One of my all time favorite places to be in spring is within the glacial sculpted granite cliffs of Yosemite Valley. With warming spring temperatures the Sierra snowpack begins melting, sending it’s bounty down the jagged slopes into a myriad of intricate nooks and crannies; culminating it’s mass together until the streams and rivers become raging torrents, and the waterfalls within the valley come thundering to life. Early in the season, just before the Memorial Day crush of tourists flood in, the falls are at their best, thick with pure high country runoff. The crushing water striking the rock bases atomizing into the most refreshing spray. The emanating sonic waves vibrating at a palpable wavelength that I would swear can promote a physiological healing. Many seasonal falls and cascades can only be seen during this early period; falls that most visitors to Yosemite never even see at all. Horsetail Fall, Sentinel Fall, Snow Creek Fall, Staircase Fall, Royal Arches Fall, the list goes on. It’s a season of less intense sunshine with pleasantly cool nights in the 40s to 50s, and the valley is still somewhat quiet. In summertime the granite walls make this place seem like the world’s largest pizza oven, and the crowds are oppressive. Better to be in the high country then, although the Hetch Hetchy area has awesome wild flowers in June.
We were camped out at Upper Pines for 5 nights and got some nice hikes in. I will do write ups of these hikes as time permits. All of our available time since our return has been spent cleaning up and sorting out our gear. On our first morning, Sue and I hiked the 4-Mile up to Sentinel Dome. This was her choice because she likes the views. She says the 4-Mile is the real Panorama Trail, and I have to agree. The trail they call Panorama has very limited azimuth of view in comparison.
The next day I did my 5th Half Dome summit with Dave and Diane, my in-laws. This was on Saturday the 16th, only the second day of the cables being up. I’ve never been that early before. Of course we got soaked climbing up Vernal Fall, and the spray from Nevada Fall was so intense I could not even get pictures standing down stream near the Mist trail. The whole time on the steps of the Mist Trail we were surrounded by wonderful sonic vibrations.
Next, we took an easy day and went birding for water ouzels along the Merced, riding our bikes, and relaxing in the meadows. After close to 10,000 feet in only two days I needed some nice mellow time. We were up early the next morning headed for Eagle Peak and had the experience of watching from the summit as thunderheads were developing out over the eastern high peaks, and eventually sent a nice little Sierra storm our way, pelting us with hail and rain while descending the Yosemite Falls Trail in the spray and swirling air of the peak waterfall, with intermittent lighting flashes and accompanying thunder claps. What a blast! On our way home we had a car full of wet gear, but we had time to stop off at Hetch Hetchy and did the short hike out to Wapama Fall. Excellent spray here too. Crossing the footbridge at the base of the falls was enough to render us soaked from head to toe, but it feels good in the heat of this rock oven.
The time always goes too fast when I go to the Sierras. It’s a bit of a shock to come back to the anthill and return to work after sleeping like a baby every night in the mountain air. Maybe I should have been born a hillbilly.
Click here to see the first day pictures on flickr.
This is just a little taste. More to come: