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  • Day7

    Yosemite

    September 5, 2019 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

    The 5.45am rising was less than welcome as you can imagine. It was dark for God’s sake, but like a lot of things you have to make a special effort for, boy was it worth it. Amanda was our guide; a great all American girl, born, raised and now working in Yosemite. As she said, not a bad place for your back yard!
    The word Yosemite means Grizzly Bear in Native American and was appropriated by the first white men (of the Mariposa Battalion) to discover the valley in 1851 when hunting for Chief Tenaya and his warriors who had been attacking settlers and had retreated into the valley. Shortly afterwards two pioneers arrived, Galen Clark and John Muir who were to be instrumental in the saving of the area for the nation. In 1864 Abraham Lincoln signed the first bill of protection and the land became the property of California State for the use of the population and to conserve its natural beauty. Galen Clark was appointed its first guardian and he, together with John Muir and a small band of believers battled to keep developers from the valley and its surrounds, in particular the giant Sequoias at Mariposa Grove. Things were desperate by the early 1900s and in 1903 John Muir invited Theodore Roosevelt to visit the area and the two camped together on what is now known as Roosevelt Meadow, as Muir tried to convince the President that this valley, the Mariposa Grove and the surrounding wilderness must be saved for the nation. Roosevelt returned to Washington and shortly afterwards Yosemite became federal land and together with Yellowstone became the first National Parks. There are now some 400, both big and small and it has to be one of the best decisions ever to be taken by a democratic government.
    We were at our first post of call, Glacier Point by 8am and we were far from alone! From this famous vantage point one can see over a quarter of the Park and you don’t know which way to look, the view is so spectacular. Looking down, the valley floor is a mile beneath you. There were Pika’s feeding on the berries in the low bushes all around. They are cute, rather fat squirrel look a likes, that only live at very high altitude. I was thrilled to see two in the flesh and one little devil even posed for us on top of a rock. I think he had done this before!
    We moved on to the famous entrance to Yosemite Valley, which incorporates, Bridal Veil Falls, Half Dome and El Capitan to name but three. The weather was perfect for photography and we gazed in wonder at the sight before us.
    Dragging us away was Amanda’s job and the next stop was the trailhead for Bridal Veil Falls. It is about a half mile hike to the base of the falls and quite something to stand under this huge plume of water permanently cascading over the cliffs to hit the rocks some 600ft below. Where the sun hits the water, you can often see multiple rainbows as Peter and I had the previous day on our way in. On our return to the parking lot, I stopped to read an information board and Peter stood to one side wool gathering. Up stride three guys and head straight for him : ‘cuse me buddy, but which fork is the way to the falls.’ PL looked rather like a rabbit caught in headlights; directions hardly being his thing. “Oh er, left I think......yes definitely left!” ‘Gee thanks Bud” and off they go. He looks at me agonised and says “that is right isn’t it, why on earth did they come to me?! Goodness knows. It’s this noticeability, even when standing still!
    There are many waterfalls in the valley, Yosemite Falls having the longest drop of 2,400ft to the valley floor.
    Sentinel Bridge is another beautiful viewpoint, with the crystal clear River Merced running beneath and Half Dome as a backdrop and reflected in the mirrored surface of the river. A tiny wooden chapel stands by a meadow with the 3000ft sheer granite cliffs of El Capitan glowering down over it. The massive granite cliff face of El Capitan is so high, that two and a half Empire State Buildings could be stacked against the cliff face. It is just over 3000ft high and its surface is unbelievably smooth and polished, again due to glaciation. This is a Mecca for rock climbers both in the US and all over the world. They will tell you here that Yosemite began the sport of rock climbing. (Scotland may beg to differ!). Hundreds of climbers attempt this huge wall every year, some taking several days to achieve their dream and camping on temporary bivouac ledges they fasten to the rock face. The thought made my blood run cold; attempting to climb it is bad enough, but imagine rolling over in the night up there!! Free style solo climbing has become the latest challenge. Alex Honnold has climbed El Capitan twice with no aids, ropes or safety equipment. His first successful attempt took him 4 hours and the second 1hour 58mins! The rumour is that he is due back here this month to try and break his own record. Mad or what! We stood at the base of the cliff looking up and the climbers were tiny coloured specks, if you could even see them at all.
    Our day finished at Mariposa Grove, the home of the giant Sequoias, the largest living thing on the planet. These trees are very picky in their habitat, refusing to grow below 5000 ft above sea level and needing a watershed beneath them also. A mature specimen can grow up to 300ft tall, have a trunk 25ft thick and drink 1000 gallons of water a day. They can live for up to 2000 years and one particularly large and ancient tree in the Grove was a sapling when Julius Caesar was emperor in Ancient Rome. They are majestic and walking through the Grove is like being in Nature’s Cathedral.

    As you can gather it has been a fabulous day and we count ourselves so lucky to have made it here. These places of natural beauty and wilderness are essential for the soul. I will conclude by quoting John Muir on Yosemite “ It is by far the grandest of all the special temples of Nature I was ever permitted to enter”. Amen to that.
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