This is a bit of belated writing about our recent trip to Yosemite and Sequoia. I kept a little journal while we were traveling, so this post about Yosemite is adapted from the journal entries that I wrote there.
By the time we arrived in the Yosemite Valley, everything was suffused with a warm, golden afternoon light. The trees are all blazing with fall colors, and leaves are gently falling all around as you gape up at the incredibly majestic rocks. This is the first time that I've seen this place, and I'm so grateful that my first views of Half Dome and El Capitan are bathed in this gorgeous golden light of autumn.
We are staying at the Wawona, which is such a throwback to the 1920's that I am smitten with it despite the very creaky floors and doors. The walls are paper-thin, so you hear everyone coming and going, and laughing in a dozen different languages. Our room is over-decorated with prints of big floppy cabbage roses and matching décor, and cocktails are served in the parlor from 5:00 to 9:30. It's great.
October is a great time to come to Yosemite. The valley reminds me a bit of Vermont in the fall, with blazing, saturated colors, deep green trees covered in moss, and dark, cold rocky creeks twisting through all of it. But when you look up, instead of gentle green slopes, there are towering rock faces that soar thousands of feet straight up. It's indescribable, awesome, and beautiful.
Today we drove up to Tuolomne Meadows to have a hike in the high Sierras. It took ages to get there because we kept stopping to gape and take pictures at all the overlooks. When we arrived it was getting cloudy, and at 8,000 feet, it was fairly chilly in the meadow, but we were ready and dove in. It was only about a 3.5 mile hike, but we struggled with the altitude and moved pretty slowly. Our first day hiking at that altitude felt like trying to run underwater. It rained on us just a bit, and something kept falling on us that HWWLLB called graupel, which was like tiny spherical bits of snow.
It was a gorgeous walk. We climbed to the top of Lembert Dome and got an amazing 360-degree view, with brilliant sun on one side, and billowy rain clouds blowing in from the other.
After hiking down we sat for a while at a beautiful creek crossing, with ducks and a great blue heron keeping us company while we watched some rock climbers coming down Lembert Dome the hard way. Finally the rain started in earnest and we headed for the car. The rain turned to snow as we drove updwards, and to rain again when we dropped down. The snowy views were wonderful.
Later that evening as the storms rolled along the peaks, thunder and lightning made the whole thing more dramatic. We stopped at one overlook where the Yosemite Valley floor falls away below, and it was completely black except for the stars overhead. Every few moments, lightning would light up the peaks, and you could see the silhouettes of El Capitan, Cloud's Rest and Half Dome surrounding the valley like giants sitting around a flickering campfire.