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Another most excellent jaunt into the wilds with my Ann.

August of 2010 saw me head on off to Reno where Ann picked me up for a weekend get away.  Her daughter was combining the birthday celebrations of her two kids (thus far) into one convenient party.  No worries, each tot got their own individual birthday celebration as well.  But, considering how widely spread the family has become, doing a combo meant but a single trip instead of two within the span of just a couple months.  Thus the combo party held in August up near Pickle Meadow California.  My Ann's son-in-law is an instructor at the Marine Corps' Mountain Warfare Training Center there on the east side of Yosemite National Park.

So, not only was this a combo birthday party but it was a combo trip for us.  We did the birthday party that Saturday morning and then hit up the national park for the rest of the weekend.

On the way up we passed by Mono Lake.  This time we made sure to stop and get some nice "big picture" shots of the lake before we went on.  When we were through here last year we didn't stop for such shots figuring that we'd get them on the way back down.  By that time though, the smoke from the fires that were burning in Yosemite that summer had wafted down to obscure Mono Lake from such vistas and we were out of luck.  Not willing to risk it, we stopped for these shots.

Mono Lake

Mono Lake and Ann

Mono Lake and Me

After doing the bash for the birthday babes we went back south and made our way into Yosemite through its eastern entrance.

A steady drive up to reach the eastern entrance

As we'd already taken up more than half the day with the party and driving down to Yosemite we decided to head directly over to the Toulumne Grove to see the Sequoias thee and take that in before it got too dark to do much else.  After a long drive (Yosemite is damn big!) we reached the Grove trail head and hiked on down.  This was not a particularly large grove but it was pretty damn impressive none-the-less.


Another Sequoia

The problem with attempting to portray Sequoias via photographs is that their scale and their setting tends to minimize their perceived size.  These things are utterly huge and massive.  But they don't grow alone and the pine trees alongside them are some of the largest in the world as well.  Thus, the Sequoias don't look as big in the pics.  It's a "you have to be there" sort of thing.

The Toulumne Grove is also the location of the famous "Tunnel Through The Tree."  This was cut 1878 on what was then known as the "Big Oak Flat Road" and was quite the tourist destination in its day.

Sequioa Tunnel

Sequioa Tunnel

The Tunnel was cut through a Sequoia stump, not a living tree as that would have killed it.  This stump is still mightily impressive even as nature continues to reclaim it.  Aside from the heart of the tree having rotted away, the stump has also been burned through lightning strikes and shows quite the bit of charring.

Charred Sequoia Tunnel Spires

Lightning strikes are one of the main enemies of Sequoia trees and serve as a natural limit to their growth.  So to does their own weight.  The things get so massive that they simply can no longer support themselves.  One of the most effective ways of demonstrating their size is by looking over the ones that have fallen over.  Because they are now something you can get up close to through their entire length, their scale becomes more understandable.

Fallen Sequoia

This is looking down from what was close to the top of the tree.  The tree roots are down there at the far end of the mass.

Fallen Sequoia Roots

Okay, nice close up of the tree roots, right?  That's not so big, right?

Fallen Sequoia

That's the same roots behind me as in the photo above it.  The heart of the tree has rotted away and been eaten away by the flora and fauna there in the Grove.  You could almost stand upright in the middle of that tree.  And that open space there runs far, far up its length.  The thing was truly that massive.

By the time we had made our way down to the Grove it was already getting deep in the shadows.  Having all these super tall trees around didn't help much with that!  So we decided to call it a day.  We then marched back up the hill to the trail head and drove on back east toward the entrance by Mono Lake.


I'm no professional photographer but sometimes, just sometimes, I do get lucky.  Heading back that late afternoon was one of those times.

As we drove along the road I began to catch glimpses through the trees to our left of a beautiful sunset forming.  The cloud cover was high enough, sparse enough, and east enough - but not fully so in any category - to obscure the sunset.  So, I kept an eye out for any spot where the road and topography cooperated to yield a sunset vista.  I was lucky to find such a spot before the sun actually set.  I was also lucky have gotten in a few good shots as it did so.


Ann and I at sunset

Susnet glory

Change in colors as the sun sinks below...

Last rays of the day...

A truly glorious end of a fine day...

The next day we were back in Yosemite we took in lunch at Toulumne Meadows.  This is rather nice bit of open space on the park's eastern side.

Toulumne Meadows looking east

Tuolumne Meadows looking west

Ann worked us up a nice hot lunch using her camp stove and some of the camping food we'd purchased back in Denver at an REI sale.  A good test of that freeze dried stuff that turned out well.

Lunch being fixed

From there we drove deeper into the park and made our way to the North Dome Trail head.  Over the weekend I was really impressed at how big Yosemite is.  I'm used to national parks that just a few miles across.  We drove over thirty miles into the park that day to reach this trail alone!  And even at that we were still well on just the eastern side of Yosemite!

