May 27, 1987: Lake Vernon, Part 2

As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted, I misread the topo map for the hike from Lake Vernon to Tiltil Valley. I saw the trail went over a couple of contour lines, then followed the contour around the mountain and down into the valley. Figuring they were 80 foot contours, I figured it would be a piece of cake.

We set out and started climbing. And climbing. Climbing, climbing, climbing! I thought we’d never stop going up. I know we climbed more than 160-180 feet, which is what I expected. Getting to Tiltil Valley, I checked the map and found out that the contour interval was 200 feet, not 80!

Tiltil Valley was a dream. It’s a lush meadow bisected by a creek with trees all along its banks. It’s just how I pictured the terrain around Rivendell in The Lord of the Rings. It was a clear night, but in the morning the fog rolled in from Hetch Hetchy, advancing up the valley like a cautious invader.

The hike from Tiltil back to Hetch Hetchy was indescribable. I just couldn’t hike fast—there was just too much that screamed out to stop and be examined. There was one plant that at first looked like it had bunches of purple balls for flowers, but when I looked closer it was some sort of violet (I guess) that hadn’t quite bloomed yet. I stood there for some time just watching it—it was so beautiful.

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May 26, 1987: Lake Vernon, Part 1

This last weekend was probably the best Memorial Day I’ve ever had. Anne (Tam), Dewey (Tromblee), Raulie (?), Jose (?), and I went hiking and camping for three days up at Hetch Hetchy.
We got a late start on Saturday—we didn’t get out of here until after noon. On our way up we ran into some people from Yosemite 1 who had gotten kicked out of the Strawberry Bluegrass Festival. We gave them a life back to their camp, which is right by the dam, anyway.
After crossing the dam, the trail goes through a tunnel and then starts up switchbacks. The way Andy Ramirez had described them I half expected to die on those switchbacks, but it turned out that the Chilnualna switchbacks are harder.
Dewey learned the hard way about what not to backpack—like half your wardrobe.
Our first night was spent at Lake Vernon. It was kind of cold, but the night was so clear it was like having our own personal observatory. We saw some falling stars, and I saw a satellite.
Sunday morning we woke up to find everything frosted. Sleeping bags, tents, clothes, everything. I got a picture.


Frost on the Sleeping Bag
Sunday’s hike went over Mt. Gibson to Tiltil Valley. I read the topo map…

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Additional Thoughts on Ribbon Falls

As a follow up to the post on the 3rd on the hike up to Ribbon Falls…

Before I went to Yosemite, one of the most common things I heard about the park was how crowded it is. People I knew who had worked at other national parks seemed dismissive of Yosemite because of the crowds. I pictured the Valley as being literally elbow-to-elbow with people, and full of neon-lighted tourist traps.

The reality of Yosemite National Park was nothing like that in 1987.

Sure, it was indeed one of the most crowded parks in America. Yosemite Valley really is fully stocked with campgrounds, motels, a five-star hotel, restaurants, a grocery store, a mini-mall, art galleries, a gas station, and even its own fire department. Standing in the middle of Yosemite Village feels like standing in the bustling downtown of most any American small town. Well…except for being surrounded by granite walls and waterfalls.

The trails around Yosemite Valley and up the sides around the valley to the waterfalls like Vernal and Nevada Falls were indeed crowded with people. It would have been hard to have held a personal conversation along any of those trails without being overheard by people around you. As you came up behind people having a hard time climbing up the rock stairways, it could be hard for you to get around them because of the steady stream of people coming the other direction.

However, I saw no neon. It was indeed what I would call a small town. And all you had to do to get away from people was simply walk off the road in any direction. The base of Ribbon Falls was not very far off the road, and once we got 25 yards off the road, we didn’t hear any traffic, and we only saw two other people, until we got back to the truck at the end of the day. It was like magic. Here we were in the legendary Yosemite Valley, and we had the place all to ourselves.

I think ‘overcrowded’ is a relative term.

