Monday, May 28, 2007

Yosemite, Day Two

Also known as "Anniversary Day!!" Nathan and I played several more rounds of "What were we doing a year ago today." We enjoyed remembering how great it was to be with so many of our loved ones, eating great food, enjoying the planetarium, and heck, getting married. I can't believe it's been a whole year!!! Mostly I can't believe it's been a year since I've seen most of you. Well, I look at you in pictures all the time, but still. Your actual selves.

We had our Big Hike lined up for Monday morning. I'd never been able to get to the top of Vernal Falls or Nevada Falls, either due to laziness or trails closed off due to snow. I was determined this would be the day. So we got up at our usual time, gathered our stuff, and hit the trail. (The ladies restroom in Curry Campground was surprisingly busy at 5:45 am. Who gets up that early? And who brings an electric toothbrush on a camping trip? Why, I ask you? Why?)

The hiking gear distribution in our family breaks down thusly:
Jenn carries : first aid kit, bug repellent, water and snacks for two, various clothing layers she might need, her camera, small tripod, sunglasses, and journal.
Nathan carries : his camera, all the lenses we might need. His bag is heavier. :)

The first part of the hike we've both done before, to the bridge below Vernal Falls. It's less than a mile, mostly uphill, and as we've walked our daily walks, we've been thinking of this first part. We've done the math, even. Our Big Hill at home is 0.2 miles, and the Big Hill to the Bridge is 0.8 miles, so we know we're climbing our own big hill four times. With gear. Turns out we hadn't been carrying gear at home. We do a fairly tidy job of getting to the bridge. AND, because it's not yet 7 a.m. we have the bridge below Vernal Falls entirely to ourselves. This has never happened to me before. We take many pictures. I use my tripod and get the water to blur. I'm quite excited.

There are two paths to the top of the falls. One, short and very steep, called the Mist Trail, where one is likely to get quite wet. The other, the John Muir Trail, is longer, less steep, and dry. I decide we should take this trail.

It was a long three miles or so, my friends. Several times we passed, and were passed by a group of six guys. I thought they'd just blaze by us and be gone, but no, they'd pass us, then in a few minutes, they'd be stopped, and we'd pass them. It was pleasantly shady on our way up the hills and switchbacks, probably because it wasn't much past eight o'clock. We ended up at Clarke's Point, 5400 feet of elevation. We ran into the same six guys, a lively chipmunk, and a map.

From Clark's Point, one has several options, depending on the type of trail you want to hike and your destination. We helped the six guys decide which path they should take to get to the top of Half Dome and wished them good hiking (I wonder if they made it.) For ourselves, we decided we didn't need to get to the top of Nevada Falls, which was now before us, but that we'd head downhill (YAY!) to the top of Vernal Falls, which was now below us.

What fun it is to walk downhill after two or so hours of walking UPHILL. And the views were incredible. How often to you get to look down on a waterfall? We walked down to the observation area near the falls and hung out for awhile. Nathan took some video footage, and I tried to instill some fear of humans into the squirrels that wanted to know more about the sunscreen I was using. Nathan was more successful than I was.

Many of the folks at the observation area had come up the Mist Trail, the short path that winds up the side of the waterfall, and they were, indeed, misty. We were headed down that way.

It was an amazing trail, I'm glad we just went down it. Three tenths of a mile down granite steps that were often much smaller than my feet. We developed a side of a side stepping motion that felt safer, though must have looked rather silly. We had to "pull over" frequently for folks who were on the way up. As we were just getting to the mistiest part of the mist trail, right after Nathan said "Well, I guess we consider this our shower for the day," one of the ladies coming up the hill got an call on her cell phone. Don't worry, she answered it. Sure, "Hi, I'm in a National Park. I'm standing on a dangerous set of slippery granite slabs, and that roaring you hear in the background is actually millions of gallons of snowmelt rushing by. I'm holding up traffic here on this narrow path, so hey, how are you? Talk to me!" People are weird. I believe that in my heart.

By the time we got back to the bridge, the morning people were up and around. It was teeming with tourists. We'd already been to the top though, and felt, I'll say it, rather triumphant. We passed hundreds of people on the downwards trek of the first big hill. They looked tired. It was hotter now, and they were walking uphill. I smiled at them encouragingly, and thought "Poor fools. "

Back in our camp, we had some pastrami and cheese (delightful!) and took a nice afternoon siesta. So very civilized.

In the late afternoon, Nathan suggested we take a trip to Sentinel Bridge. We availed ourselves of the Yosemite Shuttle service for the trip to the bridge. Awesome, they Yosemite Shuttle. Hybrid buses on a regular route through the park, helps keep some cars off the road in the Valley. Thumbs up, Yosemite National Park. When we got to the bridge, we discovered it was a hot spot. This photo doesn't quite do it justice, I didn't quite find a time when all the photographers were leaning at the right angle so you could see them all. You'll have to imagine five more guys with camera bags going on down the line. And me, of course. (Really, why is it that you rarely see girls out there with cameras. More than the little palm sized cameras, I mean. How is it that taking pictures became a guy thing? Why?)

The view was awesome from the bridge, I can see why it was crowded. We sat with our feet dangling over the edge of the bridge, and watched the rafters go down the river, with Yosemite Falls in the background. A glorious afternoon, really we totally lucked out on the weather.

After sitting on the bridge for awhile, we walked back to Curry Village through the meadow in the center of the Valley. Now that it was the end of Memorial Day weekend, most of the hordes had left the park. There were no traffic jams, the sides of the roads were clear, mostly, and it was more, well, idyllic. Less urban.

We made it back to our camp, and had some PBJs. I caught and released a wasp in our cabin. The same wasp, I guessed, that I had already caught and released twice the day before. I never put a tag on her, but I feel it was the same wasp. I called her Waspy. I tried to explain to her that while I was a patient person, and willing to admit that she was here, in our cabin first, that I would eventually grow tired of showing her outside in a plastic cup. Waspy never got the message. She continued to visit the whole time we were there. Of course, after I named her, I couldn't exactly step on her, now could I?

Later, after we'd been asleep for several hours, I woke up to the sound of a lady clapping and proclaiming "Go Away Bear! Go Away Bear!" She used her words. For a moment, I thought she'd driven the bear towards our block of tent cabins. There was a persistent growling sound very near to our tent. However, it was a very consistent growling sound, and I soon realized it was, in fact, our neighbor snoring.


jean said...

You really ought to post more of your photos on your blog. These are very, very nice!

Who knows why more guys than gals get into photography? Maybe it's just one of the fields that are a little slow to catch up to a more gender balanced representation? Like 20 years ago, how many female execs in major companies were there? You know, something like that ;)

Goodyear said...

A considerabale distance in my mispent youth I did make it to the top of Nevada Falls, and still have the darkroom developed, black and white photos to prove it. There have been some truly awesome lady photogs, Cuningham for one, but some of it may have come from the fact that in the old days cameras and equipment was much, much bulkier. One did not just casually pack your 8x8 plate camera and associated goodies off into the hills unless you had some major stamina. Even in my 35mm days if you were headed anywhere off the beaten path there was some serious decisions to made as to what went in the backpack, photo gear or clothes....I made the wrong choice many times....