Earth Day in Yosemite Rocks
Last Wednesday, I went online on a whim and looked up campgrounds in Yosemite for the coming weekend. Much to my surprise there were a handful of sites available for Friday night, as rain was predicted and some folks had canceled. Score! Only problem was, there weren't any sites available for Saturday night (yet).
I went back online a few hours later, and lo and behold, one site was now open for Saturday! Double score!! I hurried and checked to see how far we were going to have to relocate, because moving a quarter-mile away can be a real hassle, especially when you are tent camping. The odds must have been ever in our favor, as the second night we were staying in the site DIRECTLY ACROSS FROM OUR FIRST SITE. Seriously, what are the chances??
I am so glad we got that site and were able to extend our stay. If we had had to leave Saturday, I wouldn't have gotten to play like Ansel Adams and take this late afternoon pic of Half Dome.
We always tent camp, that's just our style, but decided that for this last minute trip, with heavy rains on the horizon, we'd forgo a wet bed and borrow Steve's parents' motor home. Mila wanted to help drive the rig, but unfortunately her paws couldn't reach the pedals.
That motor home was a life saver! We spent a peaceful night indoors, out of the rain, and then awoke bright and early to take the dogs for a walk in the dewy morning light. It must have rained A LOT because there were waterfalls, rivers, and streams flowing in places where we had never seen water before in Yosemite.
There is about a 4000' elevation difference between the Valley Floor and the upper granite peaks, so sometimes it rains down below and snows up high. This is exactly what happened Friday night. It was so beautiful to see the dusting of snow on the trees above us. Can you make out the giant sequoia on the rock ledge? It looks so tiny from down here, but I bet it's a big'un.
I just love the muted tones of the mountains after a refreshing spring shower. This time of year, the old growth gives way to the new buds of spring, and past and future coexist as one within the present.
We had never noticed these side tunnels that are on either side of the old granite bridges - why? Such a perfect place to hide away from the weather, or pose for a moody portrait in the subtle, shadowy light. I loved how the moss grew all over them, so green after all the rain the mountains have received this year.
One attraction we were hoping to see this trip were the blooming dogwood trees, as this time of year is when their short, but lovely spring display occurs. Although not technically "flowers," these pretty trees illuminate the forest with delicate, pure white blossoms that seem to float in midair. Lucky for us, they were in peak bloom last weekend, and did not disappoint!
The campground was beginning to come alive when we returned from our walk. I just love being able to look up at THIS VIEW while having my morning coffee. Aaaaaahhhhhh.....
What else to do in Yosemite but hike around and explore? We kenneled the dogs in the RV and headed out for a long midday stroll around the Valley. When we arrived in Yosemite Village, we discovered it was Earth Day. Really?? Cool! There were many booths set up in the Village square with fun outdoor and national park information, as well as a wildlife exhibits and even a celebrity sighting.
To add to the Earth Day festivities, the rangers had parked this restored Power Wagon within view of thundering Yosemite Falls.
Speaking of Yosemite Falls...it was pretty majestic. No words. Just pictures.
As we left Yosemite Village, we literally stumbled into the cemetery were several dozen of the valley pioneers have been laid to rest. Now, some of you know this, but most of you don't - I love love love headstones and monuments. Whenever possible, I find a cemetery and I take a few pictures. There is just something so raw, authentic, personal, and beautiful about a monument to a loved one. Each cemetery has a sense of place that can be communicated through the edifices that are erected there. Take the two headstones below, for example.
We kept walking and ended up at the Le Conte Memorial. I have never been inside this building, but have always admired its architecture. Maybe the next time we come up it will be open and we can take a peek inside.
Mid afternoon and it was time to check in on the dogs. On the way back we passed through the camp entrance, where I couldn't help but notice this cool vintage bike with climbing helmet in the basket, or the old phone booth with its worn Yellow Pages. Takes you back a few.
Mila is not new to this camping thing. In fact, she's pretty experienced. We figure this was her 12th trip or so - and perhaps her favorite. After camping in an RV, I'm afraid she won't camp in a tent ever again.
That evening, the conditions were shaping up to be pretty nice for a twilight hike on the Mirror Lake trail. With all of the water, there would actually be a lake to reflect the mountains! And I simply love the blue light of dusk on a mountain lake. We packed a little gear and headed out to the trail, which meanders along a river edged with blooming dogwood trees.
On one side of Mirror Lake, you see the reflection of Half Dome in the water. We accidentally took the opposite trail and had to hike ALL the way around to get to the Half Dome viewing side. Still, the view of the opposing granite wall in the lake wasn't too shabby.
On that trail, one thing that always gives me the heebie jeebies is the part that passes through the huge rock slide of 2009. Once, during the winter, on a sunny day when the ice within the rock fissures starts to melt, we heard rocks tumbling down from way up high as we passed through the quarry. Shivers. This time, I felt we were out of the seasonal danger zone, as most of the ice had already melted. No sooner had those words escaped my lips than I heard a loud rustling from above. And just about jumped out of my skin.
It was a BASE jumper deploying his parachute, sounding eerily like rocks tumbling from above. We watched him glide down and land on a small clearing in front of us. I wonder which 8000' peak he leaped from?
To get to the other side of Mirror Lake, we had to cross the Merced River. So good to see it rippin' and roarin' like this. And so glad I didn't have to cross it by tip-toeing across a fallen log.
Ah, the blue light of dusk and the soft reflection of granite in the calm waters of Mirror Lake. Although the top of Half Dome was shrouded in clouds, it was still an absolutely gorgeous sight to see. Peaceful. Quiet. There are very few people on the trails this time of day, which really makes you feel like you are at one with nature. There are still places of solitude, even in a park as heavily visited as Yosemite. You just need to get off the beaten path, arrive a little earlier, stay a little later, or all of the above. ;-)
For Steve's birthday last month, I gave him a propane-powered fire pit. I never thought I'd see the day when we'd forgo the smoky, ashy, burning embers of a wood campfire, but I must admit being able to flip a switch and get instant outdoor heat and ambiance is pretty sweet. And my hair doesn't smell like smoke all weekend. And you still get the lovely glow of real fire. Ok, that's it, I'm SOLD!
The next morning we awoke to another fine spring day. After a double-oatmeal-packet-with-a-spoonful-of-almond-butter breakfast, we headed off for a quick hike of Vernal Falls before packing up camp. The power of these waterfalls is absolutely breathtaking, and worthy of respect. I am always on guard around them, especially when hiking the Mist Trail and its slippery, wet steps. It was all worth it though to get some shots of the waterfall doing its thing. And what a treat to see a rainbow arching through the spray on our way back! I think you can only see the rainbow during certain times of the day, standing in certain parts of the trail, as the sun has to hit the spray just right. Didn't find a pot of gold at the end, but I found my husband standing in the middle.
And so ends another awesome camping adventure in Yosemite National Park. Earth Day in Yosemite officially "rocks." What better place to celebrate nature and the environment than among the natural wonders of California, right? I've been here many times, and I still can't wait to come back. ;-)
Keywords: Half Dome, Yosemite, Yosemite Falls, hiking, national parks, outdoor photographer, outdoors, photography, travel, travel photographer
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