The Second Day –
Our unexpected trip to Yosemite continued with an unexpectedly early start the second day. After a very wet night, we got up in the dark, turned on the headlights and packed up all our very wet gear in a light rain. We had to keep it quiet since everyone else was still asleep.
Rather than go back into the valley, we decided to take the drive to Tuolumne Meadows. We’d never been up that way, had no idea what we would find, or if it would be worth the drive. We left so early in the morning that it was still dark on the road, wet as can be and low clouds were covering everything.
In the Dark
The first hour was nothing but driving down a tunnel. We’d seen so many roads like that lately: thick forests coming right up to the road on each side. The trees reaching up 50 or 100 feet, forming solid walls. Add in the cloud cover on top, and there’s your tunnel. We had no idea what the terrain was like – couldn’t see anything.
After an hour, the sunlight showed up and the clouds lifted enough so that we saw a sign for a picnic area. In we went thinking a picnic could be breakfast this time. We noticed a familiar sound outside our car and went for a look. Wow.
We had parked right next to a wild mountain stream and enjoyed walking along that for a while. That stream was making the only sound for miles and quite a sound it was. We’re not often up this high and yet with such a roaring stream.
Now We’re Getting Somewhere
We went on down the road, and the terrain started getting visible and exciting. This area of the Park is unlike most of the popular parts.
Eventually, we made it up to a pass.
Yes, it’s true. We’re suckers for trees. Well, flowers and plants too. Just have to stop and have a look at any tree like this.
Wow, Olmstead Point!
The sign above explains it all. When you pull off the road and stop in the Olmstead Point area and look south, oh my, you get a view of all the high spots in the Yosemite Valley from far above, where all the rain and snow run off and start the river that carved all those majestic attractions.
Pretty soon the eye starts to wander away from that sight to all the closer mountains. We had no idea how large the nearby mountains were. It’s mind boggling and nearly indescribable. Let’s leave it at that and just look at some photos.
This was one of those times we wished we had a real camera with a sharp telephoto lens!
Equally surprising was that we were alone: very alone in a big place. The contrast to the Valley floor couldn’t have been more extreme. We saw exactly three cars between leaving our camp site and leaving the Park on the east side, still many miles ahead of us.
Tuolumne Meadows up so high crowding the mountains out of the way to make room for grasses, flowers, and small ponds. Sorry about the photo quality. What you can’t tell is that it was also cold – maybe these will help!
I had a bit of fun…
We found this place particularly amazing. It’s one unending piece of rock stretching from under your feet to way the heck up there. The angle went from around 10% to about 90%.
We walked up towards the top to see how far we could go before rolling down. It wasn’t far. Things got steep and slippery just past the trees. We didn’t want to roll down that hill/rock, so we started back down on our haunches. It’s hard to grasp just how big this rock is from the photo, trust us, it was huge and fascinating!
Sad that not all visitors get up to this part of the park – they miss what we think is one of the best parts. And that’s saying something.
Wait, There’s More
We finally got to the eastern edge of the Park, much higher than the other areas and snow covered. We were rained on hard the night before on the west side of the Park. Here, the storm dumped snow on everything.
Just when you think they might tone down the beauty level, as you pass through the park gate, they throw another whole batch of wonder at you. Don’t put down that camera yet! The tour isn’t over.
After Yosemite officially ends, you cross into National Forest land as you begin the descent on the eastern side of the Sierras on the Tioga Pass – quite impressive and cold with snow all around.
You can see on the map above where we went. Over a huge mountain and down, down, down.
It seems every good mountain stream has to run into a dam sooner or later. This one did, just north of the entrance. The lake formed above an earthen dam, steep hills on both sides. The water about as clear as it ever gets.
The Tioga Pass
This sign was helpful in teaching about the mining in the area, long ago, and the real reason there’s a road. Determined folks were looking for the good stuff, and that apparently never gets put in easy to get to places. So, gotta build a road.
Our minds went wherever they go beyond boggled thinking about the hardship of constructing a road up that high. Through rock.
This photo, looking eastward, shows the scope of what a road up here is: one long ledge dug into the rock going on for miles. And all without power tools. It was also our route down.
Glad It Wasn’t Winter!
Here’s part of the view of where we’d just come from, the road winding between those two snow-capped mountains. It ‘s hard to imagine that some people looked at this and figured ‘hey, looks like a pass. Let’s build a road up between those two peaks.’ That’s not we thought. That sounds exhausting.
In fact, after driving so high on the roads up there, the engine light came on in the Camry. Went off soon enough. We figured it was gasping for breath like we would have been doing if we had to do that road on foot, downhill even, and already built.
Do yourself a favor and get up in this area of Yosemite if you ever have the chance. It’s wide open and all yours, or ours on this particular day.
The people-to-peak ratio was a solid 1 to 1,000, just how we like it. There weren’t enough people there to form a posse or find a difference of opinion. We’re thrilled we did. Oh, all on a lark, and all before noon. Now, what about the rest of that day? That’s coming in the next post!
What’s Next – Ever heard of tufa?
You know you want to!