Sunday, 21 April 2013
Reunited with family and Yosemite
Reunited with the family and then off to Yosemite
It was great to see all the family again. Lizzy and Andrew and Lily have moved into a larger townhouse in the same apartments. Much more spacious with an upstairs for the bedrooms. Not been in long but already settled in, with herbs growing on the balcony, Andrew's photos of seascapes and Lily on the wall etc.
A bit chilly but bright and sunny, and wonderful to see blue sky again. Lily is a little poppet, with masses of golden curls and blue eyes. Full of beans but noticeably concentrates on activities for longer periods of time. Very talkative with babbling sounds, but clearly counts to three, says mummy, daddy, bubbles, flowers, balloons, and labels parts of her face. She can tell you sounds that animals make. With butterflies, she flickers her eyelashes! She very quickly got used to us being around, and loves grandad's iPad !
On Saturday, we all went down to the sea, but it was too cold to play on the beach, so we watched Andrew take photos and kick a ball around, whilst we sheltered in a sand-dune! Had a lovely lunch in Point Reyes Station, at one of Lizzy and Andrew's favourite food-stops. Andrew and his mates have set up a website with details of walks and great cafes and they get together on a walk every two weeks.
After four nights with the family, and a morning walk up Mt Burdell with great views of the city, we set off on the long five hour drive, about 200 miles east to Yosemite, to the Tenaya Lodge. About an hour away from main Yosemite area in Fish Camp. We managed a short walk to the base of Yosemite Falls, before checking in. A 2400' drop waterfall, or group of three waterfalls was awesome. But the weather was deteriorating as we drove up the valley, past El Capitan, a near vertical granite rock, which towers over the valley floor. On past Cathedrals, and the Bridalveil Falls to Tunnel Vista. From there we watched the rain steadily move up the valley. Really beautiful and atmospheric. As we approached Tenaya Lodge, we were told by a Park Warden that because a campervan had come off the road because of snow and ice, in a twenty car pile-up, they were checking that motorists had snow-chains or 4WD. With only a short distance to go, we said we had, but then later found out that the Hyundai we had rented wasn't 4WD after all. A little more alarmed when we overheard the receptionist tell a worried guest that it was a legal requirement to have snow chains in the car, or face a $500 fine. We crossed our fingers that the weather would improve tomorrow.
After a freezing night, the roads were fine but icy in places, as we set off to the Happy Isles Trailhead, to the start of the Mist Trail, leading to the John Muir Trail. Recommended as one of the most stunning walks. The Mist Trail rose quickly to a thunderous waterfall, with snow covering the walls, where the water had settled either side of the fall. A very cold start, especially when walking under the gigantic sequoias. As we climbed up, the path became treacherous and icy, and people were turning back, as did we. We doubled back on ourselves and picked up the recommended winter route of the John Muir trail. Three hours later we were out of the trees, on a sunny ledge, looking up at Half Dome, and Nevada Falls, in brilliant sunshine. An unforgettable view. They closed the Mist Trail because of ice, and the walk around the back of the falls was also closed. Many of the higher level routes are closed until the end of May, including the ascent up to Glacier Point. However, we still managed to clock up a decent five hour walk, with great views, before the long drive out of the Park to Tenaya Lodge for our second night.
The following day was below freezing in the morning but soon got up to a comfortable 14 deg by the afternoon. We opted for a walk up through the woods to Upper Yosemite Fall, a climb of 2400'. A lovely gradient all the way up, pausing at Columbia Rock to get close to the cascading water, with ice and snow where the spray had soaked the freezing rock. The descent, the same route down, was tough, but views up the nearby sheer granite faces, and over to Half Dome and snow-capped mountains in the distance were superb. Five hours later, approx 9 miles and we were back, with another long, tortuous drive out of the Park to our next destination. That's the only down side- there is an unavoidable amount of driving to do, unless you stay in the Park. We spent the night in a wooden lodge, in the Wilderness Lodges, at Hetch Hetchy. It's taken Ian a month to finally say it correctly! Hetchy Ketchy, Ketchy Hetchy etc ! Beautiful lodges set in the trees, in the middle of nowhere. A bit expensive, but food and drink very reasonable, and a good general store. Would come back again. Shame we're only staying one night.
Breakfast at 7am and off on a drive to Hetch Hetchy reservoir and dam. They call it the Little Yosemite, because of the stunning rock formations and waterfalls, which John Muir fought hard to preserve, but lost the battle when they built the dam which created the reservoir which, along with two others nearby, supplies water and energy to San Francisco and the surrounding area. Water is distributed by gravity, without the need for pumps, which incredible when you consider the distances involved. We returned to the Park entrance of Hetch Hetchy, and followed the trail to the Lookout, just a two mile walk but so quiet and scenic.