Yosemite National Park
Yosemite is one of the most beautiful places you will ever visit. I am amazed on every visit. I have been there 15 times. The springtime has the waterfalls, rivers and lakes. The fall has less water, but less people. Sally had not been to Yosemite since she was 10 years old. It was time to visit again. The winter had heavy snow fall and I was expecting good things. We turned the corner and we saw a waterfall. I pointed and said “That is Yosemite falls. I thought it would be bigger. Maybe the snow is slow to melt.” We turned the next corner and the raging waterfall before us told me the snow melt was fine. “That is Yosemite Falls!” The previous waterfall was Horsetail Falls. I had never seen it active before. All the water falls were going strong. The backdrop of the sheer granite cliffs and the 2524-foot-high three tier falls was outstanding. The wooden deck on the valley floor kept you from walking through the rushing water that overflowed the creek.
Across the valley, Bridalveil Fall has a single 617-foot drop and the trail turned into rain as you get close. This is only to be outdone by Mist Trail at the base of Vernal Fall. The trial brings you to a cloud of spray from the water hitting the rock at the base of the 317-foot fall. We did not even make it to the corner before we were soaked through. The ponchos did not help. We had a full-on shower. Those proceeding on were braving the cold water spraying harder than I had ever seen it.
Mirror Lake was full and flowing into the valley. The granite reflection of Mt. Watkins is on the lake in the early morning. A rock garden had over 100 piles and we added one for our visit.
We topped off the weekend with a drive to Glacier Point. Two Thousand feet above the valley the views of Half Dome and each of the waterfalls was fantastic. Up the valley I saw water running down the granite walls where the water could not be contained in the rivers and falls. The Merced River flows through the valley through the meadows and forests with the waterfalls coming off the granite walls falling to the valley floor. The west side of Half Dome stood out as the highest point over the valley. Although one can hike to Glacier Point, it is four steep miles to reach to top.
We left Tuolumne Meadows and hiked south towards the valley. We passed Cathedral Peak and Upper Cathedral lake to camp at Sunrise High Sierra Camp. We hiked Cloud’s Rest and saw Half Dome from the east and a view into the valley. We camped at Clouds Rest trail head before hiking Half Dome and into the valley the next day. I bypassed Mist Trail and Hiked the John Muir Trail into the valley from Nevada Fall. Water runs year-round on this side of the valley. Yosemite Falls was barely a trickle and Mirror Lake was half the springtime size.
We arrived at dusk to a light snowfall. The “rain” from Bridalveil Fall turned to snowflakes as it fell toward us. It was February and it was cold. The valley floor is 3966 feet above sea level. The surrounding mountains and peaks reach 3500 feet higher. We stay in Yosemite Village Lodge for two nights. Overnight the valley is covered in snow. We hike Yosemite Falls Trail to the base of the upper fall. Beyond the trail is covered in ice. As the sun crests the surrounding valley walls snow melts on the valley floor but not at the higher elevations. Half Dome is covered in snow at the far end of the valley. We wake to frozen mist covering the granite of the 1430-foot Upper Yosemite Water Fall. As the sun melts snow the Fall gets water coming over the edge and a mist spreads down the granite face. All the trails are open, but caution is needed. Crampons for boots is recommended on many of the trails. We spend two sunny days in February that could have easily been a snow-covered weekend. We were prepared for whatever came.
I know people who live a few hours away who have never been to Yosemite. I met a family from France who dreamed of visiting and were ecstatic to be hiking here. Few places rival Yosemite. Jasper National Park in Canada and Havasupai Falls in Arizona come close. With so many places to visit, it is hard to compare the Grand Canyon and Crater Lake National Parks. Each has a unique beauty and each should be visited. Don’t leave Yosemite off your list!