The test of an adventure is that when you are in the middle of it, you say to yourself, "Oh, now I've got myself into an awful mess; I wish I were sitting quietly at home." And the sign that something is wrong with you is when you sit quietly at home wishing you were out having lots of adventure.-Thornton Wilder
The nice thing about being confused is you get a chance to notice things a lot better than if you knew where you were going.
Sinbad and I are taking off for a short excursion up north through our state park's redwoods. I thought it best to go before the State of California closes them down the end of the month due to Sacramento's mis-management of funds, ...uh I mean due to budget cuts.
Okay, only two of the six redwood parks are on the hit list of 70 state parks to be shut down July 1st. One of those two appears to have got a reprieve but I'm not taking any chances when it comes to our state government. We'll return to Blogland in a week. Take lots of pictures while we're away. We will.
I mounted my bicycle and slowly peddled up the road (now closed to all traffic except bicycles and tourist trams - a good thing) to view Mirror Lake. Even back in the sixties Mirror Lake was slowly filling in with sediment from the high country and was someday destined to be no more than a beautiful meadow. I was curious as to how much of the lake there was left. Along the way you are treated to various views of Half Dome.
I have been up there 4 times. Twice in my youth and twice to take my own kids up there. Nowadays, you have to get a permit and only 300 are...yes I said 300...are allowed per day. Back in my day, 30 was a lot to go up in one day as it is a 14-16 mile round-trip hike with an elevation gain of 4,800' taking 10 to 12 hours up and back. I've gone online and viewed the madness of today from recent photos. It is a solid line of people backed up to climb the final stretch up the backside. With so many on the cables, impatience leads to pushing and shoving and it is no wonder deaths occur each year. Unbelievable.
I peddled up the grade towards Mirror Lake and was stopped by this sign. Since I didn't have a lock for the bicycle with me, this is as far as I could go and I never was able to see Mirror Lake.
I just stood there and watched this scene before me, thinking What disappointment awaits me next?
I looked at the people around me, older folk for the most part and wondered if any one of them might just happen to be of the group of kids I hung out with in Yosemite so long ago. Hello, Sharon?
I coasted back down the hill and continued on to Happy Isles. Happy Isles was a favorite spot for John Muir as he found it a very peaceful setting which always lifted his spirit. Hopefully it would do so for me too. Today Happy Isles marks the beginning point of the John Muir Trail which ends 211 miles later at the top of Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the Continental U.S. But when I arrived at Happy Isles I found the bridge gone, washed away by the Great Flood of 1997. The white sign off to the left at the top of the rock wall designates the high water mark of the flood. The man in the far back with the straw hat is standing at step number one of the John Muir Trail.
I walked on the paths connecting the little Happy islands...
sat down to eat my apple and thought...
If John Muir were sitting here right next to me, would he be as dispirited as I am after all I have seen?
I got back onto my bicycle, rode back to the Little House on the Highway, climbed in and headed for home. On the way I stopped one last time, and went for a short walk with my camera.
Had John Muir just answered my question?
I began to feel better, and continued to do so all the way home.
Someday I will return to Yosemite with fresh eyes and renewed heart.
I parked the Little House on the Highway in the parking lot at Camp Curry. That's just about the only place one can park a car and leave it without having a campsite, tent cabin or hotel room. I didn't take any pictures of Camp Curry...too touristy, and hoards of people. Imagine finding an ant hill and poking a stick down the hole a few times then wait thirty seconds. This gives you an idea of all the people milling around Camp Curry. Come summer vacation time and the entire Valley will be that way.
I rode my bicycle across the meadow (on a boardwalk) over to Stoneman Bridge where all us kids hung out back in the early 1960's. I forgot to take a ground view of the bridge as I was so excited to revisit all the old places I enjoyed as a kid. This is the Ahwahnee Bridge upstream and Stoneman Bridge looks exactly the same.
I remember we'd hold the biggest rock we could and try to walk all the way across the river, underwater, without having to let go of the rock and come up for air. A real challenge for me as that water was cold. We'd start here on the beach...
and come out over here. That deep hole was the fun part. It was fun to watch from up here on the bridge.
But it was more fun just to hang out on the bridge itself and jump or dive off into the water.
Hmm...looks like the Park Service has but a stop to that simple pleasure.
