There have been an interesting sequence of events these past couple of weeks, in this adventure called life. The theme has remained the same - getting out of my comfort zone. One was planned, something I wanted to push myself into this weekend - to expand my horizons, and to discover a new experience. I have wandered solo for respectable distances, if not far and wide, but I have never camped before, having preferred the luxury of a comfortable bed and a hot shower at the end of the night. For the first time, I wanted to dip my foot into a new stream, albeit in a place with unrivaled charm and beauty, which perhaps made the experience infinitely more enjoyable, even for a first time.
The other had been planned for me, by fate/life/chance/destiny - whatever you want to call it, perhaps giving me a chance to see what I was made of, and what I can make of myself. I wouldn't find out about these other plans till the Monday after I returned home, and then again unceremoniously, as is often how these things are practiced. Involuntarily coerced out of my comfort zone on a much larger and definitely life altering scale. For the time being, I have been taking a little bit of time 'just for me', before I start contemplating my options in all seriousness and unfold the sails and set a new course.
I will be refraining from dulling this blog post further with the philosophical grappling in my mind, but my hope is that I will soon see the light at the end of this tunnel, and it will likely lead me to a better place.
Like it did it in this instance, as I passed through a series of tunnels on my way to the valley of paradise that we call Yosemite. I immediately veered off to my first stop as I entered the valley - a vista aptly named Tunnel View.
This is the view which greets you as you egress the tunnel. One of the most iconic views of the valley, and certainly one of the most photographed. Its beauty is so immense, that even the diminishing waterfalls don't detract much from it.
Leaving tunnel view, I rode down to the valley floor. It was a Friday afternoon in mid-June and the pace and the crowds were a far cry from the frenzy it will see as the weekend turns and the hordes descend upon it on Saturday/Sunday.
El Capitan was looming ahead, and it is a domineering presence. It is distorted in the picture below from the skewed perspective from the ultra-wide angle GoPro, which makes everything appear 10 times further.
Hardly any traffic at all as I approached El Capitan. Ribbon Falls had already dried up by this time of year.
Despite the severe drought, the Merced river hadn't yet stagnated and was still flowing very well, but for how long?
I took advantage of the favorable traffic conditions to loop the valley and visit some of its seminal road-side vistas. This is Valley View. Half Dome isn't visible from here, but its absence is usually very well compensated by Bridal Veil Falls, when it is flowing with gusto. Not so much today, it's June and the paucity of the rainfall we have received has already reduced it to barely a trickle.
Valley view is at the end of the valley loop, so I looped back around to head in-valley again and made one stop at the meadows offering a view of Upper Yosemite Falls.
It was getting later in the afternoon and I had a campsite to check-in to. The rangers at the check-in kiosk were going to be leaving soon, so I headed straight to the campsite. I realized later, that I didn't really have to. The campsite was already registered and checked-into by friends from my camping meetup group. Check out Yosemite Campsite Share on Meetup, if you are interested. All I had to do was show up and setup tent, preferably before nightfall so I didn't have to fumble around in the dark.
The campsite was almost directly below Half Dome, and by that I mean just a mile and half away from the base of that monumental outcropping of granite. There was paved parking directly in front of the campsite, a campfire and a bear locker. The tall Pine trees provided excellent shade for the tent, there were flush-able toilets and running water less than 15 paces away, and incredibly, also filtered potable water. I suppose this wasn't real camping after all - this was luxury camping!
Our Meetup group had 3 campsites in total and there were an eclectic mix of people at the campsites. Four older, retired gentlemen and multi year veterans of Yosemite camping at campsite 1, plus a young lady - they had been there all week, that was the chill campsite. There were 3 rock climbers at campsite 2 - two guys and a girl. The two guys were from the Bay Area, and the girl was from Colorado - she had met one of these guys on Tinder, and had hiked 22 miles of the Mt. Whitney trail with him, before showing up to Yosemite to rock climb - they had also been there a couple days before me. These three were the super fun people to hang out with and share meals with - the party campsite. At my campsite - there was the kayak lady, who was pretty much gone from sun-up to late in the night, and the French-American couple who I went hiking with - a super sweet couple! My campsite, was the absentee campsite, everyone was either gone all day and late into the night or hanging out at the other campsites - which worked out fine, I would always come back to peace and quiet when it was time to crawl into the tent and bundle up in the sleeping bag! I had never met any of these people before, yet at the campsite everyone acted like fast friends - that was my favorite part! :)
Having never stayed overnight in the Yosemite valley before, I was thrilled at the chance to capture at least one sunset. Friday evening was the best opportunity - there were a few clouds in the sky on Friday, they were more dramatic during the day, but as the evening progressed, for some reason they started magically dissipating. I don't know why, I was hoping at least some would linger in the sky so the dying light may kiss them one last goodbye..
They kept moving away, however, beating a hasty retreat and dipping out of sight towards the horizon. My hopes for a dazzling sunset were going to be dashed to the ground.
This was sunset in the valley on Friday night. The clouds had all but disappeared, and replaced by smoke from the campfires nestled in between those Pine trees. I suppose I am to come back and try again! Someone twist my arm!:)
There was, however, treasure to be found at the end of the rainbow the next day. After breakfast with my rock climbing friends, I returned to my campsite to find the French-American couple getting ready for a hike. They were going to do the Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls trail, just like I had planned as well, and we decided to hike together - and they were great company!
We took the Mist Trail and were rewarded with a full length rainbow this day at Vernal Falls. Sometimes you see a portion of the arc as the sunlight hits the mist, but this day and perhaps the hour that we were there - it was a complete arc. Quite the sight indeed!
I hiked to the top of Vernal Falls and took another picture, but the rainbow wasn't quite as prominent from this angle. Also, despite how it appears in the picture, I was not as close to the edge or to the water, the wonders of the modern zoom lens - and there was also a sturdy railing in between me and the waterfalls.
We continued our climb and rather than taking the Mist trail to Nevada Falls, we forked off into the longer but less strenuous John Muir Trail, and were treated with impressive panoramic vistas of Nevada Falls, Liberty Cap, Mt Broderick, and the other face of Half Dome (from right to left).
It had been a late start for us after breakfast, and we hadn't packed a lunch or any snacks to speak of, so instead of continuing on beyond Nevada Falls, we turned around and headed back to camp, where I parted ways with my French-American friends after lunch and headed towards Mirror Lake.
Mirror Lake had remained dry for most of this year, but some late (but not enough) rainfall had started to slowly fill it back up. It is not often visited by a majority of the Yosemite tourists, so I was hoping to perhaps find a bit of tranquil here, and in large parts - I succeeded.
I wonder when that massive boulder had slipped off the face of Half Dome and come crashing into the lake? Half Dome is to the right of the frame here and too tall to catch the reflection of, unfortunately.
The reflection you see is of Mt. Watkins.
I sat at this very spot and gazed for a very long time, till the fast approaching dusk made me retrace my steps back to camp. I wouldn't have wanted to be caught in this area in failing light, this is where the Bears live in Yosemite Valley, so be warned.
Sunday morning came way too early, and it was time to leave paradise and head back home. After a farewell breakfast with my new friends, it was time to pack up and load up the bike and head home. I also bid my adieus to the colossal monoliths which surround Yosemite valley on my way home.
Oh how I wanted to loop back around to the left and relive my adventure in Yosemite all over again, but today I had to head home, no doubt I will be returning sooner or later. :)
It was time to exit stage right.. just follow the arrows back home ;)
...and it is always good to be safely home - sweet home! :)
Thank you for reading! :)