Wonder Fall

Trip Start Jun 22, 2010
Trip End Dec 15, 2011

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Flag of United States  , California
Thursday, September 22, 2011

It would be a crime to live in California and not venture to Yosemite National Park. Knowing that we wanted to stay in the park itself and that it often books up months in advance, I had made reservations last spring at Housekeeping Camp. And today was the day that we were headed to "America's Treasure."

Leaving the Central Coast and heading east we watched the temperature rise to three digits.  Luckily once we ascended into higher elevations, the temperatures dropped a little. As we entered the park and Yosemite Valley, sheer granite canyon walls surrounded us and the occasional waterfall cascaded down. We drove deeper into the valley, Mike pulled over so we could admire the view of Yosemite Falls, the tallest waterfall in North America.

We checked in then unpacked the car settling into our semi-tent (three concrete walls separated from the outside by a canvas sheet).  Making up our bed, I could smell the rain before the air exploded with a late afternoon thunderstorm. It had been quite awhile since I had experienced a down pour accompanied by thunder and lightening. I honestly found it invigorating and refreshing especially since the temperature then dropped below eighty.  Luckily the rain was short-lived but  we weren’t sure if the rain had passed for good, so we decided on some short walks with scenic vistas. We drove back west and began at Bridalveil Falls. Yosemite is famous for its waterfalls. Although the best times to visit is in the spring and early summer when the snowmelt is at its peak creating surging turbulent falls. I couldn’t help but wish we had come in June as we walked the short quarter of mile to base of Bridalveil Falls. Nevertheless the 600 foot waterfall was still beautiful.

We next drove up to Tunnel View. A crowd was gathered at the overlook that provided a gorgeous view of the Valley. I noticed a sign for a 1.5 hike uphill to Inspiration Point and suggested we explore that. Five minutes from the overlook, the views were more spectacular than the overlook without any people. We continued climbing up the mountain until we reached a backcountry campground. We soon realized that the campground was in fact Inspiration Point, which was disappointing. We turned around stopping about fifty feet above the overlook. The sun was sinking lower into the sky behind us casting gold and pink hues over the Valley, Half Dome, Bridalveil Falls and El Capitan. This spot was much more inspiring.   

Thursday morning we woke to vibrant sunny skies. We decided to begin the day with a 7.2 mile hike with a 2700 foot climb up to the top of Yosemite Falls. Immediately the hike began with switchbacks and I knew we were in for a challenge. Luckily the trail was shaded, but I still ditched my long sleeve shirt in the first fifteen minutes.  Mike was determined to keep a good pace, but after thirty minutes I needed to take a break and catch my breath. The trail had begun to lose its tree cover and the sun was shining directly on us. As soon as we resumed walking, the trail began to head downhill. I cursed it as I did not want to lose any of the elevation gained. We rounded the corner of the mountain to see the first views of Upper Yosemite Falls from the trail. Looking up, I knew we still had a very long way to go. 

The last mile up was rough. The trail continued to get steeper and the sun continued to get hotter. As we approached the top, we needed a thirty-second-catch-our breath-break every five minutes. I kept looking up at the trees clinging to the edges of the cliff longing to be down climbing and sitting in the shade.  Almost three hours later, we finally reached the top. We walked another ten minutes and descended a rocky staircase to the top of the falls. Looking upstream, the water flowed down two small falls separated by a refreshingly lovely pool before plummeting over the edge and flowing over 2000 feet to the valley floor. Nearby we found some trees to rest under and enjoy the vistas of Half Dome and Yosemite Valley.

I figured it would take us half the time to get down the mountain. However, I was wrong. On the hike up I was so fixated on the climb that I didn’t realize how many loose rocks littered the trail. Mike and I had to carefully choose every step on the slippery slope down, and it took us longer than 2 hours to descend.

Although we had some snacks at the top of the falls, we were pretty hungry. A picnic with some noshing sounded perfect and we stopped at Yosemite Village for supplies. The rugged hike was a sharp contrast to the full grocery store. I was not prepared for the amount of development in the village as a whole or the size of the grocery store.  I couldn’t help but try to think of what I could cook over the campfire with curry paste but the reality was I wanted out of the air-conditioned food extravaganza. We quickly selected some crackers, salami, herb goat cheese and blackberries.  Back at Housekeeping Ca mp, we changed into our swim suits and grabbed a bottle of wine, towels and chairs.

The Merced River flowed behind the camp and the nice sandy beach provided the perfect entrance point. I hadn’t been swimming in over a year. I was hot and sweaty and truly looking forward to a nice dip. As soon as my feet entered the water, the icy cool temperature sent a shiver through my body. I really wanted to swim, but it was freezing and I was no longer hot. I finally mustered the courage to jump in. It was so cold that the second my head was under water I immediately wanted out. It was not refreshing; it felt like needles puncturing every pore of my skin.  I raced back to shore. Mike, who would love to be in a Polar Bear Swim Club, was laughing hysterically. He jumped in and happily swam around while I thawed out in the late afternoon sun.

After Mike dried off, we opened a bottle of Pinot Noir and nestled into our chairs. Yosemite Falls towered in front of us. We stared up at the falls in awe that we had actually climbed to the top.  Tapping our glasses together, we congratulated each other. A deer swim across the river. To our right, Half Dome began to glow as evening approached. We sipped our wine in silence soaking up all the natural wonders.
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Ray Schilling on

Although Kaye and I didn't do the hiking that you and Mike did we sure enjoyed the many sites at Yosemite that we also saw when we were there. Your photos are beautiful.

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