Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Butler Adventure 2016 - The Yosemite Adventure

Day 5 - Yosemite National Park

“Yosemite Valley, to me, is always a sunrise, a glitter of green and golden wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space.” 
― Ansel Adams

The glitter of green and golden wonder, stone and space had a hold over me. I just can't explain it.

Unfortunately, at this park, we were not able to secure a reservation at a campground inside of the park. Apparently, if you want to do this, you have to reserve a spot as soon as the reservation system opens. Like at 12:01 am that day. Because we were not those people, planning this trip about 2 months in advance, we found a place called Yosemite Pines...which totes itself as being located at the "gateway to Yosemite".

Yosemite pines also offers panning for "gold" mud. 
What they don't tell you is that the "gateway" is about 40 mins away and Yosemite Valley is another 45 past that. It was worth the drive.

On our way in, we caught views of Half Dome and El Capitan. Towering slabs of granite as far as the eye can see. Majestic.

NOT El Capitan or Half Dome. 
We quickly found that Yosemite Valley is crowded. Very crowded. This year was the 100th anniversary of the US Park Service, making the park even a little more popular than ever, making parking a 26 foot RV a bit daunting.

On the advice of one of the physicians I worked with this summer, we set out that day to hike the Mist Trail, which happens to be part of the John Muir Trail - inspiring in itself. I wanted to do the entire 14 miles (round trip) all the way up to the area where you can summit Half Dome (to summit now requires a permit), but because we had gotten there so late, we just hiked as far as we could. We also took a brief look at lower Yosemite falls, which wasn't much - a trickle compared to what we were about to see.

The shuttle system in Yosemite is *amazing*. We took a shuttle a few miles down to Happy Isles, where we began our adventure that day. Happy Isles, as I found out, is the trailhead where most southbound John Muir Trail hikers start their 212 mile journey to Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the contiguous U.S. at 14,505 feet (which also requires a hard to get permit to get to).

After a brief "warm up" at Happy Isles, our hike took us up. Way up.

The vert here was NO joke. 
Along the way, we passed some of the most amazing sights I've ever laid my eyes on. The warm afternoon sun filtered through the pines and along the granite slabs.

It was so gorgeous. We passed Vernal Falls and the rush of the Merced River. The hike then took something of a turn that reminded me of the stairstepper at the gym.

It was steep with loose dirt and a little crowded in spots. Louis and I somehow separated from Ryan and got to a place where there was a lot of people standing around looking into the water. That's when someone asked us if we saw the bear? (This would become a very common theme during the trip.)

Look in the middle - BEAR!
In all the trips that I've taken to the mountains and National Parks, I have never seen a bear. And there it was...down in the rushing river. Perched on a log, picking fish out of the water like it was no big deal. What appears to most as a brown bear, was really a black bear.

As the ranger had told me in Sequoia National Park, black bears come in three colors; blonde, brown and black. Something I had not known! These bears are pretty much harmless and this one didn't seem to mind the crowd. This was such a great experience for Louis and I to see together. Unfortunately, Ryan missed out on the bear, but plenty of cool things awaited us later that day.

Guess who's feet didn't hurt? Boots or Altras? Altras for the win!
We climbed to the top of Vernal Falls and were able to look RIGHT over the falls. It was a rush! Of course to get there, required walking along the side of a cliff (where a fence was in place for safety).

Yep. Straight down the waterfall. 
We continued to climb and climb and climb until we reached Nevada Falls. We then spent the most relaxing, fun, afternoon here. Louis and Ryan waded in the peaceful lake below the falls, with the Liberty Cap rising to the left.. There were huge slabs of granite that spilled into the water, nearly as smooth as a countertop - smoothed after thousands, if not millions of years of water wear. A couple of young men made a slip and slide of sorts out of it and eventually, as expected, Louis did the same. I sat with what became a small group of people who were also lounging in the warm up and giggled and clapped when one of them would make it down the slab. I think we spent about 2-3 hours just sitting and enjoying ourselves. The ice cold water felt wonderful on our feet. So clear you could see the rocks in the middle. It was a place where you needed nothing else. No phone to look at, no book to read, no music to listen to. I sat for nearly two hours just looking at what was around me and watching the boys explore.

The evidence of the "slip and slide" in the background. 

Ryan & Louis' "yoga crow"

Me, doing actual yoga.

We could've played here all day!
As we hiked back down, the afternoon turned into a beautiful, cool, dusky evening.

A rainbow farewell.
When we got back to Happy Isle, we took the shuttle back to our RV (so, so easy!) and headed back to Yosemite Pines. We had a short moment of weakness where we considered staying at Yosemite one more day instead of heading to Oregon as planned the following day, but with both of us really wanting to see Columbia River Gorge, we stuck with the original itinerary and packed up the next morning. 

I think I stayed up until 3 am that night reading and researching about Yosemite and the John Muir Trail. Sometimes true inspiration can be so difficult to find. I honestly think the word inspiration is loosely overused, but being in this vast expanse of wild was true inspiration (at least for me it was). I felt like I took a piece of that trail with me.

“Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world.”        -John Muir

I know why John Muir so loved the high Sierras and this wilderness, there was something so magical within its granite walls, valleys and meadows. Every step took you to something different, something even more enchanting.

Yosemite National Park and the JMT....we'll be back - this was only the beginning of a whole new adventure to come.

Stay tuned for the next installment of the Butler Adventure 2016 - The Columbia River Gorge.

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