Two People, Two Experiences
We woke up on the outskirts of Yosemite National Park this morning. The night was cool, as was the morning. Dew and frost covered the ground. We packed up the tent and made our way into the park via Tioga Pass Road, the east entrance. Our drive into Yosemite toward the main visitor center was calm and peaceful. Being only 7:00 in the morning we shared the park only with those who had camped within her borders or the locals who came to the park for their daily fitness routines. Wild flowers, granite cliffs, meadows, deer and even a coyote welcomed us into the famed National Park.
While making our way to the visitor center we concluded that each of us had a different expectation for the day. Mike was ready for a more intense hike which would lead him to an astonishing view of creation whereas Melissa was content with meandering through the parks easier trails and taking it easy, no steep slopes for her. Therefore, after a quick run through of Yosemite Village, home to the Village Store, Grill, Bookstore, Visitor Center and much more, we hopped a shuttle bus so Melissa could see Mike off on his adventuresome day and she could then begin her day of peaceful strolling. So, it is here that the story must diverge so that family and friends may better understand the experiences that we each had.
While Melissa was off lollygagging in Yosemite village, Mike set off on the hike of the vacation. After driving into the valley and seeing Yosemite Falls for the first time, Mike knew that he had to get on top of it. As luck would have it, there happened to be a Yosemite Falls trail. The trail was 3.5 miles with an elevation gain of 2700 feet, and it just happened to be classified as “very strenuous”, but that didn’t matter to Mike. After all, he had done similar hikes before at greater elevations when he climbed Cloud Peak in the Big Horns, and besides that, all he wanted to do was get on top of the falls.
The trail started off well enough, Mike passing multiple groups on his quest, but it soon ended up being a calf burning exercise of endless switchbacks. Mike began to wonder, as many hikers had wondered before, why he was doing what he was doing. He knew the answer: “The view from the top would be well worth the pain getting up there.”—and it most definitely was, along with the many views on the way up. He was able to hike all the way to the head of the falls, and look out into empty space as the water plummeted into nothingness. It also provided him a semi-clear view of Half Dome, which on a less smoke filled day would have been stunning, but was still glorious thru the haze today.
Upstream of the falls, the creek formed a number of natural pools, in which many people had made the strenuous hike to come swim in. Mike wondered about the cleanliness of the water after so many people swimming in it, but still couldn’t stop himself from soaking his burning feet in it and dunking his head under before his return trip down the trail. This proved to be a very wise move, as he was soon roasting under the California sun, and his knees were aching from the constant pounding of perpetual downhill, rocky switchbacks. He was also able to use the pools to encourage others on their way up the trail to continue to the top, something he wished he knew about on the way up.
He eventually made it to the bottom, staggered to the nearest drinking fountain, and spent the next 5 minutes slurping up it’s delicious offspring.
After saying good-bye to my love, I made my way back toward the visitor center. While strolling along, I came upon the trail head to view the Lower Yosemite Falls, it appeared easy and I had nothing else to do. At the entrance of the trail sat an older gentleman in a wheel-chair, he was educating the four women who walked with him, daughters perhaps, on the history of the park and the best view of the falls. However, what made this man even more spectacular was his ability to play the harmonica. So, as I began my Yosemite experience my ears were graced with the sweet sound of the harmonica which made the falls appear even more stunning than they already were. When I reached the base of the fall I took some time to write postcards to some of our HSI campers. In a similar fashion, the rest of my day continued. Strolling and meandering, on a trail, writing postcards, discovering some great sights and views. At one point, I even made my way to the Village Deli and grabbed myself a sandwich and a root beer float! In comparison to Mike’s day, my day seems a bit lazy, however I walked many miles and hours and enjoyed my day in Yosemite as much as I could have expected to enjoy a day in the Great Outdoors.
In the late afternoon, we met up and after briefly discussing our days, made our way to the Village Grill for some hamburgers, French fries, and a shake. While there, we chatted with a Texan teacher who had just spent some time in Yosemite Backcountry. With our bellies full, we said farewell to our new friend and made our way to Glacier Point where we hoped to watch the sunset. As was true in the Grand Canyon during our stay, Yosemite is also currently conducting a controlled burn - great for forest ecology, not so great for tourists who want to crisp, clean views of the landscapes which surround them. With the burn going on, our drive up to the point was slow as the firemen had to stop one lane of traffic at a time so as to better manage the fire. While in the car, we maintained high hopes that the smoke from the fire would only enhance the beauty of the sunset. Once at Glacier point, we were impressed by the view of Yosemite Valley although the smoke made for quite the haze. We watched the sun begin to set and learned some history from a local gal who had been coming to Yosemite since she was 9 years old. She apologized for the smoke and gave us some tips on what we should do the following day. We took a few good photos and then began making our way down the mountain so that we could get our tent set up and drift off to sleep.