Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Conway Trails

On Sunday morning, the last day or our winter trip, the morning broke clear and cold. The previous night had brought snow, but the storms had drifted away, and colder air moved it and deposited hard crystallized ice and snow everywhere. I went outside to run an errand for Sue, and happened to glance up at upper Yosemite fall and was immediately stuck by the sight. Overnight, the shifting wind currents had been blowing the falling water and vaporous sheets of mist to and fro in the chilled air, and had formed a massive inverted funnel of icey snow on the cliffs behind the fall. I looked around at the intricately jagged cliffs of the north rim and could see there was a gleaming, shimmering, coating of ice and hardened snow that had been fast-frozen around the rocks. This presented a textured effect to the eye, as the darkened areas in the cracks and crevasses contrasted with the soft white shapes. In rather childlike fashion, I hurried back to the room and excitedly told Sue that I was going out to get some pictures before the sun came out and started melting the frosty ice. We had been packing to check out and leave, but were planning to get another hike in before departing. Sue had wanted to do some meditations, but changed her mind and now wanted to go strolling with me. So we quickly finished our packing, grabbed some snacks, bundled up, and rushed out for another morning walk around the lodge and village area. Somehow the sights in the valley never loose their magical appeal. I could spend the whole day just walking around there any time except for the summer crowds, but when the weather conditions add their special seasonal variation to the canvas, and the air is quiet and absolutely fresh and stimulating, it really is possible to loose all your cares for that fleeting interlude of time that you have to really savor it. It’s not a conscious thing. It happens naturally if your heart is in the right place. Somehow the universe just seems happy, and I feel welcomed by it.

It was hard to get good pictures in such low light, but soon the sun rose just enough to provide some decent shots. Out in the meadows the cool mist buoyed by the breaking sunlight drifted around amongst the trees and rose in columns while the pitter-patter of melting ice crystals fell from the evergreens and leafless branch structures. The morning light began splashing color around and even created a slight misty rainbow at the lower fall. The sunbeams streamed in through the trees and the brought out the seasonal brilliance. It didn’t take long before the warmth began to melt the winter display back to a more normal appearance. The display lasted only until about 9:00 am. After that it was blue sky, and sunny, like a spring day. We went back and packed up the car, checked out, and went hiking on the old Conway trails on the valley floor. John Conway built many of the most famous trails in Yosemite back in the 1800s, including the 4 mile, Yosemite Falls, and the original trail to Little Yosemite. He also built some walking trails that wind along the valley floor which combine to form a long loop, and they provide some great views of the many valley features from different perspectives than are offered by the usual roadside tourist photo-op spots. These old trails are still there, if not really maintained very well. But you can still hike them, and it’s a great time. The day had warmed up so much it had become a nice shirt sleeve day. We walked down to El Capitan meadow and back along the river enjoying the sights before getting in the car to head home. We didn’t get back until Sunday evening, and Monday morning rang in like a plague. Ouch! Reality.

Click here to see the photos in flickr

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