April 24, 2011

Trip-N-Falls Hike

Standing on the Yosemite Valley floor and looking up, it seemed like a good idea when Cheri suggested we hike to the top of Yosemite Falls. There's a good trail all the way up, she said. Looking at the picture above, you can see the draw above the lower falls, cutting to the left and then around the granite cliff and to the right where the upper part of the trail goes. The lower part of the trail starts about four tenths of a mile to the West (left in this picture) and makes a series of steep switchbacks up to about the level of the highest part of the lower falls, and then traverses the ledge to where you get a good view of the upper falls. We ended up on the granite point just left of and above the upper falls. Click on these pictures for the full effect.

The sign says it's only 3.4 miles. What it doesn't say is that the first 2 miles is nearly straight up, and the last mile and a half is covered in snow and ice.

This is a view of the upper falls. The white stuff at the bottom of the falls is ice. The ice cone at the base of Yosemite Falls is sometimes referred to as the "snow cone." The super chilled water freezes on descent and forms ice crystals. Some of the ice forms on the rock walls and when it breaks off it makes loud noises, like thunder. Some of the ice from the snow cone, together with ice formed in the lower falls and ice that forms in the stream, forms a slushy deposit in Yosemite Creek below Yosemite Falls known as frazil ice - a phenomena seen in Yosemite only in March and April. We saw it and I got some good pictures, but instead of posting my pictures I am posting this YouTube video about frazil ice. It is amazing to watch, and educational.

From the trail there are great views of Yosemite Valley below.

The trail next to the base of the upper falls was also covered with the ice blown from the upper falls. Above that point, most of the trail was covered in snow.

Looking back down through the draw the trail goes up, you get a sense of just how steep this trail is. If you haven't been training or working out, you will want to take a different and slightly saner hike. Like from your car to the visitor center, where you can look at pictures of the upper falls. Or something like that.

By the time they get near the top, some hikers have really gotten beat down. Cheri kind of lost her head for a moment.

The upper rim of the canyon had a 6 to 10 foot snow base, give or take. The trail was slippery, but well packed in most places.

Tired, but victorious, we made it to the top. The struggle was worth it, as I was treated to a rare view of Pink Dome gleaming in the sun.

Getting out on the edge and looking over was not really advisable here.

But like I said, you can lose your head getting up here. So I lost mine and went out to the edge and looked over anyway. It's a spooky-long way to fall. I'd get frazzled too, falling over this precipice all the way to the bottom.

The trail was slippery going down. And she was tired already. What-ever!

April 17, 2011

A New Revolution

The sweet peas in my front yard are going crazy this year. More than a few passers-by have mentioned how remarkable and memorable they are. Their fragrance fills the whole cul-de-sac. This year's sweet peas are something of a tribute to my late wife Sue, who started this patch of sweet peas six years ago. While it was me who worked the ground in February and planted these seeds from last year's pods, my flower-loving neighbor Linda says this year's magnificent crop of sweet peas is like Sue's last hurrah -- a sort of final farewell and a reminder of the fragrance and color and beauty she added to our lives. I met Sue when I was still just a boy, and she is part of who I am and she always will be; and whenever I see sweet peas I will be reminded of her. When I was a much younger man -- well, o.k. -- just a boy, the Beatles sang Revolution. Back then the Beatles were fresh and new and edgy. Their music was a revolution of sorts, and it affected the world, and in its way the Beatles' music changed the world. But that was 1968, and the world has made quite a few revolutions since then. Like Sue, the Beatles are gone now. John Lennon, who authored "Revolution," is dead. But like Sue, the Beatles' music also affected me, and it is part of who I am. I still like to listen to Beatles' music sometimes on the oldies' stations. Listening to the Beatles reminds me of good times gone by. The world continues to have revolutions, and to make revolutions. I met another very nice lady, Cheri Sarmento, and we were married April 12, 2011. Robert Heinlein said that "(t)he supreme irony of life is that hardly anyone gets out of it alive." The world -- at least the one I inhabit -- is full of ironies. Cheri also loves flowers, and managed to mix a few of the sweet peas in our front yard into her bridal bouquet. We then honeymooned in Yosemite National Park, where almost exactly a year ago I took a trip with Sue's cousin, Bruce, to mourn and reflect on Sue's passing. Yosemite happens to be one of Cheri's favorite places, and it continues to be one of mine. Last April I blogged that the granite walls of Yosemite were weeping. This year they were literally gushing -- gushing with an abundant spring run-off and new life and joy. Cheri and I climbed from the Valley floor to the top of Yosemite Falls, which hike I will blog about next. We stood on the point which is just left of and above the upper falls in the picture above, looking down at the top of upper Yosemite Falls. It was no small feat to get up there, as there was a lot of snow on the trail above the lower Yosemite Falls and the entire top of the Valley Rim was heavily snow-covered. The Ahwahnee Hotel was our honeymoon destination. The Ahwahnee is an incomparable lodge in one of the incomparable places in the world. Kings and Queens and Presidents and many famous heads-of-state have stayed in the Ahwahnee. Perhaps revolutions have been hatched there. One definition for "revolution" given by merriam-webster.com is "a fundamental change in the way of thinking about or visualizing something: a change of paradigm." I like to think of this type of paradigm shift as inspiration. If it is inspiration you seek, you can find it there. We did.

In the great dining hall of the great Ahwahnee lodge there is one table called the honeymoon table. It is at the base of the highest window at the far end of the dining hall. It looks out to the west, with a fantastic view of Yosemite Valley and Yosemite Falls. It was there that Cheri and I toasted a new revolution. Salud!