Vernal Falls - the hard and harder way
Aug 07, 2011
Aug 26, 2011
After another delicious American breakfast, (crispy bacon, pancakes, scrambled eggs, maple syrup(!)) we set off down our windy road into Yosemite Valley. We were amazed at how much smoke was now blowing across our road, the speed limit was down to 25 mph and the visibility was akin to driving in fog at home. We were to discover that there had been a lightning strike at Avalanche Falls which had set off a forest fire and the park rangers and fire fighters were "controlling" the fire as it helps the ecology of the forest. The fire spread area was now approx 740 acres but the flames, when we did see them were smouldering at ground level, rather than burning upwards into the taller pines. It was still pretty dramatic but it was reassuring to see the number of fire fighters who were already gathered at the turning to Glacier Point road, I counted 14 fire or ranger vehicles. This morning we had decided to split up - Mark wanted to do some more strenuous hiking down a longer trail and he originally wanted to hike down from Glacier Point but that would have meant taking a bus up to the top of valley but unfortunately all of the seats were taken, so we decided to consider that for tomorrow. Mark then decided that he would like to tackle the trail to the Yosemite falls, with a view to reaching the Lower falls and then hiking onto the Upper falls if he felt that he could. Yosemite Falls are considered to be the tallest waterfalls in North America, falling 2425 feet in 3 tiers and they are certainly a dramatic sight and they can be seen from all over the Valley. Mark's trail was about 7miles but as most of this was semi-vertical we decided that was not the trail for us! We arranged to meet back at the bus stop outside of the Visitor Centre later in the afternoon and so we thought we would try to visit Vernal Falls, further along the Valley, which was a much shorter trail. We took the free Yosemite shuttle bus - not what we were expecting at all in a National Park but considering the number of visitors, they were an excellent idea. The buses run on a loop system along the Valley floor and mean that they cut down on the number of cars trying to traverse the valley to reach the various beauty spots. The bus drivers were patient, courteous and informative and the buses were not only much greener but they were air conditioned too, which was a blessing later in the day when the temperatures rose. So we took our bus to Happy Isles which was the trail head for the Vernal Falls. This was initially a gentle incline but the path became much steeper and it really pulled on the calf muscles and reminded me how much I needed to improve my fitness levels! The trail was also busy, not what we wanted at all - and a complete contrast to our walks out in Canada and Oregon. Still, we were determined to see the waterfall and the views were dramatic. We reached a footbridge over the lower part of the falls and Flo and I decided to have a rest whilst Paul and Julian manfully ventured further up the now steep slopes to the top of Vernal Falls. Flo and I were vastly entertained by the antics of a family of squirrels who were busy in and around the rocks and no doubt were fed by scraps left by the many visitors. We also witnessed a young Stellar Jay harassing its parent for food, with little success. Flo was surprised to see that one of the squirrels was bold enough to try and nibble her shoe lace and then hopped up onto the rock behind where we were sitting and investigated the back of her tee shirt. We were pleased to walk back down the trail when Paul and Julian rejoined us and they both commented that we had been wise to wait for them as the trail gets much harder to manage with large boulders to step on and around and it was also steeper.
We decided to have a snack and a drink whilst we waited for Mark to complete his trail
and we ate at Yosemite Lodge which was surprisingly reasonable, given how dear some of the prices can be in the park. Mark arrived about an hour later, worn out and rather grubby but he said that the views had been awesome and well worth the effort.
We were all rather weary so we headed back to Strawberry Creek and showered and spent an evening relaxing, resting our weary muscles.