California Travel Log | Yosemite National Park

yosemite

This is the tenth post in my series covering my recent escapades and adventures in California. For more, check out Leslie’s California Travel Log.

After our big day of exploring all things San Francisco, we left the city early Wednesday morning and met up with our friends at Bass Lake. We did a small hike before sunset and spent the night in a cabin nearby after a fun evening of visiting and playing games. Bass Lake was not far from Yosemite, and we headed out the next morning to spend all day Thursday there.

Visiting Yosemite National Park was like taking a step back in time. We hiked across mountains that are millions of years old on trails that celebrated their 150th birthday this summer. Driving past campsites and hikers, I tried to imagine what the park looked like when it was full of visitors in the 60’s (sunburned hippies?), in the 30’s (families and their babies in bonnets?), and even before. Just thinking of all the people from every walk of life who have tread the paths of Yosemite Valley over time kept my mind preoccupied for most of the drive time through the park.

John Muir came to mind. He once walked across this ground and gained the inspiration to write many of his treasured books. Yosemite is home to Muir Lake and Muir Trail (part of the great Pacific Crest Trail), and a statue honors him in the Visitor Center. The presence of gratitude, wonder, and calm Muir wrote about long ago is quietly pervasive throughout the woods. Yosemite National Park, its trees, waterfalls, mountains, rivers, and beaches are truly something you must see for yourself to fully sense and appreciate. I would go back in a heartbeat.

Screen Shot 2014-07-26 at 7.57.30 PM

Hm, this rock is comfy....
Hm, this rock is comfy….

THE HIKING

The most intense part of our time at Yosemite consisted of hiking a 1.6 mile trail UP to Vernal Falls. And yes, when I say UP, I mean it was UP. One-point-six miles wouldn’t phase me if it were flat, but the incline was greater than I was expecting,  so the hike took us quite a bit longer than I thought it would! I was actually relieved when we stopped to help a dehydrated man on the side of the trail, taking about a 10-15 minute break from hiking. He turned out fine, and just served as a good reminder to us to stay hydrated.

Bridalveil Falls was surprisingly dry, as you can see in the picture below. It’s quite the drought they have going on in California this year! Check out the tiny stream of water in picture #1 below (my hand is shading the glare of the sun in this photo). The waterfall used to be at least five times as wide, judging by the worn, darkened edges of the sliver of a stream. The dry riverbed allowed visitors to climb in and around the big rocks up to where they could touch the water. In a non-drought year, climbing on those rocks would not be possible. For more info on Yosemite hiking, check out their website.

Note the photo of the bobcat we spotted on the trail (!), also in the gallery below.

After seeing some of this beauty, you’re probably wondering now, “How in the world was this park formed geologically?” Well, it’s your lucky day because I have your answer, quoted directly from an exhibit at the Visitor Center, the next place we went after completing the descent from Vernal and having our picnic.

I think this stuff is pretty interesting considering they can date it back to 10 million years ago. Read below about how rivers carved the valley and glaciers sculpted the land.

GEOLOGICAL HISTORY OF YOSEMITE

As the mountains rose, powerful rivers and creeks cut Yosemite’s canyons and valleys, carving the landscape into V-shaped canyons (10 to 3 million years ago).

As the climate cooled, a series of glaciers entered river-carved valleys-plucking, polishing, and transporting rocks. Repeated glaciations eroded the valleys and sculpted many of the dramatic landforms we see today. The largest glaciers filled Yosemite Valley almost to the top of Half Dome (3 million to 18,000 years ago).

As the last major glacier melted and receded, Yosemite Valley filled with water and sediment. The terminal moraine acted as a natural dam, turning the Valley floor into a shallow lake. The lake eventually filled with sediment, creating a flat valley floor where meadows, then forests flourished (18,000 to 10,000 years ago).

The extensive work of glaciers is visible throughout the park. Waterfalls leap from hanging valleys. Rockfall continues to widen the Valley. You can see the moraine from the last major glacier on the Valley floor west of El Capitan (10,000 years ago to present).

 

ANSEL ADAMS GALLERY

Ansel Adams Gallery
Ansel Adams Gallery

Time for art!

I wrote about this part in a previous post.

ICE CREAM TIME

ice cream1
Because hiking is hard.

Luckily they served Haagen Dazs.

We took a break for a while, hanging out near the cafe and store, resting our legs and trying to keep from sweating for a few minutes. By the afternoon it had warmed up and the shade was a pleasanter place to be than in the bright sunshine.

After a rest, we made our last stop at Glacier Point.

GLACIER POINT

We took a long drive up to Glacier Point to get the best view of Yosemite. Turns out you get pretty cool pictures from 7,214 feet.

The rest of the time we spent waiting in line for the loo and talking to a girl from Australia.

Oh yeah, and Milo had a good time too…

Milo takes a dip in the Merced River after our picnic lunch. Is that gold I see?
Milo takes a dip in the Merced River after our picnic lunch. Is that gold I see?

Fasten your bootstraps because next up is more natural wonder from Sequoia National Park! Big trees here we come.

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