Bright and early it's 42 degrees and the sun is gonna be warm today. We pack up and head out for some heavy leg exercise, only this time, extension not contraction of muscles as our legs bend. It's a whole different impact on joints and tendons, but basically ok.
A half mile towards the rim the trail starts descending gently. The trees are still huge and you can just see my fellow hiker way down the path next to one of them. The sun is coming up over Cloud's Rest and Half Dome, the light builds and the tree shadows move minute by minute.
It isn't too much farther that the trail starts getting steeper and there are more transitions between being in the trees and out in the open.
A massive exfoliating overhang complete with trees and moon.
Many hikers have passed this way since the last rain. Some of them like to take a little rest in the shade, especially as the temperature builds. Going downhill is also a good workout with a heavy pack.
Man that sun is bright without sunglasses.
It takes a couple of hours of endless switchbacks until you feel the slope level off a bit. The forest returns, and the floor is level enough that you can walk through it. Getting near the bottom.
Looking at the signs greeting hikers coming the other way - in prep for going up the switchbacks - we see that North Dome is, hey, only 7.8 miles, most of it going uphill (until you reach Indian Ridge). For those wanting to get up Snow Creek to head eastward, Tuolumne Meadows is a short jaunt of 19.6 mountain miles.
Snow Creek drops into Tenaya Canyon. Our trail descended very steeply but keeps well west of the more dangerous areas of rock falls and avalanches that plague the upper reaches of the canyon. In fact, one of the bottom trails very near the signs was closed due to a large unstable talus field. There were detailed signs and explanations about why to avoid that trail, but the best sign is very easy to understand.
No English required.
The trail opens out at the edge of a sunny meadow and rolls along for about a mile before reaching Mirror Lake.
There are still fields of much smaller talus that have to be traversed. The newer path makes this a piece of cake.
The Inukshuk Garden
Imagine walking along a trail in the woods and seeing a rock staircase off to the side. Imagine there's a little Inukshuk at the intersection. Now imagine that the staircase leads to a great garden of stone Inukshuk sculptures all nestled around the site, side by side, in every nook and cranny. A lot of people took a lot of effort over a lot of time to contribute these little signals. The wind moves the trees and the whole place just dances and shimmers with light.
Back on flat ground - we're greeted by a warm 90 degrees, gentle breeze, and a mountain beach
A mile walk to Mirror Lake, and then another mile walk to the nearest shuttle bus stop: at this point, it's ok to be lazy and not walk the extra mile or two to get back to the campsite.
We'd left our other tent set up waiting for us. Minutes after unpacking and putting leftover food in the bear box that the Local Inspector came for a visit.
It would've been easy to stay for a few more days in the valley. It's always a hard choice, and this time, we planned to get out of Dodge and into the deserts for the second phase of the trip. Before leaving though, the Mariposa Grove of Big Trees was calling, so we got ready in camp jiffy quick, then headed out in the Jeep. It felt good to be sitting still while moving uphill!
After a great visit with the trees, there was just enough time to get to Glacier Point for the sunset (we hoped). There was a lot of road construction (24 hrs) through the mountains to the turnoff, but we made it safely with time to spare.
A Ranger was giving a talk to a packed "house" while across the pathway a couple were getting their wedding pictures - with a Half Dome backdrop - done by a professional photographer who traveled to Yosemite just for them.
Everybody is active in a different way. The two limping people on the right had been rock climbing and come down off the wall earlier in the day. Their feet were very tired and sore - especially the guy limping.
Now the plan was to get something to eat. We made it down the 17 miles of mountain road construction just in time to be the (almost) last customers at Degnan's. The loft makes great pizza, and it goes well with a large beer and glasses of wine. Here's to a great hike! We enjoyed the food and closed the place for the night.