Saturday, March 10, 2018

March 10, 2018 - Yosemite Valley East Loop

Title: March 10, 2018 - Yosemite Valley East Loop
Hike Info : Description : Trail Lessons : Background : Extra Photo's 
Hike Info:
Type: Hiking
Trail: Valley Loop Trail
Destination: Loop
Distance:  8.74 miles
Start Time: 9:37
End Time:  3:01
Travel Time:   5:24 (1.62 mph)
Moving Time:  3:41 (2.37 mph)
Elevation Rise:  958'1 
Descent: 871‘
Maximum Elevation: 4,241'

1I have some doubts about these figures. On a FitBit, one person recorded 650’
 of climb, another recorded 550’ on a SmartPhone tracking device.

Yosemite Falls from Stoneman Meadow
This is a Meetup hike, but with the idea which Sherri and I are getting ready to walk the half marathon at the California Classic. The idea is that each week leading up to the half marathon on April 8th, we will go on longer and faster hikes. So the schedule is to do the loop around the eastern Yosemite Valley.
But, the week before, the weather forecast ranged from rain to snow to sun and back to rain. So there is some concern about the weather for the hike. On the morning the of the hike? The forecast is for a good amount of rain with a light rain starting at 11am.
Sherri, Oz and Half Dome
We gather at 6:45 five of us, waiting for a person who never shows. We briefly stop in Oakhurst for coffee and then hurry on, hoping to beat the rain. There is another brief bathroom stop at Bridalveil Falls. Going along the south side of the Valley, we see snow, lots of snow. This affects my thinking of how to do the hike-rethink about going around Mirror Lake and going clockwise around the loop instead of the traditional counter-clockwise.

Oz and Half Dome At Sentinel Bridge

We get to Camp Curry at 9:30 and start walking soon afterwards. We quickly get the benefits of going clockwise as we get good views of Half Dome and Yosemite Falls-Stoneman Meadow has such good views. Then we pass by the employee housing, The first mile or so is paved for bicycles. When we get to Sentinel Bridge, we cut over towards Yosemite Falls. But not before stopping at this huge granite boulder. What is so special about the boulder? There are a couple of iron rings planted in here. The question is, why? But we also talk a bit about the old village which used to be around here.

Map of Old Yosemite Village from  Eldon Grupp

Yosemite Falls

Then it is time to cross Cook’s Meadow on the way to Yosemite Falls. Of course, I cannot help but to talk a bit about the hotel which used to be here. A sign already lets the group know about the use of the meadow. Then onwards to the Falls, with a brief stop at the bathrooms. When we do go over Yosemite Creek Bridge, it is time for another talk explaining that there are eight (now seven) historic bridges in Yosemite Valley on the National Historic Landmark Registry.
Gary, the Tour Guide
Lost Arrow
Yosemite Falls does not disappoint us. Sometimes the falls are running so strong, you cannot walk across the bridge because of the spray; other times you think that NPS may have forgotten to pay their water bill. But today, the Falls have enough water to go over and create some pretty good eye candy. There is an ice cone at the bottom of the upper falls, but none at the lower. From the viewing area, we can also see Lost Arrow. Here I go into an abbreviated, unpoetic version of the story of Lost Arrow. After looking for a few minutes, we continue on the northern part of the Valley Loop Trail.

This part of the loop goes about a hundred feet above the current Yosemite Visitor Center and along the northern wall. We meet a couple from Visalia along this section, exchanging greetings. While in most places, there are too many trees for a good view-strange complaint isn’t it-we do get glimpses of the Valley floor. Still it is enjoyable, even though I huff and puff a bit. After the stretch, we come down the trail into the Ahwahnee Meadow area. There is all the luxury you would want on a hike and for lunch: picnic tables and flush toilets. You got to admit, Life is Good!
After we finish lunch-mine the traditional sandwich of the Duran’s, we continue on. Nobody was interested in going into the Ahwahnee Hotel, so we continue on towards Mirror Lake. The tricklets we see on the Royal Arches combines up into a nice little creek which we are thankful for stones placed strategically along the trail for a dry crossing. Earlier I had talked about Indian Canyon and the escape routes which the Native Americans had to escape the Army. The other place is the Indian Caves close to the foot of Washington Column.
Mirror Lake Ice

