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USA Sept 2010 – Amateur Hiking in Yosemite…

Yosemite 2

Refreshed by our early night, we’re up and out of the Yosemite View Lodge at 9am. We’re off to spend the day in the Valley, and we re-enter Yosemite itself via the Arch Rock Entrance. We turn off to the Bridalveil Fall Parking Lot, and walk the short way to the base of the fall. We were prepared not to see roaring waterfalls at this time of the year, but were excited to see these falls – if not in full flow, then at least in full trickle.

Yosemite Valley
Driving into Yosemite Valley
Bridalveil Falls, Yosemite
Bridalveil Falls, Yosemite

This is the first time since Pahrump that I’ve managed to get a mobile phone signal, so give the folks back home a quick call… “Yes, I’m standing by a waterfall! A WATERFALL!…”

We continue on and park at the Day Use Parking Lot; there are a few spaces left but this was probably all full up by about 10am. Despite making a firm plan of what to do and what to see today, we decide to just wander around and soak up the morning sunshine.

We head towards Yosemite Falls past the Village and the Visitor Center. I’m assuming we were at Yosemite Falls, although all we were faced with was a dry monolith of rock… I’m sure this is beautiful in the Springtime, and we vow to return one day when the falls are in full flow.

Yosemite Falls
Where Yosemite Falls should be…

We find ourselves on part of the Valley Floor Trail, and follow this around until we emerge to a picnic area and a beautiful meadow. We find a sign pointing us towards Happy Isles Nature Center, but we soon lose the trail and carry on towards Curry Village.

With only a Whoa Nellie Deli sandwich for dinner last night, our tummies are growling loud enough to catch the attention of any passing bears, so we hop on a shuttle at Curry Village back to Yosemite Village. Quick word on the Valley Shuttle buses – these are frequent, well-run and a fantastic way of getting around the park when your feet will carry you no more!

Our intended venue for lunch was Degnan’s Deli; however a sign outside informs us that the Café, Deli and Pizza Loft are closed until further notice. We head instead to the Village Grill – a standard burger joint, although we don’t often get squirrels running around our feet at the burger joints back home.

A burger, fries and soda later, we head to El Capitan Meadow on the El Capitan shuttle. This shuttle only runs in the summer months – but we were happy to find it still running late September – and is a lot less frequent than the Valley Shuttle.

The driver drops us off at El Capitan Meadow with a promise to be back to pick us up in 30 minutes. This is a fantastic place to just sit and relax, in the meadow or by the river, and watch the tiny little ants climbing up El Capitan. We are assured that these are not ants, but brave and intrepid climbers. As this is a 3,000 foot vertical rock face, I am extremely glad that my feet are firmly planted on the ground!

At the shuttle stop, there is an “Ask a Climber” programme set up – the only question I’m tempted to ask is “Are you all completely mad?”

 

 

We’re shuttled back to the Village, from where we climb onto another shuttle for a complete circuit of the Valley. Much of my deliberation when making plans for this particular day was whether to include a more “challenging” hike. We’re not particularly “unfit” but we hadn’t done anything to prepare for extended walking sessions, and – well, our lungs aren’t what they used to be…

Trailhead sign, Yosemite
“We’ll just do the short one today…”

I ummed and aahed over including the hike to Vernal Falls Footbridge – after all, it’s less than a mile to the footbridge, and people had said that their young children had done it easily. It couldn’t be that challenging could it? It’s not like we were deciding to hike Half Dome or anything…

So we decided to take a short walk along the Trail. So far, so good. The sign says 0.8 mile to the Footbridge – that’s perfectly doable. So we carry on. And for the first 10 minutes we’re fine… there are lots of people coming down; they all look happy enough, no-one looks in too much pain.

And then the incline gets just a tad steeper, and the air seems to get just a tad thinner… Suddenly, the energy and enthusiasm of 10 minutes before have started to wear off a little. It takes longer and longer to reach each corner, with extended “photo breaks” in order to catch our breath…

At the point where my legs have ceased to function anymore (largely because they are now made of jelly) and my lungs are cursing me for every cigarette I have ever smoked, someone coming down the trail tells us there’s only a couple of minutes to go… “It’s just round that corner…” How can we give up now? We’re so close!

And, there is a couple behind us who look even more unfit than we are, and have been matching our “photo breaks” stop for stop… I’m determined I am going to get there before they do!

So, spurred on by the thought of beating the other couple, we’re full steam ahead for our destination. And – yes, there it is!! Except, what with the falls being quite puny, and the view being mainly concealed by trees, it’s not particularly the spectacular reward we deserved for all that effort…

However, we are very proud of ourselves for pushing ourselves that far, and not giving up – even with blancmange legs. In fact… I’m feeling ok now… shall we carry on to the top of Vernal Falls? Or even Nevada Falls – it can’t be that difficult? Mr Fletche thinks that just maybe I’m getting a little ahead of myself, particularly as I was considering calling for mountain rescue five minutes ago….

So, we start our descent. And guess what? It’s no wonder all the people we saw coming down were happy… it’s a hell of a lot easier coming down than going up.

We sink into the comfortable seats of a shuttle bus, all smug and happy with ourselves. Then we’re humbled by a lady on the shuttle of a “certain age” – let’s just say she probably had a good twenty or thirty years on us – who had hiked the John Muir Trail to the top of Nevada Fall and the Mist Trail down, and was then talking about the hikes she’d be doing tomorrow…. There are some amazing people hiking here in Yosemite!

Glad to see the Fletchemobile after a day on our feet (give or take the time spent on the shuttle), we decide to head towards Glacier Point for sunset. If Mr Fletche thought the Tioga Road drive was challenging, this one beats it hands down. At this time of the afternoon, there were no stoppages for construction, but the road was incredibly twisty and narrow, with a sheer drop on the passenger side.

Tunnel View, Yosemite
Tunnel View, Yosemite

We finally get to Glacier Point; the car park is packed and we just can’t face the measly one- mile hike to the viewpoint. So we retrace our steps back to Washburn Point – the views from here are still spectacular and there are far less people. We watch the changing colours on the mountains as the sun goes down, but we decide to retreat back down Glacier Point Road before the sun sets and we’re left in complete darkness. Although now Mr Fletche also has to battle the setting sun being in his eyes as we slowly – and blindly – make our way back to the Lodge…

We catch the sunset at Tunnel View – we could have saved ourselves the harrowing 30 mile journey to Glacier Point and watched it here…. – and then head back to Yosemite View Lodge at about 7:15pm. We head down to the main complex at the Lodge to suss out food options for the evening.

Washburn Point, Yosemite
Washburn Point
Tunnel View at sunset, Yosemite
Tunnel View at sunset

The restaurant seems a little expensive, and with the alternative being pizza (much to my disgust), we decide to stock up at the General Store on sandwiches, potato chips, chocolate and other disgustingly unhealthy goods. For the second night in a row, dinner is a picnic in our hotel room…

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