Wednesday, August 13, 2014

O El Capitan! My El Capitan!

I couldn't not use this post title because we visited Yosemite the day Robin Williams died.

Granite is to California what sandstone is to Utah and Arizona.  The Sierra Nevada push out of the ground as massive pieces of granite along the California/Nevada border and although they are nice and jagged looking from the surrounding flats, most of the treasures are hidden away in the valleys.

On the left is El Capitan, the largest single piece of granite in the world.  To provide a sense of scale, the cliff face is 3,000 feet tall from valley floor to the top of The Nose.  The first people to climb it needed a strategized assault over 18 months; now people climb it in a single day.

There should be a waterfall, called Horse Tail Fall, along the right edge of this picture, but the drought + a late summer visit = no waterfalls in the park.

In the back center of the first picture is Half Dome.

Half Dome is kind of a recluse, positioned at the far far east end of the valley, and better seen from the back.  Cloud's Rest is on the left, with the backside of Half Dome in the distance.

This is Cloud's Rest in the late day sun.  That is just so much freaking granite.

The valley that leads from Tenaya Lake down past Cloud's Rest to Half Dome shows exactly what all the glaciers did to this part of the country: carved a path right through whatever was in their way.

On the right in the first picture is supposed to be Bridalveil Fall, a 652-foot waterfall that gets so whipped by the wind that it looks more like a mist falling to the valley floor than a stream of water.  Sadly, again no water right now.  The only thing you see is the dark lichen down the 62-story-tall-wall.

Out of sight of the first picture, on the back side of El Capitan and the Three Brothers, is Yosemite Falls, one fall that falls into a second fall.  Hypothetically.

And of course, a river runs through it.

This is Yosemite Valley in the late afternoon sun, and really the Valley is but a drop of Yosemite.  There are groves of sequoias, and meadows of wild flowers, and hikes that take you to the top of El Capitan, Half Dome, the Cathedral Spires, and all of the Falls, without having to hang by your finger tips off Salathe Wall.  Not to mention the entire northern and southern parts of the park.

When I go back, I'm taking a pair of boots and tent and even after a week they are going to have to drag me out.

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