Once we were at the trail head and off on our trek we found the initial going to be slightly down hill.  We also found ourselves going "against the stream" as there was a large group of college students heading back up from their trek.  No few of them were running.  A good pump, that.

Along the route Ann and I were struck by the number of fallen trees.  I know not if this is a natural thing - i.e. normal age / disease - or something else.  We were also impressed by how the Park Service was simply leaving the trees in place where they fell.  This, to the extent of either altering the trail around the fallen trees or cutting but the smallest parts of them away if they too thoroughly blocked the trail.

By the time we were on the trail the day had warmed up enough that our fears of being chilled, as we were out on the Meadow, was something of the past.

The North Dome Trail is rated as being but "Medium High" in its difficulty.  There was some steady elevations to haul ourselves up and we thus took no few pauses as we trekked.  But there was nothing technical nor risky in the elevations we traversed.  Just sweaty.

The views as we neared the North Ridge of Yosemite Canyon though were something else.

North Dome Trail Views

This view is from the first promontory we encountered on the trek that gave us a good vista.  It was about due west from the top of Indian Rock and is roughly facing south west. It was at about this point that we began emerging from the heavy forest and onto the granite dome itself.

Even on that solid rock though, the vegetation still found its way to grab a foothold.  This, to include trees.  Seeing the force of this was rather impressive

Time and pressure and life

This pine tree was literally peeling and cracking the granite rock apart to jam its roots into it.

When we finally crested onto the North Dome proper it was much more open.  There was also a rather sparsely distributed layer of granite gravel that was quite coarse.  Looking around in this area we noticed some rather interesting structures had popped up around it.

Stone structures

The ethos of hiking in the national parks is to take nothing but photographs and leave nothing but footprints.  Making little piles of rocks though seems within the limits of that ethos.  And plenty of folk did just that.

Pushing on a bit further to the Ridge's edge we finally got an unobstructed view of Half Dome in all its majesty.

Half Dome

Yes, we were actually there!

We Were There!

It was rather breezy atop that Dome so we made sure to keep the chin straps of our hats strapped. 

The views atop the Dome were awesome.

North Dome Views

Down the Valley

The North Dome itself continued down toward the Valley and, while it looked an easy enough trek, we both realized it would be anything but that.

Still further to go

Even at this point we'd actually descended quite a bit down the Dome toward the Valley.  This became more apparent when Ann went walking back.

Up the Dome!

Up the Dome!

Up the Dome!

Up the Dome!

On the way back up the Dome we decided to do our own bit of stone piling.

Our Cairn

As Cairns go, it's both a simple and minor one.  But, it's our Cairn.  If you look close you can see how coarse the granite is there and how it's formed a layer of granite "sand" there in the foreground.  Interesting stuff here.

The return leg of the hike was a longish thing.  The land looked both different as we were coming at it from a different direction, and looked familiar as we had just been through it a few hours prior.  We both were impressed at how quiet it was along that trail.  Quiet enough, in fact, that we essentially stumbled upon a young buck that was ambling close to the trail itself.  By this time we were back deep in the tree cover and it was getting later in the day so the lighting was not what it could've been for photography.  At least when it came to capturing the image of a deer moving through the brush.  We did see proof of the deer's passage though.

Deer Track

And there certainly was still life splendor enough to photograph.


A bit further along on the trail our tranquility was shattered by two young woman approaching us headed outbound on the trail.  They were yammering away back and forth to each other in a truly obnoxious fashion.  Ann and I were both disappointed in this as we both though that anyone who was taking the time to head on this multi-mile trail would not be so crass as to despoil the experience with their blabbing.

But, some people are just crass like that.

Once we came up to these two young ladies they quickly told us of the bear that they'd nearly stumbled on to a few hundred yards up the trail and they advised us to be just as noisy headed that way to make sure we scared the bear off the trail.


Um... so much for being crass. 

As Ann and I had no desire to be bear food, we kept our eyes peeled and our trekking as noisy as we felt necessary.

After about nine miles (8.8, technically) of hiking we finally returned to the trail head.  We both felt quite accomplished and very much the better for the experience.  The majesty of the surroundings and the view we had was wonderful.

We paused a couple of times to take in some of the vistas we found on the return.

Me and Half Dome

A bit further down from this roadside rest stop / scenic vista was Tenaya Lake.

Tenaya Lake

Another wonderful vista that was a nice way to cap the day.

For the brief time we had we accomplished quite a bit and we're happy with that even acknowledging how much more of Yosemite there is to take in.

We'll definitely be back.


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In the meantime, I hope you have enjoyed your "stay" at this site.  Check back again to see what new images I have added.  Until then, stay well, play hard, play safe, and have fun!


This page was last updated on: 03 January 2011