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Yosemite Valley Holiday

June 13th, 1996

Spring 1996

Spent four days hiking out of Yosemite Valley last week (June 5 – 8, 1996). Managed to check out a few trails climbing up from the Valley floor to the North, South and East Rim areas. Had a hiking companion on Wednesday, but went solo on the following days.

Wednesday I hiked with Ed Emond, a buddy from The City. Our goal that day was the trail up to Half Dome. We found it completely clear of snow, though, in places, a bit hot and dusty. It proved to be a grand day to climb Half Dome, for the weather was clear and the number of hikers there ahead of us at lunch time totaled fewer than a dozen or so. Ed is not a regular hiker (he prefers those Stair Master machines), however, he set a good pace up the John Muir Trail out of the Valley. From a 7:45 a.m. start, we reached the 8,836′ top at noon. An hour for lunch included time to enjoy spectacular views before the Cable coast down (a Ranger reported the angle of ascent as 48 degrees at the steepest point). A half-hour break when we reached Nevada Fall still allowed us a timely return to the Valley floor by 5:15 p.m.

Thursday got a late 10 a.m. start, but did the North Rim anyway. Hiked up the Yosemite Falls Trail to Yosemite Point, then took the North Dome and Porcupine Creek trails over to the crossover trail to Snow Creek and then down to Mirror Lake on the Valley floor. The North Rim area is heavily forested and I found it a bit cool. Encountered an abundance of fast melting snow (though not solid ground cover) at the 7600′ level on that “crossover” trail. Ran across some spectacular falls/cataracts on Snow Creek. Half of the Snow Creek Trail down to the Valley floor is exposed and the brilliant sunshine made it more than a bit warm. Met several backpackers whose plans were to do the same route as I, in four stages. Encountered only 2 day hikers and 4 backpackers during the entire 13 mile route between Yosemite Point and Mirror Lake. The North Rim is definitely the area to choose if one is in search of solitude.

Friday proved to be a nice day (weather-wise) for the South Rim. Hiked up the Mist Trail past Vernal Fall to Nevada Fall. The “mist” from Vernal Fall was more like a rain storm than “mist”, but getting soaked on the uphill climb proved to be quite refreshing. From Nevada Fall headed southwest along the Panorama Trail to Illilouette Gorge and then up to Glacier Point. The Park Concessionaire bus service to Glacier Point must have been full that morning for I kept encountering groups of hikers along the route. There must have been 50 to 75 of them strung out along the trail coming up from the Gorge. I arrived at Glacier Point after lunch time and spent about an hour admiring the views. After pausing for refreshments from the concession stand, took the Four Mile Trail down to the Valley Floor. As I neared the bottom around 4:30 p.m., encountered about a dozen hikers strung out along the route heading up toward the Point. Their getting such a late start led me to conclude that they must all like moonlight hiking!

Saturday got a 7:30 a.m. start up the Mist Trail (this time I took my Poncho along, and used it …) and then headed on up to Clouds Rest. It’s about 9,800′ high and I arrived at noon. Although the peak itself is exposed, there’s quite a bit of forest below, so was really surprised by the absence of snow. After all, while on the other side of the Tenaya Creek Gorge (on Thursday) I had seen quite a bit of the white stuff. Anyway, after some time for lunch and to admire the spectacular views, headed down the way I’d come. At the Half Dome trail junction, ran into a Ranger leading a horse with an injured young woman (possibly a broken ankle) getting a ride. The Ranger reported that Half Dome was like a “zoo”. He said that hikers at both the top and bottom were waiting in line to join the procession snaking either up or down the cable route. I decided to detour up that way and take a gander. By the time I reached the bottom of the cable segment, it was 3:30 p.m. and there no longer appeared to be a line to go up though it was still pretty packed coming down. I climbed to the top and found several dozen hikers up there playing in the snow field, catching the sun or admiring the view. The most astounding part of the trip, for me, was still to come. On the way down and along the route back to the Valley (from 4:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.) I continually met more hikers on their way up to “do Half Dome”. Hope they all had Flash Lights, for they surely must have needed them by the time of their return.

Yosemite Valley on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday was quite enjoyable. By Friday night the weekend crowd had arrived and the peaceful character of the place was severely impacted by the noise and congestion. If you’re going to Yosemite, try and avoid weekends. Your enjoyment and memories of the experience will certainly benefit from that choice.

Saturday evening I drove over to Mono Lake for some sight-seeing there and at Mammoth Lakes. Saw lots of snow along Tioga Road (Highway 120) through Yosemite and then again on Mammoth Mountain and from the viewing area at Minaret Summit. Looks like it’s going to be another late season for those seeking a snow-free backpacking season.