Mt Watkins and Ahwiyah Pt

Ahwiyah Pt and Half Dome

After that, it is, easy walking until we reach the bathroom at the foot of the Mirror Lake grade. We stop for a break here. A group from Notre Dame comes by and we talk with them for a while. They are part of a group going on to the Bay Area to study entrepreneurialism.
We say goodbye to them and continue on the stable trail to Mirror Lake. I do a bit more huffing and puffing. Because the area is pretty sheltered, snow has stayed on the trail, which in itself, is not too bad. But since we are going up and down a small ridge, there are these rock steps which the packed snow makes a bit more dicey. But we all get over it and drop into Mirror Lake.
Now for decision time. Do we go around Mirror Lake? Or just return down the road and meet the trail at the bottom? After consideration, we felt we were being fortunate with the rain not falling, why chance being stuck 45 minutes away from any shelter? We meet the Notre Dame group again and get a chance to talk with a couple from the group. We share different parks which we have been too. Acadia National Park gets added to the bucket list.

So down the road we go. But not before taking many pictures of places like Mt Watkins and Half Dome reflecting in the Lake. Some beautiful reflections of the walls of Tenaya Canyon. The trail and then road down is non-eventful. When we get to Tenaya Creek Bridge, we leave the road and rejoin the Valley Loop Trail. This takes us just off the road on the most eastern side of the Valley. Few people use this trail, even though we are passed by a trail runner. Soon we come to Happy Isles, and its bridge. We take the last bathroom break of the day before heading on the backside of the area. There is a trail which goes to the backpacker’s parking lot. This is all covered with snow, so it makes a bit of a slower pace. Also we feel a few drops as we go along. Then it is off to our car.
Hidden Half Dome
We get back to the car about 3:40 and take a few minutes to change out and get ourselves all situated for the drive back. We stop in Wawona for the bathrooms as well as phoning in our pizza order to Sugar Pine pizza in Oakhurst. Good eats. The conversation is a bit muted, I think we are all tired, and just want to enjoy being with each other. By the time we get back to Fresno, it is about 6pm. Another one of those good days in Yosemite.

Trail Lesson: 
Leadership in a hike consists of convincing people that where you are taking them is where they want to go. (Actually, what was said was a lot better, but cannot think of what was said then.)

Historical Bridges of Yosemite Valley
  • Yosemite Creek Bridge 
  • Ahwahnee Bridge 
  • Clark Bridge
  • Pohono Bridge
  • Sugar Pine Bridge
  • Tenaya Creek Bridge
  • Happy Isles Bridge
  • Stoneman Bridge

Extra Photo's

Lower Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Falls From Cooks Meadow

Yosemite Falls

Mt Watkins and Mirror Lake

Gary in thought

Friday, March 9, 2018

March 7, 2018 - Quail Flat to Weston Meadow

Title: March 7, 2018 -  Quail Flat to Weston  Meadow
Hike Info : DescriptionBackground : Extra Photo'sFlowers and Plants

Trail head:
Hike Info:
Type: Snowshoeing
Trail: Burton Road, 14S02
Destination: Weston Meadow
Distance:  3.44 miles
Start Time: 11:38
End Time:     2:50
Travel Time:  3:12 (1.08 mph)
Moving Time:  2:12 (1.56 mph)
Elevation Rise:  361'
Descent: 251‘
Maximum Elevation: 6,919'


It has SNOWED! Today is our first opportunity to snowshoe this year. Sherri is all gunho to go out-not sure how my energy level is, though. But only one way to find out.

