite Falls, plummet in the distance. Others had decided to brave the cold and were hitting the trail, I watched as they ascended up the mountain, once again questioning my own judgement as to why I was putting myself through this. 
Yosemite Falls.
Finally I decided to stop being a wuss and hit the trail. Instantly the path headed uphill, I instantly thought back to the Yosemite Falls trail from a few days prior, hoping this wouldn't be a repeat. The trail started out steep, but within a half mile or so the grade got less steep and the views kept me well distracted from the task at hand. 
Yosemite Falls yet again!
Laid out before me was the entire western half of the valley, the sunlight perfectly illuminating the mountain sides, the spotless blue sky providing an amazing backdrop. I climb higher, undeterred by the relatively easy ascent and the constant reward of the amazing vistas. I found a rocky outcropping and climb in it, perching myself on a ledge and sitting in wonderment of the view laying before me. I was now looking back up through the Valley, the familiar facades of Yosemite Peak and Half Dome once again greeting me. The higher peaks behind Half Dome were glazed by a fresh snowfall. The whole landscape stood out in perfect detail, as I basked in the warm sun, which had finally pushed out the cold. 
Half Dome to the right, North Dome to the left, and I don't know the name of the snow capped peak in the middle. 
I continued on to the summit for the sole reason of saying I did it, it was not much further up from the rocky outcrop. At the summit I turned around and returned to the outcrop to continue watching the sunrise change the contours of the adjacent mountain ranges. As I went to switch lenses I dropped my lens cap, and watched as it careened 30 feet before resting in a bush. I am fully ware of how inexpensive a lens cap is to replace, but I am also unwilling to give up so easily. 
I hoisted myself down the cliff side, maneuvering expertly from one precarious perch to the next, lucky the stone on this particular section of cliff side were dry, and I was easily able to maintain my footing. Finally snagging the lens cap, and began my treacherous ascent back to the trail. I made it without incident, totally worth saving $2.99!
I even take creeper pics of myself!
I walked slowly down the path, trying to savor my last moments in Yosemite, I had spent four days in the park but it was not nearly enough. Due to winter conditions most of the roads were closed, so I hadn’t even been able to venture into the back country, an expedition I would have to save for warmer days. 

I had no real particular reason for leaving Yosemite, but the park was filled with “weekenders,” who had flooded in from the city, overcrowding most of the park. I have become accustomed to days of solitude, so the idea of being surrounded by people seemed daunting and I choose to just forgo having any negative associations with the amazing park. 

As I got back to the car I took one last look around the stunning valley. The frost, that had coated the cliff walls, around the distant Yosemite Falls had all but disappeared, the day was in full swing, and then a tour bus pulled up. I hopped in my car before the passengers could unload and still the serenity from the landscape. The traffic in the park was peaking, but lucky I was headed out, free from the congestion caused by the weekend crowd. 

I watched as the natures greatest temple shrank in my mirror, soon I was back in the green rocky hills west of the park and then surrounded by the lush farmland, the cows lying in the fields blissfully naive of their lot in life. 

I had read that there had been some Blue Whale sightings off the coast of Monterey Peninsula, something that usual doesn’t take place till later in the year. I decide to head to the coast in hopes of seeing one of these gigantic creatures, I still had yet to see a whale in my life and it was becoming a thorn in my side. 
I know you're out there somewhere!
The landscape eventually turned to desolate desert, then back to farmland, eventually giving way to large swaths of grasslands where I got to watch a pack of coyotes prance across the land. Not much of mention happened than the grassland turned to green rolling hills that once again became mountains, albeit much smaller mountain than the Sierra Nevada’s that house Yosemite. 

I once again joined up with the PCH as I headed to the southern end of the peninsula to Point Lobos State Park, which I was informed was one of the best places to see the whales from shore. The sun was beaming in the clear sky and driving I could see clear out to the horizon, I was hopeful this would lead to increased chances of spotting one of the elusive giants. 

The park was packed, the parking lot full, not that I was planning on pulling into it anyways, it was a $10 charge, whereas it was free to park along the road and walk the half mile into the park, an easy choice for me. I grabbed a quick snack and headed into the park, eager to get to the shore and spot some whales and dolphins. The walk through the park was anti-climatic, filled with families taking strolls and couples canoodling on various benches. With my sights set on the shore, I hustled through the groves of trees and onto the rock outcrops. The waves splashed along along the rocks, it was low tide and the waves were calm. A family of seals sat on a distance outcrop barking incessantly as a variety of sea birds flew around hunting for food. 
Look at that lil guy!
I took a seat on an unoccupied bench and scanned the water, no sign of whales, just a smattering of birds and the occasional adventurous sea lion. Closer to shore a sea otter played in the kelp, but as for larger sea life it seemed as if I was out of luck. I refused to give up, staking out my post and diligently watching the water for any sign of a surfacing creature, still nothing. A squirrel had crawled up on the bench with me, staring at me in a futile attempt to get food, I had none even if I was generous enough to share with a pesky rodent. 
"Am I cute yet!"
I returned to my search, the seals continued to bark, the air coming of the water cool and brisk, still no sign of life. I had sat there for over half an hour and hadn’t even mistaken an erratic wave for a fin, it seemed as if there would be no whale appearances for me today. I left the shore disheartened. I have never seen a whale, I have also never seen a bear in the wild, but I would be back, and maybe, just maybe, I would splurge to go on a whale watching boat, this needed to happen after all. 
A tree looking all pretty.
On the way back I entered a strange grove of trees, their branches and trunks covered in red moss, the wind twisted branches looking like they had been bent by witches to mark a devilish path. I scurried along through the red twisted trees, the sound of the waves swishing in and out of the small coves below the only sound, over powering the barking of the sea lions on the rocks below. 
Kind of crazy, right?
I hadn’t showered in days, and was starting to smell quite ripe, I decided it was probably best if I get a hostel for the evening so I could get a warms night sleep and clean up before I was unable to bear my own stench. I headed into town to the hostel, they were still not accepting check-ins so I had some time to kill. I walked down to the shore, where a trail skirted along the top of the bluffs. I watched as surfers expertly mounted their boards and rode the waves, scuba divers explored around rocky outcroppings and a group of swimmers braved the chilly water. A little girl fell off her bike crying in pain as her frantic older sister tried desperately to calm her down. The father came around the corner, unconcerned and within moments the crying little girl returned to her bike and continued on as if nothing had happened. 

A seagull decided to hop up on the table with me, apparently the animals around here had a knack for being friendly in order to get food. If I wasn’t going to give food to a cute squirrel I sure wasn’t going to give it to a big ugly bird, but I was lonely so I talked to him as he tried to make sense of my jabbering. It was finally time to check in and the thought of an overdue cleansing shower summoned me to back to the hostel. 

I can’t explain to you how nice it feels to shower after nearly a week without doing so, but as the water washed over me I felt a sense of relief, somewhat akin to that of making it back to my tent without being mauled by a cougar. Yes, it felt that good. 

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