Oct 31 - High Hike on Halloween

This morning, Monday, we headed back into Yosemite to explore a corner of the Park we hadn't yet seen. Our objective was Glacier Point, an overview on a rocky outcropping at the top of the south canyon wall, high above Yosemite Village. Our visit to the village the other day had us down at the bottom of the canyon all day while Glacier Point is at the top.

The weather was fantastic and air was clear. Yosemite is about 40 miles by 45 miles, and most of the roads are curvy and slow going. With stopping at turnouts for scenic overviews most casual explorers can't do much more than 20 miles in an hour. Except for some California drivers who seem to be late for work or have vehicles with accelerator pedals that seem to be stuck full-open, it takes time to get from one point in the park to another... but it's time well spent considering the terrific scenery. By the clock we spent two hours getting to Glacier Point. By the heart and mind, it was but a flash. "No... are we there already??"

I could try to describe the view from Glacier Point, but I won't. Using the same adjectives and superlatives over and over again doesn't make for good reading. And I fear a diminution of the experience... even when I read this again after time has fogged the images in my mind... from the overuse of words like wonderful, awesome, spectacular, and amazing. Yosemite Village on the valley floor is about 4000' of elevation. Glacier Point is 7200'. That difference alone gives maybe some sense of the drama and vistas. Let me generally recount what we saw... all rocky peaks and features on the north and east sides of the Park (Half Dome, etc.), the entire Village far below, the upper Merced River valley and Tenaya Creek valley, every waterfall on the north and east canyon walls (Yosemite, Nevada, Vernal, etc), more than a vertical mile of smooth white granite walls, domes, and peaks... some near the horizon and many miles outside the Park.

Not far from Glacier Point is Sentinel Dome, an 8100' granite dome peak with a trail right to the top. We could take a trail from the GP parking lot or from a trail head about a mile up the road... either one a little more than a mile one-way to the Dome. We choose the latter as it was more open to the surrounding scenery and the warm sun.

I'm not sure what the elevation change is but the hike did get our little hearts pumping a bit. Remember, we were over 8000 ft here too. The last tenth of a mile or so is up the side of the granite dome. At the top we had a terrific 360 degree view of the surrounding park, the valley below, and all the surrounding peaks (half dome, et. al.). I particularly liked the view toward the west, looking outward through the El Capitan gateway... a reverse view from the one everyone sees and captures from the tunnel viewpoint on their way into the valley.

Our walk back to the car was interrupted by a gang of California mule deer, 4 of them to be precise, who blocked our path and seemed to be looking for a hand-out. After a few moments of curiosity and eye-contact, no fear, no panic, they slowly continued their travels... and so did we.

There was enough time left in the day to stop again at Mariposa Grove, where we walked the mile or so to the Grizzly Giant and the California Tunnel Tree. The grove appears to be struggling a bit... not sure if it's disease or fire or remnants of previous attempts to manage the place... but there were large open areas, a bunch of downed trees, and some sickly looking trees. This may very well be the way a mature Sequoia grove looks and I'm just applying a cultural standard to a natural system. But it looked that way to me.

Now a comment about food. This morning we stopped at McDonald's for a quick breakfast. I was a little surprised by the price: two little breakfast sandwiches, one orange juice, and one small coffee... $9.56. A few weeks ago I was similarly shocked by the price of lunch at a Burgerville in Camas, WA., which was just shy of $20 for Dar, one grandson, and me. It seems to me "fast food" (which really isn't all that fast anymore) is certainly not low-cost food anymore.

On our way back to camp after the Yosemite excursion, we stopped at a very nice Raley's grocery store in Oakhurst. Not wanting to cook anything complicated after our long day, we were looking for a fresh pizza from their deli area... one we could pop in the oven and be chomping down within 15 min. or so. But we ran into an energetic and friendly young woman who was offering samples of the deli's prepared meals... the kind you pop in the oven and heat up. The samples hit the spot and we popped for a couple... a chicken tortilla casserole and a chicken penne alfredo with broccoli thing. Both were yummy and the price per meal for two of us was $5.00 -- that is, a piping hot entree that was at least as good as anything either of us could whip up, for 5 bucks -- half the price of that small breakfast at McD's! It's fresh, not frozen...no mess, no measuring, no preparation dishes, no hassle... just heat and eat. I'm having a hard time coming up with reasons this isn't an excellent idea. I think we'll be looking for similar eats as we travel in the future.
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