Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Yosemite Valley and beyond...
OK....and now I will write about my travels to Yosemite.....and beyond!
This trip came together rather fortuitously. Last year I read about the life of Eadweard Muybridge, which delved deep into his adventures photographing Yosemite Valley early in its life as a national park. It first peaked my interest in the area. The past year I've also been getting really into rock climbing, both at local indoor gyms and the cliffs upstate. From what I've learned, Yosemite is one of the premier climbing centers in the world. Finally, my friends Jon and Jesse announced they were spending the summer in Yosemite, performing at the Awanee Hotel (Jon plays sax, Jesse plays piano). It all fell into place. I was going to Yosemite.
August 9: my plane lands in San Francisco. It was an easy flight and a great start to my trip. However, just as I was getting excited to hop in my rental car for the 4 hour drive out East, I saw the line. A 2 hour long wait to get to the front desk! Look at all this upset people.
However, I have patience and just waited as I read my book (David Byrne's Bicycle Diaries; an entertaining read). Due to the long wait, I finally arrived in Yosemite under the cloak of darkness. The headlights meandering around the road as it snaked through the darkened forest. I found the hotel, warm and glowing in the cool night. Jon and Jesse were just finishing their set and after a couple of drinks we walked back to the village. They were house-sitting a friend's apartment....staff accommodations for management. Very nice!
I saw this cool barn on my way to the valley
I woke up the next morning to Yosemite Valley. It was as beautiful as one can imagine. You almost feel like you're standing in a large diorama set up just for the tourists because it's so perfectly formed it can't be real. But it is. The sky was so blue and the granite rocks jutted out of the soft green valley floor, which was covered in the ponderosa pine. Breathtaking.
After a day of hiking around the waterfalls and cliffs I went on my first climb. Early in the morning Jesse and I did a 2-pitch climb called Bishops Terrace. My next post will focus on the rock climbing in Yosemite, so I will save these details for later. After our climb we added another member to our troop; a vivacious yogi woman from Venezuela via San Diego named Natasha who had come to visit Jesse. She was as adventurous as the rest of us and proved to be a great companion and a good balance to our testosterone-heavy trio. We packed up and headed out of the valley to the Eastern Sierra....8000ft elevation! The desert. Hot springs.
Through the green meadows of Tuolomne and higher to 10,000ft of the moon-like landscape of Olmsted Point. Olmsted Point is named after Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscape architect who designed many of the urban parks across the USA, including Central and Prospect Park. The area was smooth rocks, worn by the wind, with large boulders balanced precariously on the surface like giant marbles.
On our way to the desert we went for a dip in Tenaya Lake. It was a glacial lake, so cold doesn't begin to describe. But we just ran in stark-naked before we could change our minds. Boy, it felt great, but after a few minutes I was finding myself short of breath and came back to shore to dry off in the warm sun.
After descending down a windy road through the valley we wound up in the Eastern Sierra. This is a stunning high-elevation desert, surrounded by snow-capped rocky mountains all around. We stopped for dinner at the Mobil Station. The Tioga Pass Mobil Station is world famous for its amazing food and scenic location. The gourmet menu included items like fish tacos, lobster taquitos and herb-crusted pork tenderloin. The girls are cute and the atmosphere is friendly. A must if you're passing through the area.
The fish tacos at the Mobil Station
Cowgirls of the Eastern Sierra
The sun went down and we drove around a bit lost, looking for a camping spot off the winding dirt roads leading to nowhere in particular. Luckily, we had Tame Impala to provide the spooky soundtrack for our adventure. We finally found a spot with natural hot springs and suitable spots for our tents. We sat in the hot water and looked up at the shooting stars on the moonless night. It was truly magical.
The giant X at Mono Lake
The next day we found a great rock-climbing spot called Area 13. It took some more off-roading in my rental car, but it was a cool place off the beaten-track. Very different climbing from Yosemite...the rock is a lot more porous so, although there are many hand-holds, they don't feel as solid. After a couple days in the Sierra we headed back to the comforts of our apartment in Yosemite Valley and drank some well-deserved Pinot Noir from Monterey.
Clark Canyon on the way to Area 13
On Wednesday we went on the best climb of my stay...a 600ft 5-pitch climb up a route called Nutcracker. It had everything one could look for; finger and hand jams, face climbing, a roof and a mantle. And the whole time, beautiful views of the valley below! It took 5 hours and Jon and Jesse were late for their gig at the hotel, but it was well worth it (and they didn't get in trouble).
Jesse leading the climb up Nutcracker
View from top of Nutcracker
My final day I drove up to Glacier Point and took pictures of the best overall view of the valley. I towered over everything and could see almost everything I had visited on my stay. A nice way to end my inspiring trip to Yosemite. I would definitely love to return. And I shall...
A view from Glacier Point