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May 3, 1987: Ribbon Falls

Yesterday I went with Kim (Orr), Wayne (Vanderleest), Anne (Tam), and Chris (Graffam) to the bottom of Ribbon Falls. It was the best adventuring I’ve done so far.

The hike up was more of a scramble over boulders as we followed the creek up to the falls. I really enjoy scrambling. I did quite a bit of it up at Del Norte on the rocks with which the entire coast line is strewn.

We found a couple of interesting caves on the way up. The first one only went back about 30 feet or so into the rock. The interesting thing about it was the ledge along the back wall that would have served as a mighty fine bed if someone had to hole up in the cave to wait out a storm.

The second was quite a bit longer and went back quite a ways before turning up and coming out the backside of a boulder.

When we got to the base of the falls, it was truly spectacular. We were right next to El Cap, and the canyon wall has a kind of horseshoe indentation right here. The falls are on the right side of the horseshoe (looking up), and as the water cascaded over the edge, it filled the entire horseshoe with mist. The mist swirled around in the air, twisted and turned by the wind.

 photo RibbonFalls1.jpg

 photo RibbonFalls3.jpg

When the water gets to the bottom, there are only about four or five narrow streams running down the rock. The rest of the water gets to the bottom in the form of the mist, which is so heavy right by the canyon wall that it seems like a hard rainstorm.

 photo RibbonFalls2.jpg

Today, I’m just kickin’ back. I did some laundry this morning, and went to the showers and the store. This afternoon has been spent reading John Muir: To Yosemite and Beyond. The more I read and find out about the man, the more I admire him. It seems like I’m currently in the position he was in after leaving the University of Wisconsin—trying to figure out what the heck to do with the rest of my life.

Right now I’m sitting in my favorite spot on the river bank. There are some small lizards which seem to enjoy spending their time running back and forth on the rock below me right on the water’s edge. I’ve really enjoyed watching these guys run around. It seems they’re now taking an interest in me. Just now one of them scrambled up the bank to a rock about ten feet away from me. I just barely caught the blur of movement out of the corner of my eye. When I turned my head to look, he froze. We stared at each other for about a minute, then I made a move as if to get up. The lizard freaked out and scrambled back down the bank. I could have sworn I heard it yell “Run awa-a-a-a-a-ay!” I think I’ll name him Tim.

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April 30, 1987: April Snow

O.K., O.K.! So I missed a day in my journal. Big deal!

Yesterday we hiked up Chilnualna Falls. It was pretty rough, and I was exhausted when I got to the top, but I made it without stopping.

Today we went back up, and it was a lot easier. Part of the reason was probably the weather. As Moose said it was like December in Illinois. God, I loved it! The thing I miss most about Illinois (other than friends) is the snow and cold weather. Yes, I’m one of those psychos that actually enjoys Chicago winters.

Today we saw this meadow that was really beautiful. There was a fresh layer of snow on the ground, and there were big trees (pines, I think. Definitely not sequoias) all over the place with bright green moss lichen all over the trunks. I took a picture, and then had Robert (Waffle) take one of me with the meadow in the background for the folks back home.

Robert Waffle

Robert Waffle

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April 28, 1987: Alder Creek Trail

Today was really a good day. We got pretty far up the Alder Creek Trail. We saw some falls that were pretty neat, and for quite a way above the falls the creek seemed to be moving slowly enough for someone to jump in without worrying about being swept away by the current. It was tempting, let me tell you.

The hike back at the end of the day was really good, too. It was mostly downhill or level, so it wasn’t at all unpleasant. What made it even easier was that we stashed our tools, so we didn’t have that weight to lug home.

We saw some excellent rock work on the trail as well. A tray had been built across a pretty severe gully. It looked really impressive. Now that I think about it, I wish I had gotten a picture. Oh, well. At least I got a picture of the falls.

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April 27, 1987: Mosquito Creek

This hiking is gonna kill me. I used to walk quite a bit, but never above 500 feet. My lungs had better adapt to this altitude pretty quick or they’re fired.

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