Thursday, August 4, 2011

Yosemite Valley

I'll admit it. Up until a few months ago I had no idea there were two national parks that started with a Y. Somehow I always pictured "Yellowstone" whenever I heard of "Yosemite," and for whatever reason I never processed that there were two separate parks. I'd never been to either of them, and I always pictured them both as being the one that's in Montana.

Then last year Oscar took me on a surprise trip to Sacramento, and he planned out our itinerary for our visit. He'd read that there were several waterfalls near the city of Stockton, but after we checked into our hotel in Sacramento and he got on the internet, he couldn't find them. So we ended up visiting San Francisco instead. Since I am a huge waterfall lover, I absolutely had to find out where all these falls were, and after our trip I looked up online "waterfalls near Stockton, CA."

I found a bunch. And not only were there a lot, they were nearly all in Yosemite National Park. That was the first time I processed that Yosemite National Park was different from Yellowstone and was actually in central California. After looking through all of the online images I knew we absolutely had to visit this place. The waterfalls I was seeing were absolutely spectacular. The most famous, of course, being "Yosemite Falls" in Yosemite Valley - the main area of the park. Yosemite Falls is the tallest waterfall in North America if you add all of its drops together (and if you don't, another Yosemite waterfall called Ribbon Falls can take the claim for tallest single drop falls). The pic above is the gorgeous lower Yosemite Falls, the most easily accessible of all the waterfalls in the park.

Upper Yosemite Falls is the falls you see jumping right out at you when you enter Yosemite Valley. There's also the middle cascades which are extremely difficult to see, and the lower falls. There aren't many viewpoints where you can see both the upper and the lower falls. This is the only place where we could see both from the ground. Anywhere else required a hike or a drive up to Glacier Point Road.

Oscar and I decided to hike up to the base of Upper Falls. This was an extremely difficult hike with lots of switchbacks. You can continue on to the top of the falls, but it's just as hard again and we had lots else we wanted to see and do that day. As we walked to the trail head we saw several rock climbers.

Across the valley we could see beautiful "Sentinel Falls" flowing along Sentinel Rock.

We saw some gorgeous views of the valley as we hiked.

Above you can see the looming rock formation "El Capitan." It's so named because it looks like the profile of a man.

A small waterfall was coming down it as well. Water pours out from everywhere in Yosemite Valley, especially in the Spring!

Behind me you can see Half Dome, the rock formation that we wanted to hike. Unfortunately they have to have cables up in order to do it, and there hadn't been enough snow melt to put them up yet.

And after a grueling hike we made it to the bass of Upper Falls. It was beautiful!

Look at the amazing view we had from this height! I did not feel that we were missing out on anything by not going to the very top.

We took a few small side trails that gave us closer views of the Upper Falls pool.

We even got to see a few of the middle cascades. Apparently there are 5, but we could only see 3.

We could see yet another waterfall from across the valley.

After we finished our hike we drove up to the Wawona lookout. Gorgeous!

This is the main shot you see on Yosemite postcards. Oscar had to tear me away. I didn't want to stop looking.

Oscar always insists I look at the sun when he takes my picture so the lighting on me is good, but it makes me squint and have a really cheesy smile.

The falls you can see from this lookout is gorgeous Bridal Veil Falls. This was a beautiful falls, but I have no idea why it's called bridal veil. I've been to several Bridal Veil falls, and you can tell they were so named because of the smooth way they fall. This, however, was not falling in a veil-like way. It was roaring!

I believe this is "Staircase Falls." It was a waterfall we could see in the distance from the Wawona lookout. This pic is from our camera zoomed in at 12X.

Next we decided to take the short hike to Bridal Veil Falls. The river was practically flooding.

The falls themselves were amazing. They were in such force that it felt like being in a rainstorm as you got nearer. It formed a constant rainbow around its base, and because of that we kept unintentionally calling it "Rainbow Falls." In my opinion, that would be a much more appropriate name for this falls.

I thoroughly enjoyed getting soaked by this mind blowing waterfall. You'd think from this picture that it was raining, but there wasn't a drop in the sky. All of the water you see was coming from the falls. I'd never seen a waterfall flow with so much force!

We hiked around the area to see it from a few other viewpoints.

And ultimately it led us out to a view of Ribbon Fall - the waterfall mentioned above that is the tallest single drop falls in North America. I think waterfalls with drops and pools are better. When it's simply tall like this one, a lot of the water evaporates before it hits the ground, so it's not quite as impressive to look at.

Stay tuned for the next blogpost where we take another exhausting hike to Vernal and Nevada Falls along the Mist Trail.

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