Thursday, April 16, 2015

Sweet land of liberty

On Sunday I went on my first Yosemite hike, me and 500 friends, to the top of Vernal Fall. I went in early just as the sun was lighting the Valley, and as much as I wanted to get going on the trail so I could avoid the crowds, I couldn't pass by the views I was seeing for the first time.

That's Yosemite Falls, looking as if it's fed by the contrail above it. Didn't I plan that well?

There's a hike to the top of Yosemite Falls but it's not for me. My hiking book says it's 3.6 miles up, with an elevation gain of 2700 feet. I will admire from afar. There's another hike I want to look into, though, simply because I'm tickled by its name. It's supposed to be a steep one but it might be worth the misery to be able to say I hiked the Poopenaut Valley trail.

This was down the road a little, where the sun hadn't yet made an appearance. There were contrails across the sky all day. 

There's about a one-mile walk from the parking lot to the beginning of the trail, crossing a bridge and looking up- and down-canyon.

The trail was uphill right from the start.  It's 1.5 miles to the top with an elevation gain of 1000 feet. I knew that ahead of time. I knew there were steps involved, and knew there were more than 600 of them, but didn't know that they all occurred within 3/10 of a mile from the top. Here they begin, and as I started up I found myself counting 1, 2, 3, and had gotten to about 40 when I asked myself if I was crazy. Did I really want to keep track?

The beginning of the stairs was actually pretty easy; they were shallow and dry. The higher the climb, though, the steeper they got, and it's not called the Mist Trail for nothing. Most of the way there's no railing, even with a drop almost straight down, but where it's wettest and steepest a railing has been installed and I clung to it like a lifeline.

And that is the end of the photos I have approaching the fall, or even being on top. Really. I had some, but what they showed was a river falling off the edge. I couldn't see down the fall. It was beautiful up there but oddly enough, not very photogenic.

I wasn't looking forward to the descent, especially because more and more people were coming up and crowding the steps. Luckily, a woman told me about continuing past the fall to connect with the John Muir Trail, a stairless, dry way to go back to the Valley. 

I looked at a map and saw a series of switchbacks. I know switchbacks and thought how nice they would be to my knees, which are acting their age recently. What the woman didn't say, and what the map didn't show, is that the switchbacks continue up the mountain.

Yes, this is the trail. The photo isn't crooked. Some poor crew, maybe the CCC, laid rocks on end to level the path a bit and to mark the way.

But it was lovely up there. To the right of Liberty Cap is Nevada Fall. I had considered and discarded the idea of continuing to Nevada Fall because it involved more climbing. Ha! Look at where I am in relation to the top of the fall. I shoulda gone.

Here is Vernal Fall, my destination for the day, from the trail I was supposed to be descending on. To the right of the fall is a more or less level area surrounded by a railing which some people consider merely an impediment to getting a great selfie by the fall. And have fallen the 317 feet to the bottom.

That's Nevada Fall again on the right, with Liberty Cap, Mount Broderick, and Half Dome. The only way I could get them all in one photo was using the panorama feature on the camera, the first time I've used it.

The John Muir Trail was nice to be on because not many others were using it for most of the way. I poked along, looking for wildflowers, listening to the rush of the river far below, and enjoying the sunshine.

While I was lounging around the top of Vernal Fall a group (also known as a band, a cast, a party, or a scold) of Stellers jays was creating a racket in the trees. I love these birds. We had them in Washington, where I fed them peanuts in the shell. They're noisy, brash, and in-your-face birds, and smart as can be. One settled just long enough for me to get his portrait.

Another jay lives here too, a scrub jay. They're not as flamboyant but they have the same attitude.

P.S. We are happy, happy people: AT&T installed DSL internet at the house today, 250 Gb a month. It feels like we've been emancipated. The world is wide open. We can stream! 

I may never leave.


Thought of the day:

Now there is more to a bluejay than any other animal. He has got more different kinds of feeling. Whatever a bluejay feels he can put into language, and not mere commonplace language, but straight out and out book talk, and there is such a command of language. You never saw a bluejay get stuck for a word. He is a vocabularized geyser. - Mark Twain, What Stumped the Blue Jay