Saturday, October 31, 2015

Playing hooky...

I love Yosemite Valley in all seasons of the year - but fall is my favorite.  Gone are the throngs of people that fill the trails and shops, gone is the summer dust and hot sun ... A tranquility falls over the valley...   We are taking our chances going this late in October - it is the season of first rain or even snow... 

The first frosts have come and turned the bracken ferns from their summer green to a brilliant bronze.  Meadow grasses have had their first freezes and have turned a tan-brown color... And deciduous trees are in various stages of fall colors before the leaves fall... There are Sierra maple leaves turning yellow, dogwood turning red, oak developing a variety of yellow-orange -red...and some that have lost their leaves entirely. 

Judy and I played "hooky" for 4 nights and 3 days, and splurged by staying in a comfortable valley cabin with real beds and our own shower (with warm water!) ...what luxury.

The first day we thought "well, lets take a nice easy hike just to 'warm up'... " So we choose the trail to the top of the first Yosemite falls). I have been on the trail before but I guess that I forgot that it has continuous switchbacks rising 1000 ft... But we are stubborn people and kept to it.  Truth be told it really felt good to push ourselves a bit and to breath more deeply (the elevation is only 4,000 feet -1220 m) - still part of the 'lower mountains' for the Sierras).  

We hiked through an oak forest and then rose into conifers higher up.  To our left was a wall of granite with piles of loose scree at the base, to our right the views of the valley opened up for us the higher we rose.  We found a great rock with shade and a view of the valley to enjoy lunch.  

Now Judy and I have a system that has developed over the years... 
She was happy to read and meditate with the great expanse before her and I went further until I could get a view of the Yosemite falls.  This is normally the largest of the valley water falls - but due to our long drought, it was sadly diminished.   I achieved my goal and enjoyed being close to a view of the great upper Yosemite falls.  This entire trip ended up taking most of the day...  And afterward we rewarded ourselves with a trip to the pub for a nice cold beer..,.

Day 2, being a little sore from day 1, we decided to go visit an old friend - Tuolumne meadows (8600 ft. - 2600m. ) There we found a bit of snow on the ground - exhilarating crisp air - and grand views - but very few people (what a change from August). 

Here we did our favorite kind of hiking - striking off along a river following game trails and fisherman trails - going where the impulse took us - it was grand! The surrounding peaks were well snow covered and gave us a fine view of 'beloved peaks'.  We lingered for a time beside the river just to absorb the experience into our being...

That night it rained - but Day 3 began with long swirling plumes of cloudy mist looping and swirling among the valley walls - the effect was mythical!  Judy slept late and I walked through the meadows and was enthralled by this face of Yosemite that I had never seen before - 
The rain stopped for the day but the mist and coolness remained - Judy and I walked more in some of our favorite valley floor locations.   As many times as we have been there I always discover something new and wonderful that I missed before.  There are classic 'tourist' views that I have scorned in the past - just because they are packed with visitors - but to see them deserted with swirling mist accompaniment allowed us to see them in new ways.
So I advise you to play 'hooky' if you can - get away from the pressures of your life and and go to a beautiful location where you can hike and eat well, luxuriate in nature and discover new things.  It is good!