Expand Yosemite Valley

Daily Log
  Nave Album****1982 West Trip Go Back

Go to wider area map

Daily Log
  Nave Album****1982 West Trip Go Back

August 13: Yosemite, Tioga Pass

Starting mileage 3482 miles.

As has become a quite satisfactory routine, we rose at 5 and left near 5:30 AM. Driving about 20 miles we entered Yosemite on beautiful roads. The drive past Wawona toward the Yosemite valley was through an exquisitely green evergreen forest, the most beautiful forest I've ever seen. It looked so perfect you were almost shocked to see a broken limb or dead tree. There were all sizes - from small Junipers to huge towering pines and Sequoias. Probably the pines here are bigger and dominate the large trees. Occasional glimpses of the forest and mountains in the distance made this a really thrilling drive.

We finally reached the famous tunnel into the Yosemite Valley and paused before entering it to wake the boys and get them up to see the valley. The first valley view was dramatic - but was diminished somewhat by the fact that the early morning sun was streaming right into our eyes. We frove to Bridal Veil Falls and looked at the wispy veil-like falls plunging over the huge high granite precipice. For Brenda and I it immediately brought to mind the veil falls in the Lauterbrunnen Valley in Switzerland - actually the whole Yosemite Valley reminded us a munber of times of our favorite valley in Switzerland.

Since the Bridal Veil Falls were not lit by the sun yet and the parking area was rather cool, we drove on around the short loop to the parking lot by the larger Yosemite Falls. We had a very nice breakfast there with cereal and the fresh fruit we had bought.

Jeff and Mark finished their breakfast and walked down the path for the falls view while Brenda and I finished up. Then Mark and I walked back down the path. The scale of the falls is eye-popping. Upper Falls 1430 ft, Cascades 675 ft and Lower Falls 320 ft for a total drop of 2325 ft, approaching half a mile from the huge granite cliff. Its worth making the trip just to see those falls.

The valley is very small and we quickly drove around all the roads. The narrow valley is ringed by the huge granite walls. A beautiful clear river runs down the middle, tumbling over rocks. Driving along one of the roads beside a meadow we saw a small spotted fawn bound across the road in stiff-legged hops, like he had springs in all four legs. Traffic in both directions came to a halt as we watched his antics. Then we saw the mother come bounding across the meadow - looking fearful and concerned. The fawn bounded to her and nudged her for some milk - but the mother finally herded him away from the road and the imminent danger of a roar of shutter clicks.

We saw all the rafters on the clear river and we decided to try to rent a raft, but it was now 10:30 and the place was covered up- maybe a two hour wait.

We rented bicycles for the boys and decided to let them ride while we walked up to Mirror Lake. It was a pleasant walk af about miles and I was continually distracted by the squirrels with light neck bands, the jays and the Clarks nutcracker birds, who were very tempting photographic subjects.

By the time I got to Mirror Lake the boys were already in the water - but less than waist deep in the clear and very cold mountain water.

We had lunch there and watched the people, birds and squirrels. Other kids were in the water and Jeff and Mark finally climbed out on a rock and jumped in. They got out of the water fast though - and all cold water since has been compared to Mirror Lake. Brenda snd Mark rode the bicycles back while Jeff and I walked.

We drove back around to Yosemite Falls where I wanted to get a picture of the falls in sunlight - they had been shaded earlier. The place which had been so peaceful at our breakfost time was now covered up with people! Go early to Yosemite! I was amazed at the number of people walking down the path to view Yosemite Falls. I shot a couple of pictures and we headed for Bridal Veil Falls.

Along the roadside we noticed a group of people looking up at the great rock face of El Capitan, presumably at some rock climbers. Ater snapping a couple of Bridal Veil Falls we had to swing back by there and there was so much apparent interest in the climbers that we stopped to look. We learned that one of the climbers had been injured by a falling rock and that they were going to attempt a helicopter rescue.

Although you could barely see the two red specks which were the climbers, I could get a significant image with the 300mm lens 2x to 600mm. We watched the helicopter swing in a number of times to attempt the rescue, but it did not succeed and finally left. We did not hear the fate of the climber- we were leaving the area.

We left the valley and began to climb the road toward Tioga Pass and got our best views of the entire Yosemite Valley with the afternoon sun now streaming down the valley.

We climbed steadily into the beautiful forest, with roads and meadows dotted with wildflowers. We passed an area called a glacial morraine where there were bare rock peaks apparently showing glacial action. Coming around a high overlook we saw a blue sheet of water which was Lake Tenaya. It looked a great distance away, but when we rounded the next sweeping curve,there it was. We stopped alongside for the boys to throw rocks and for me to photograph a couple of wild flowers.

Not too much further along we came to a place where lovely clear streams ran meandering paths thorugh lush green meadows and wildflowers. With the mountain background and clear air the Tolumne Meadows ore one of the most beautiful places Ive ever seen.

We even considered camping there in a primitive site just to be close to these meadows and the snow patches which had so fascinated the boys. Alas, the same urge had also occurred to hundreds of other people and all campgrunds were full. We talked to an Australian couple camped in one of the streamside sites and they said only in early morning were sites to be had, and that many campers stayed the 14 day limit. We really needed to move on down the road anyway, but the place was truly enchanting.

We finally made the final climb to the Tioga Pass at 9941 feet and made the long sweeping run to the bottom to join Hwy 395. It was a beautiful drive, long to be remembered and the VW van performed well. It was much easier than the Route 155 over Alte Sierra, to which we compare all mountain roads now. An oldtimer at the campground at Lee Vining spoke with nostalgia of the old Tiaoga Pass road which he said was much prettier, though slower. I was content to travel the new road- and I don't see how it could be much prettier.

We found a parking place with bathhouse at a trailer park in Lee Vining and parked overlooking Mono Lake. I don't recall having ever heard of Mono Lake before, but there was a very active group promoting it. It is a very old salt water lake, one of the oldest lakes in North America and is the breeding ground for most of California's gulls. Los Angeles is diverting water from it and an active citizens group is trying to preserve it.

Coming down the Tioga pas, we had moved back into essentially desert country west of the Sierra ridge. We watched the sunset light the sky and produce silhouettes of the desert hills behind us. The lake was indeed beautiful.

195 miles on the day.

Map for Day 13
  Nave Album****1982 West Trip Go Back