Oh No! What have I gotten into?
We leave Fresno at 9:30 with Sherri driving. We are not sure where we will be going, but we think one of four places along the General’s Highway: Quail Flat, Big Meadow, Big Baldy or Buena Vista Peak. We sort of would like to do Buena Vista-2 miles with 650’ elevation gain. A stop at Big Stump and drivers change-Sherri does not like to drive when there is a hint of snow. As we go down the General’s Highway, the decision on where to snowshoe is made for us-there are gates across the highway at Quail Flat. So we will snowshoe down the road towards Little Boulder Grove-this is the same one we went down last August to hike the grove. But we will not be doing the 10 miles to get to the grove.

Start of our Trip

We get our snowshoes on and are on the trail by about 11:30. Our route goes down a paved Forest Service road, 14S02, also known as Burton Road. The slope is a gentle down. The forecast said it would be clear and sunny, but we see nothing but overcast. Does not look like rain. 

Gary gazing out
Sherri marching on
Nothing spectacular at the start. But occasionally we will see a scene in the distance. Not sure if it is Spanish Mountain or part of the Monarch Divide. We go at a nice pace. But because we are going down, I am not sure how well I will be doing coming back up again.
There a plaque saying this is the site of the Kirkland Meadow Plantation. Looks like it was planted beginning in 2003-lists several donors. Wonder if this is something to be explored?

Gate to Private Property
As we round a ridge, we get our first good look at the ranges across the Kings River. There is a bit better look further on down when we cross an unnamed meadow. Still this is not jaw dropping stuff. But we do start to see Buck Rock and its lookout. This is really good as we do enjoy staffing lookouts associated with Buck Rock

Unnamed Meadow and mountains behind it

Then we come to Weston Meadow-the road splits the meadow in two. But we thought we would like to follow a split in the road, but then we got to a gate which said private property. After talking about it for a few minutes, we decided to continue to follow our road and find out about the private property later on. That is when we got to Weston Meadow along the road. Pleasant place with a nice fence.

Weston Meadow

Our Route
About a quarter mile later, we found a stump, covered with snow, near a cabin. After clearing off the snow from the stump, we sat down and had lunch of peanut butter and nutella-life is good! We decided, that even though we had only gone about a mile and three-quarters, we felt, or more accurately I felt, it was a good place to turn back.

Buck Rock Lookout
We retrace our route coming in. But I can feel like I am going slower and needing to stop more. Fortunately, there are new views to see-one of the good things about retracing steps. You get to see what you missed going in. Such as at Weston Meadow, there was a young Sequoia tree tucked away at the edge of the meadow. A little later, we came to another ridge and had a really good view of the mountains beyond the Kings River.
Mt Goddard on left in background and Finger Peak to its right

Snow Snail

We got back to the car just before 3. I was tired. But a good tired, also a disturbing tired. Disturbing is that I should not have been so tired with so little walking. But the encouraging part is that I am still out doing it and enjoying it. As we traveled down the mountain, we realized how clear the air was. The comment was made, really wish that when we are in the lookout we had air this clear. On the way back to Fresno,we stopped at Bear Mountain Pizza. it is under new owners, but still the same menu. Might be changing up a bit before summer.


Kirkland Meadow Plantation. Apparently this has to do with restoration of clear cutting done by a lumber company, and then the replanting. There is also a project to thin the forest to restore a more natural balance in the area. As far as exploring, it looks like it is in more of a conjunction with the Sequoia groves in the area.

Extra Photo's
Buck Rock Lookout

Buck Rock Lookout

Buck Rock Lookout

Buck Rock Lookout

Buck Rock Lookout
Tombstone Ridge

Young Sequoia at edge of Weston Meadow

Snow Snails

Finger Peak

Obelisk and Tombstone Ridge

Mt Goddard  and Finger Peak

Flowers and Plants

Sugar Pine Cone