Yosemite… rain or shine
I went to Yosemite to see waterfalls, and the water definitely fell, in every size, shape and consistency possible.
As I headed down Highway 49 in a four-car caravan, my thoughts revolved around the hopes of seeing these famous Yosemite landmarks.
When we finally reached the national park, the last leg of the trip resembled a stock car making pit stops at the Daytona 500. Every mile or so along the valley floor our caravan would pull off to take pictures and stare in amazement.
After finally reaching our campsite, we began to reenact scenes from the movie Water World – the search for dry land had begun.
Yosemite experienced the late-season precipitation as the Tahoe area, leaving the scenery gray and wet for the majority of the last month and a half.
With base camp finally complete, and our tents only partially floating in water, we decided to go for a nice afternoon hike.
Shortly out of camp we captured our first view of Yosemite Falls as we walked down the bike path parallel to the giant granite cliffs. The view of Yosemite Falls was breathtaking, but short-lived.
As we turned the corner and headed towards the trailhead, the rain began to fall.
At first we hoped it was just mist from the 2,425-foot pride of Yosemite. But we were wrong.
The rain began to fall harder and harder.
Through the heavy drops we managed to catch a view of North Dome, the Royal Arches and Half Dome off in the distance.
Determined to make it the bottom of the lower Yosemite Falls, we carried on through the storm.
Yosemite Falls is actually two different waterfalls: The upper fall drops 1,430 feet, and the lower fall drops 320 feet.
Within a short time we arrived at the lower section of the falls, fully saturated from head to toe.
The roar of the water battled with the sound of raindrops to creating a completely hypnotic symphony.
The raindrops no longer mattered. As water fell from above and pounded the large granite boulders in the stream below, the air seemed to be predominately composed of water.
On the way back to the campsite all hopes of staying dry were lost long ago. As a result, no one bothered to avoid the puddles that they so carefully sidestepped around on the walk to the falls.
When the rain began to dump once again, we decided to take action. The majority of our group jumped on one of the buses that cart people around the valley, the rest of us decided to walk on. But shortly after we admitted defeat and took the bus.
“Where are you headed?” asked the driver. “The Pines campground,” I said. “You got on the wrong bus, this one is headed the opposite direction.”
We decided that a dry bus ride in the wrong direction was still better than a walk in the right direction, especially when it was still raining extremely hard.
We relaxed and stared out the windows as the bus drove the entire way back to Yosemite Falls. We then proceeded on, driving farther away from Yosemite Falls and our final destination.
Finally the bus turned around. Nearly a half-hour later, we arrived back at our campsite.
The small amount of dry land that had existed before our hike was gone.
Since it was only 5:30 p.m., we decided we had to take action. We struggled for nearly and hour to establish a roof over our site using tarps and a number of ropes.
We eventually succeeded in building a shelter and then turned our attention towards starting a fire.
After dinner the rain finally came to an end. We took the opportunity to dry our boots and other wet gear over the fire.
The next morning I awoke to hear one of the people in our group saying, “Hey guys, want to see a bear? Guys, there’s a bear in our site.”
Apparently it had wondered into the campsite looking for any food. The bear walked up to an empty food bin then passed through our site and back into the woods. This would not be our only encounter with wildlife.
Several coyotes, deer and raccoons made their ways through our site looking for handouts.
Shortly after breakfast we decided to try our luck at another hike. Several of the people in our group decided to stay behind, not wanting a repeat of the previous days’ hike.
We hit the trail at 11 a.m. with our feet pointed towards Nevada Falls, our final destination.
Nearly an hour later we reached the bottom of Vernal Falls. Reaching the top of the falls 317 feet above would prove to be slightly more difficult. The trail to the top of the falls is known as the Mist Trail.
The narrow trail begins to ascend up the stream at the base of the Vernal Falls. The trail eventually gives way to a series of large granite steps. As the steps begin to round the bend they provide a beautiful view of the Vernal Falls, and within an instant it is apparent why it is called the Mist Trail.
At the bottom of the falls water meets rock with a tremendous roar. One large piece of granite at the base takes the majority of the blow from the water falling above. The result is a shower of mist that can be felt hundreds of yards away.
The staircase continued to follow the right side of the valley up the granite cliffs past the falls, until the granite cliffs above become the granite floor beneath your feet.
By the top of the trail, the steep granite steps merge into a smooth floor.
A guardrail followed the edge of the step cliff up to the mouth of the Vernal Falls. On one side of the rail, the granite floor acted as a nice patio deck to rest and grab a few snacks. On the other side of the rail, water raced over the edge of the cliffs for the bottom of the valley floor. The tide pool sat directly in front us. Water seemed to dance around the pool bouncing from rock to rock before it leapt over the edge.
As we sat down on the smooth granite surface to eat lunch and re-hydrate, one fact about Yosemite became crystal clear: The mountains, rivers and forests of Yosemite remain untamed, but this is not the case for the wildlife.
It doesn’t mean that the next time you’re in Yosemite you should go and hug a bear, it just means that the animals are used to seeing humans on a regular basis.
The squirrels can smell food from miles away. It’s almost like they have supersonic hearing. With the slightest crinkle of a wrapper or the sound of someone biting into a piece of fruit, they come out in hordes.
I sat down to take some notes and eat some trail mix when I was accosted by a number of squirrels and birds. A squirrel attacked on the right, then one flanked around to the left as bird swooped down to nibble at my toes. It was too much. I had to retreat. It was time to start hiking again.
We followed the tide pool up stream before crossing over a small bridge. This was our first clear glance of Nevada Falls. The trail curves another 594 feet to the top for bird’s view.
On top the weather was much cooler. A few snowflakes even began to fall, making us all a little nervous.
It provided a panoramic view Yosemite’s entire valley floor. The lookout made it possible to follow the water on its trip down to the river bellow and watch as it meandered all the way to the top of the Vernal Falls.
The hike back to camp proved to be much easier, as we avoided the steep steps of the Mist trail – and it was all down hill.
The rest of the night was spent around the campfire, eating and resting.
The next morning our hopes of a backcountry trip were quashed with the arrival of more rain and snow.
So we packed up all of our wet gear, bid farewell to the coyotes awaiting our departure, and headed home.
Back to our warm dry beds and houses with roofs.
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