Friday, March 7, 2014

Yosemite Valley

Periodically throughout the night the thunder from the storm woke me, the rain seemed to be unrelenting, the steep granite cliff behind the campsite protected the area from wind so the ten had little work to do in keeping back the onslaught of precipitation. By the time I awoke for the day the rain had slowed to a drizzle, and as I ate breakfast completely ceased. 

I had decided to forego any climbing hikes for the day, instead stringing together three easy hikes into what would be a 14 mile hike. While the hike would be long the flatness would make up for it, the previous days hike had been a staggering 9.2 miles, half of that up steep hills. I hit the trail eager to put some miles behind me.
Fog lifting off the granite cliffs. 

A fog was still lifting off the peeks around the valley, the air was cold, and the valley saturated from the nights rainfall. The trail was lined with puddles, forcing me to negotiate through mud in order to not  soak my feet. Through the trees I could just barely make out the vertical walls that surrounded the valley. My legs yelled at me, unhappy with my decision to use them again after the abuse they had endured the day before. 

A short walk from the campsite was the base of Lower Yosemite Falls, I could hear the falls as I approached the trail leading up to them. As I turned onto the trail I was greater with a spectacular view of both the upper and lower falls plummeting down the mountain side. I looked up and had to come to terms that I had been on top of that mountain, rising nearly 3,000 feet in front of me, just yesterday. That I how somehow been foolish enough to embark on, what from this vantage point, seemed like far too arduous of an endeavor for any sane person to attempt.

Lower Yosemite Falls
I walked down the trail to Lower Falls, watching the veils of water fall gracefully into the rapids below. Watching the water transform from elegant to ferocious as it made land fall after it’s long fall. Standing there I was reminded of something I had come to realize back in Zion National Park, that sometimes the easy trails have there own bountiful treasures, and are significantly less painful. I trotted along trying to take in the views all around me, in every direction stood a spectacular sight, as if someone how collected all the worlds wonders and placed them around this valley. 

The trail continued on, eventually starting to climb, I winced in pain as I adjusted my weight to my calfs to ascend the stairs. The climb ended quickly and I found myself meandering through the woods, the mountain scales obscured by the thick forest. Somewhere their was a creek churring water over stones, I could hear it but not see it. Finally the trail swung towards the creek and I was able to see down it’s length to the gorgeous peeks in the distance. The fog had subsided, the blue sky dotted with puffy white clouds. The sunlight shinned brightly onto the mountain faces, illuminating all the features in the rock. 

I came out to the spot where Mirror Lake was supposed to be, even though it had been raining quite a bit in the last week, Northern California was in a severe draught and the lack of any lake made it all the more apparent. The lakes absence allowed me to walk into the clearing and get a 360 degree view of natures greatest temple, a reminder of how grandiose the natural world can be. I sat and had lunch, failing to fully absorb the immensity around me. 
This sign, then the next paragraph. 
Further down the trail I came to the scene of a massive rock slide. The forest was divided down the middle by a quarter mile field of debris. Giant trees, that had once grown on the mountain side, had been tossed about, snapped in half like tooth picks. Giant boulders sat perched atop the debris, like monuments to the destruction that had ripped through this section of land. I hurried through the debris field, not wanting to be involved if such a calamity were to happen on this day.
The rock slide's destruction. 
Soon I found myself back along the main roads walking onwards the visitor center, the meadows along the roadside giving spectacular views of all the mountainous features. The sun, now hanging lower in the sky, painting it’s light across the landscape. Shadows played along the mountain ridges, as a variety of birds sang in the scattered trees through the meadow. 

I stopped by the visitor center and the Ansel Adams Gallery. This Gallery has been owned by Ansel Adams’ family since 1902 and sells prints by the famous photographer, as well as other souvenirs. It was fun to see all the Adams’ prints, I had little ambition to purchase anything so I headed back onto my last short trail of the day. 

This trail went into the meadows and offered even more stunning views. You never tire of the views at Yosemite. You find yourself captured by one particular sight and you stare without realizing that behind you is an equally stunning display. Across the meadow I could see Yosemite falls in all it’s glory, from the peak at Yosemite Point all the way till the Lower Falls cascade disappeared into the tree line. In every direction stood a view that would hold it’s own with any of Earth’s most magnificent treasures. A thousand picturesque scenes stitched together and place here in Sierra Nevada Mountains. 
Yes I climb all the way to the top of that the previous day. 

I sat and watched as the sun lowered in the sky, the shadows changing the mountains with each passing minute. There’s no need to trek up mountains or take extensive hikes, this one simple view was the best I saw, and it was just a mile away from my camp. I turned and headed back to camp as the sun descended below the horizon, the last minutes of light leading me home. 

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