I continued on to the other side of the bridge to visit our old campground...
and it was gone! Completely vanished as if it had never existed! I couldn't believe my eyes. Then it came back to me, the Great Flood and the campgrounds that washed away. But I didn't know it was my campground!
Right there, somewhere there just past those trees is where we camped year after year...all gone.
A lump formed in my throat and I wondered if there would be tears.
I turned and looked across the bridge (now on Ahwahnee Bridge I showed above) to view the sandy beach we as kids hung out on when not at Stoneman Bridge. Gone, completely overgrown with trees and grass. My heart sank.
Here was where I kissed my first girl. She was a couple years older than I. She was experienced in making out. I was not. A boy never forgets the first girl he kisses. I came away from that vacation knowing a lot more than I did going in. Thank you Sharon wherever you are.
A young Japanese couple were here when I was taking these pictures. They spoke no English but he made it clear his offer to take a picture of me with my camera. I told him no thank you. I was too gutted. Instead I took a couple pictures of them with their camera and I am sure those photos will mean a lot more to them, remembrances of a happy time in a happy place. I am content with the happy images in my mind, images of another time in a place not like this. Images slowly fading, 50 years on.
The next thing I discovered was the difficulty of getting pictures without people in them. Now there are boardwalks crossing the meadows. I suppose that is a good thing as to help minimize people trampling helter skelter through the grass and wildflowers...hopefully.
Here I found a place to get a scenery photo without people in the way.
Doing so had now become a fun challenge for me.
Off to the left is El Capitan, a 3000' (900 meters) tall granite monolith, a favorite playground for rock climbers.
The Merced River flows through the Valley. In January 1997 the river flooded with waters flowing over 10,000 cubic feet per second, causing the park's worst natural disaster to date. Cabins, hotel rooms and half of all the campsites were destroyed.
I sort of forgot about this event and was sorely reminded of it later on.
In this view we see Bridalveil Falls.
The falls are 617' (188 meters) high and unlike Yosemite Falls, here the water leaps from the edge into mid-air. With a brisk wind the water will fall sideways. When the flow rate is less during the later part of the year the waters do not reach the ground except in the form of a mist.
These newlyweds were having their wedding day photos taken with Bridalveil Falls in the background. (a pause here so we can all go ahhh) It was crazy to see her try to climb over rocks in a full-on wedding gown. I wondered if perhaps they had met in Yosemite and years later agreed that would be where they would like to be married.
Miles before you reach the Valley itself, one of the iconic features of Yosemite Valley comes into view, Half Dome.
Then once in the Valley you marvel at all the wondrous features as you slowly drive along, and find it impossible to not stop for one of the most popular one of all,
Yosemite Falls is the highest falls in North America at 2425' (739 meters) and the 6th highest in the world. It is made up of three falls 1430', 675' and 320' so in my mind that's not the same as one single free fall, but whatever.
The last time I was in Yosemite Valley was October of 1990. I just happened to be nearby at the same time all the federal park's campgrounds were closed because our illustrious government was unable to come to an agreement on the nation's budget. So I tooled on in just to see what was going on in Yosemite Valley. I have to admit, it was pretty cool to see not one camper in any of the campgrounds.
Spring is the best time to view all the falls (there's 11 in the Valley) due to the volume of water from snow melt in the high country.
Here's a B&W version of above. I liked both so you get a two-fer.
It is difficult to not take advantage of all the different views that are available. But what's this? Buoys in the river? I have never seen this before. Sort of ruins the scene. As I would come to learn later on, there would be quite a few changes made since I was here last, all of which left me a little disheartened for I have memories and they are now nothing more than just that, memories.
Today a concessionaire in the park rents rubber rafts to visitors. In my day we made do with large truck inner tubes and flimsy vinyl floating mattresses that folded up like a taco when you sat on them and needed constant blowing up to stay afloat. I still do not understand the buoys and rope.
Tuolumne Meadows. The campground was closed as were all the visitor services as things usually do not open till July. At 8600' usually there is a heavy snow pak in May, but not this year.
They were just in the process of stocking the canvas structure store, hauling in mattresses for the tent cabins so perhaps they would open sooner this year due to the light winter. They had only a few days to go before the onslaught of the Memorial Day Weekend tourists but I don't think that was their goal.
Anyway, I brought my own accommodations and grub. Oops, I left the door open. Well I meant to do that so Sinbad could sniff the fresh alpine air. I think he was sleeping anyway.