Yosemite Walking

Sometimes Geology Makes Itself Known

We tried to avoid it (geology) and pay attention to seven lanes of wild East Bay traffic, and stay awake across the Big Valley and keep the car on the road around hairpin turns up the foothills to the mountains.

However, geology was the basis for a wide flat valley and roads that if they were going to go over mountains needed a tortuous route. Visually, we noticed the fragile layers of ancient volcanic rock and a tunnel through granite and finally a view into the Yosemite Valley. Mike called the valley walls, “Big Granite” and it dominated our visit, both in wonder and in unease.

We came into the Yosemite Valley with good views of Bridalveil Falls and a roaring Merced River. It was raining.

On our first full day at Yosemite National Park, we rode the shuttle to Yosemite Falls. The top of which is 2700’ above the valley floor. I could see the top of the falls from one of the bus stops. I had walked up at least part of the way over 20 years ago. This time I was happy with a view from the bottom.

Yosemite Falls

The water spilled in giant volumes, acting as a refrigerant on the immediate area. Many people huddled and grinned for the family photographer. The water was clear, flowing through the sandy-bottomed creek bed and drowning conversation.

We took off on an uneven, almost paved path and we had a walk practically to ourselves. (Even in a cool rainy April, Yosemite Valley was full of people.) The path climbed behind buildings of Yosemite Village. While I wasn’t crazy about the uphill grade, I climbed and the views were rewarding.

Spooky gothic spires loomed overhead, while familiar flowering Manzanita and serenading jays comforted us.

The mile walk ended at the Awahnee Hotel lobby for resting my lungs and feet. There are several relatively flat walks in the valley. Maps are available and trail markers help.

Back on Yosemite Valley floor

The next morning we had sun on the mountaintops except for the elusive Half Dome. It had its own little cloud. We were relieved to see a slice of blue sky over the narrow valley. Rain and vacations don’t mix.

We drove down to Valley View and looked over the Merced River to see El Capitan, Bridalveil Falls, Sentinel and Cathedral. At Bridalveil Falls, we found a separate rain climate, cold and wet with a happy crowd of international visitors scurrying. We walked near the base through smaller Ponderosa pines and more cedars than were across the valley at Yosemite Falls.

To find more sunlight we drove out of the valley on the south side. We stopped at Tunnel View and saw Bridalveil Falls looking more veil-y in the mist. Continuing on we went through fog, mist and then clear as the elevation increased. We stopped near Wawona for an early lunch by the South Fork of the Merced River. Looking for more adventure and a walk, we tried stopping at Mariposa Grove (giant sequoias) but the parking was full. (It was Easter Sunday.)

We found our walk around a meadow and golf course near Wawona. It’s a 3.5 mi walk. We didn’t make it that far as the rain continued on and off and always threatened. The path is wide dirt, sometimes paved, pine needle roadway. We could hear more wind and less traffic as we went. Path is open to dog on leash, horse or bike, but we were alone. Perfect.

At the Wawona Hotel, we lolled in the old-fashioned luxury of the hotel’s lobby and front porch. White painted wood, wallpaper and overstuffed furniture reminding me of old farmhouse youth. Crisp green lawns and woods beckoned us outside. We watched brightly dressed children search for Easter eggs.

Next, we discovered the History Center, downhill and across the road complete with covered bridge from 1854 when the cavalry arrived to ‘protect’ the valley. (Read keep the native people out.) The buildings have been move to the site, but represent a way of life with homes, bakery and a powderhouse converted to a jail.

Back at Yosemite Valley, we walked across the meadows at the Swinging Bridge. It was the first time we felt the walls were not encroaching on us, but were just beautiful. The upper Yosemite Falls appeared to fall from the clouds.

The next day we bade farewell to a meadow of photographers and left with the roar of the river in our ears.

It was geology everywhere. Fortunately, not in our tent-cabin as a nearby rockslide woke me one night. Nature was everywhere, as bear versus food locker also awoke me. Ah, nature.

See you on another trail!

Lynn Millar

Photos by Mike Millar

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