Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Yosemite, Meadow Loop

On my last full day at Yosemite, I just strolled the trails in the valley to get some different views of the principal attractions, especially Yosemite Falls. I parked near the trailhead to Lower Yosemite and crossed the road to the meadow. This is the view of Upper Yosemite Falls from there.
If you want better pictures of Half Dome, late afternoon is best when the sun shines on it. Most of my hikes were in the morning.
Upper falls again from a little farther out in the meadow.
On the bridge over the Merced River is this marker showing previous years' flood levels.
View of the Merced River from the bridge.
I was invited to kayak this section of river with my campground neighbors, who are white-water enthusiasts. The Merced was flowing more swiftly than my comfort level, with several white-water places and obstacles along the way, so I declined. Besides I already had a full agenda of hikes for my days here.
I strolled down this path along the river.
Yosemite Chapel, the only remaining building from the old Yosemite Village, is the oldest structure in Yosemite Valley, built in 1879.
An artist was putting finishing touches on a painting of the chapel.
The chapel and its setting.
A different view of Upper Yosemite Falls from across the river.
Continuing on the trail.
I noticed a swallow kept flying out over the meadow, the river, and the riverbank.
I figured out it was gathering twigs and nest-building materials for a nest it must have had in the bank on the right. You can see the swallow picking something up in the trail.
View of Half Dome from the river.
And another river view of the falls.
Or maybe you like a meadow view?
I was looking for this view where you can see the Upper, Middle, and Lower Falls all in one photo.
And then there are some reflection views...

No wonder photographers love this place.
Upper and Lower Falls.
This meadow was the location of the old Yosemite Village.
A photo of the village in the early 1900s.
A lot of  trash removal and restoration had to take place to restore the meadow to its natural state.
I thought this photo of an ice cone that forms under Yosemite Falls in winter was interesting. I won't ever get to see that.
And the only other place where I read about a moon bow forming was in Kentucky at Cumberland Falls. They may be more common than that, but I don't know. That's something I won't get to see either...I go to bed too early, lol.
Back by the trailhead there is a good view of both Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls, but you can't see the middle falls.
I drove around the other end of the meadow to a picnic area where you can get this view of El Capitan. My CA friend, Laura, told me about this beautiful spot.
It's also a good place to watch the climbers scaling the rock face.
Rock climbers and their gear on El Capitan.
And like most everyone who comes here, I left a part of my heart in Yosemite.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Hetch Hetchy, Wapama Falls Trail

On Wednesday, I drove about 40 miles to the northwest corner of Yosemite, Hetch Hetchy Valley. The drive over was very scenic. This is a view from Big Oak Flat Road.
Cascade Creek is well-named.
Hard to tell, but from this viewpoint I got my first glimpse of the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir Dam.
Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.
Our hike will take us to two waterfalls emptying into the reservoir. You can see the top of Tueeulala Falls on the left, and the base of Wapama Falls on the right.
Below the dam, water being released into the Tuolumne River creates a rainbow.
You cross the top of the dam and go through a tunnel to access the trail.
There's a lot of water in the tunnel, but if you hug the wall on the right, you can keep your feet dry.
The trail follows the shoreline of the reservoir.
Not sure what this colorful plant is....looks like a type of fungus, maybe.
The river and reservoir provide a clean source of drinking water for the city of San Francisco and the surrounding area.
In this picture you can see Tueeulala Falls on the left and the top of Wapama Falls on the right. They are two of North America's tallest waterfalls, plummeting over 1,000-foot granite cliffs.
The name Hetch Hetchy is derived from the Miwok Indian word, hatchhatchie, which means, "edible grasses." That describes the valley before it was flooded by the reservoir. It was home to Native Americans for more than 6,000 years.
The trail involves some moderate up and downhill hiking.
This small waterfall next to the trail has created a lovely hanging garden on the cliff walls.
Flowers and plants growing in the crevices where the water flows.
The little waterfall.
Hanging garden.
As early as 1882, Hetch Hetchy Valley had been looked at as a potential site for a reservoir. John Muir led the the effort opposing the dam, wanting to keep the valley untouched. It was after the 1906, earthquake and fire that Congress authorized the construction of the dam to help relieve the water shortage in devastated San Francisco.
I began to see many wildflowers and butterflies.
The trail opens up to a flat meadow-like area.
I learned a new wildflower....Harlequin Lupine. They grow among the normal blue ones.
Harlequin Lupine
God's flower arrangement.
The trail continues, now high above the reservoir.

This is another new wildflower for me, called Stonecrop. (I know this because there was an interpretive sign with pictures of the wildflowers in the parking lot.)
I'm not sure what this flower is.
Butterflies liked the flowers, but they were also after something in the soil.

We are getting closer to Tueeulala Falls. 
Both butterflies and bees are after something in the soil here.
They were very busy.

A downhill section of the trail.
Another view of the valley.
More wildflowers.
There's just a thin layer of soil covering the bedrock, but it is apparently an ideal habitat for wildflowers with all the spring run-off.
Tueeulala Falls cascades down the rock face, and spreads out into several streams when it gets to the flatter area near the trail.

We have to cross a couple of those streams from the falls.

Another place to cross.

I named this part of the trail, "Lupine Lane," as lupines border both sides of the trail.

Lupine Lane

Bring lots of water, because it starts to get hot out on the rocks in the sunshine.

You can see Hetch Hetchy Dome on the left and Kolana Rock on the right of the reservoir.
That is the top of Wapama Falls.
Wapama Falls, but wait for the rest!
The trail enters a shady area. I was glad.
A good place to stop and rest, drink water and eat a snack.
Then we start down the final descent to the base of Wapama Falls.

The trail took me a lot longer than it would have because I got distracted by all the views, wildflowers and butterflies.

Small streams cross the trail along here.
Another shady patch. Trees grow near the flowing water.

Now you can see where the falls empty into the reservoir.
There's a bridge across the base of the falls. I didn't bring my poncho, so prepare to get wet.
I tried to get a photo before my camera lens was covered with droplets.
Below the bridge.
But then I see that there are two more bridges, crossing two more cascades.
Looking back at the first bridge and the lower falls you see from the dam.
What you can't see from there is that the falls split into three separate cascades as it falls into the reservoir.
This is from the second bridge.
And the third bridge and cascade.
This one empties into the reservoir in this direction. 
Pretty cool waterfall!
You dry off pretty quickly as you hike back through the sunshine.
Harlequin Lupines
This was a viewpoint from the highway on the way back to Yosemite Valley. You can see Half Dome in the distance.
Zoomed in...
The Wapama Fall Trail was 5-miles, round trip.