Day One: Getting there

“Can we go to Yosemite?”

“Sure. Like, when?”


Monday was the first of five vacation days I was taking. I had no real plans, but Melissa was formulating a few. She had just finished checking the Web site of the inn we haunted a couple summers back. They don’t do much business during the week in the winter. Yeah, there were vacancies. Just like there were last week when I checked.

Married minds think alike.

There was no reason not to go. No blizzards in the forecast … smaller winter weekday crowds … the chance to try out the snowshoes I bought last winter and never got around to using.

We were packed and on the road in three hours. By nightfall we were moving into a condo for three nights at Yosemite West, a private development down the road from Badger Pass ski area at Yosemite National Park. I got in a couple of excellent hikes and many excellent pictures, and she got a couple days of kicking back and letting somebody else attend to the domestic drudgery.

Day Two: Yosemite Valley, Falls Trail

Tuesday morning dawned cold and clear. I left the condo early, hoping to catch the first rays of the sun illuminating the Yosemite Valley canyon walls.

Vapor trial, Yosemite

One of the first things I saw was this vapor trail from passing travelers missing all the fun down here on terra firma.

El Capitan at dawn

I got down to the valley floor just in time to capture the sun lighting up the face of El Capitan.

Merced River, early morning

I also did a couple laps around the valley, stopping along the Merced River to see if any cool reflections showed up.

Snowcapped rock

This rock sticking up out of the river is excellent photographic fodder, especially with a frothy cap of snow.

Sunrise, Yosemite Valley

More sun-peeking-through action.

Lower Yosemite Falls

A small flow at Lower Yosemite Falls. This scene prodded me to check out the Upper Falls Trail, which goes to the valley rim some 3000 feet above. I made it just a bit more than half way; it’s a long, long way up there. The granite walls are spectacular; the trail is rocky but well maintained.

Yosemite Falls Trail

A more or less representative shot of the Yosemite Falls Trail.

The Valley

Yosemite Valley, from the Falls Trail.

Water stains

Melting snow leaves striped stains on the rock face.

Upper Yosemite Falls

There she is: Upper Yosemite Falls.

A pile of ice

Spray from the falls lands on a huge ice cone.

Half Dome in the distance

Half Dome across the valley.

In the shadow

Canyons have much shorter days of sunshine. Here’ it’s 3 in the afternoon and the sun’s already disappearing behind rock faces.

Merced River, late afternoon

The other side of the valley reflects in a pool of the Merced River in late afternoon.

Tunnel View, late afternoon

The valley, from Tunnel View.

Day Three: Dewey Point on snowshoes

Snowshoes are too heavy, too noisy, too messy, too clumsy. They ruin every patch of pristine snowfall. A mile in snowshoes is like three miles in regular shoes. Pity the cross-country skier who tries to make a go of a moonscape snowshoe trail.

There is nothing remotely pleasant about trying to travel with oblong webbed contraptions strapped to one’s lower extremities. But they do provide one pleasure that balances out the pain: the ability to stomp through hip-deep snow without sinking to your hips. It just feels like getting away with a crime or something.

I did the basic Yosemite hike for rookie snowshoers: Four miles from Badger Pass to Dewey Point, a stunning overlook of the valley below. The pix:

Dewey Point Ridge Trail

Snow does strange things to the trunks of trees. This is one along the Ridge Trail to Dewey Point. The trail’s hardly worth a mention in summer, but in winter it’s fairly challenging.

Snowshoe tracks, Yosemite

Behold, my first steps in my new showshoes! (See what a mess they leave behind? Good thing the next blizzard will clean everything up.)

Rocks, trees, snow, sky

All the stuff my camera likes: Sky, trees, rocks, snow.

Poles and shows

Poles and shoes at Dewey Point.

Dewey Point Overlook.

One of many spectacular views from Dewey Point.

Critter tracks

I returned via the Meadow Trail, where I saw evidence of a critter scampering across the snow.

Shadows in the snow

Snow drifts create excellent shadows.

Snowy creek

A creek wends its way across Summit Meadow.

Day Four: Hetch Hetchy

On Thursday morning, we checked out of the condo and headed homeward.

Raven in the morning

Quoth the Raven: “I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.” Melissa took this picture at the Crane Flat gas station, whose proprietors had neglectfully hiked the price of a gallon of petrol by only 50 cents more than the going rate 30 miles beyond the park’s borders. In summer the sticker shock is far worse.

We stopped along the way at the Hetch Hetchy reservoir, which holds most of San Francisco’s drinking water. You have to see it to believe it.

The Dam, Hetch Hetchy

Here’s the dam holding back the waters of the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.

Hetch Hetchy Valley

Think of this: A hundred years ago somebody came to this same spot and said “a dam would really dress up this neighborhood.” Humanity is utterly undeserving of such a fine planet.

Now some folks think the dam oughta be torn down and the valley “restored” to its original condition. If only. All I can think is that the only thing worse than putting the dam in would be to take it back out.

Trees on the cliff

Some nice trees on the steep cliffs around the reservoir.

Tunnel opening

See, there is light at the end of the tunnel.