Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Yosemite - a sinful fall escape

I have a vast appetite for avoiding doing the things at the top of my list, so when Susan got lodging discount tickets for joining Yosemite Association, and suggested a mid week weekend getaway, I was ready. My brain was Kindled out from digging into details about converting a book to Kindle.

Off we went in the Subaru, expecting that we might need four wheel drive, based on snow forecasts. About 50 miles out, I realize I've left the chains at home, so we opted for the longer and lower route up through Mariposa rather than up and over the mountains via Crane Flat and down to Yosemite valley.

For our last pct trip, we had invested in an Ipod Touch, so we would have some means of internet access at our resupply points. It worked well for that purpose, but I hadn't used it for much else, other than my calendar. I had loaded all our music cds down to it, but did nothing with them. A few weeks ago, I got this car charger for the ipod that also had a little fm transmitter, that would transmit the ipod music to the car fm radio. On this trip we tried it for the first time. Looked at the list of songs - several thousand, clicked shuffle, and let it go. It takes a little change of mental attitude to listen to shuffled music. Zydeco to classical to folk in three consecutive numbers. Genre jumping doesn't come naturally, but eventually we learned to relax and let it happen. Heard a lot of stuff we hadn't heard in years.

Anyway, this is a hiking blog, and this post is really  about a great Yosemite hike where I get full credit. Susan was for something relatively flat, like the valley trail - 13 miles. My choice was 3200 feet elevation gain in less than five miles. Susan says "that's straight up", but I point out that the last couple of weeks on the pct in Washington, we were doing 3000 foot ascents and descents every day, and walking at least 15 miles per day. So, we did a qualified maybe we can do this. Start, give it thirty minutes or so, and if it is too much, return and complete the valley trail. The next morning we trudge for the 4-Mile trail to Glacier Point, I'm carrying my pack mostly for practice, but a little for emergencies. It has fleece pants, wet weather gear, 4 season tent, sleeping bag (1), pads (2), water, etc.

Did I mention that this was a mammal rich trip? On the way into the valley, we saw a bear off to the side of the road, just doing bear stuff, ambling along, sniffing the ground. Later that evening a dozen deer crossed the trail in front of us near dusk, and proceeded to squabble among themselves, not head butting, but more like cross body blocks. Once onto 4-Mile we see more deer, and find that the trail is paved. Very old and unmaintained paving, but still, on that steep an ascent, paving makes it a little easier. A different story on the descent, as it is slippery with ice and snow. But at this point we didn't know that. Opted to go all the way.

About three miles up, we hit Union Point. A view of the entire valley there, and also a couple of inches of snow. A bare oblong footprint of earth where someone had done an illegal but wonderfully sited camp the night before. 1.6 miles to Glacier Point, and from there on, the trail was completely covered, but we were getting great views of Yosemite, the mountains a covered with snow, and we could look down on Yosemite Falls on the far side of the valley.  A few hundred more feet of switchbacks and the trail leveled out some, working its way east to Glacier Point through a forest. By now the snow was about six inches deep. I'm glad we had footsteps to follow. The last half mile or so doesn't have much to indicate the presence of a trail if there are no footprints.

Finally at the top, there is a building, ranger exhibits, stone walls and so forth. Susan tells me the building is a restaurant in summer. Somehow, I've never been there. Always thought it was five or six miles away from civilization. Doesn't matter. Snow covered, everything is beautiful. A dozen others are there, or in the process of arriving. We pull the sleeping pad out of my pack, set it on a stone wall, and have our lunch, gazing on Half Dome, Nevada Falls and the Yosemite backcountry. By the way, I've been informed that the word is fall not falls. Sorry, fall just sounds weird. I've heard it the other way for seventy years.

Back down the way we came, slipping and sliding a little, and a few aches and pains by the time we got back to the room, but thoroughly good day. The trail is no more difficult than the one up to Nevada Falls, and the views are some of the best in the valley.

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