After a delightful breakfast in the Curry Village Dining Hall (it really was good, even had unsweetened oatmeal), armed with new shoes, hydration packs, food, light raingear and headlamps (just in case), we headed out for one of the few walks we thought we might manage. Bear in mind we live in Flatland, at 35m (about 115') above sea level. The Yosemite Valley floor is at 1200m (about 4000'), and everything interesting requires an ascent of the valley wall, more or less straight up. We went for Vernal Falls with an option on Nevada Falls. On a previous visit to the Sierra Nevada (thank you, Diane!) I ran out of breath a little more quickly than usual (I run out of puff extremely quickly anyway), and did suffer slightly from headache, so we took it relatively easy. Stops to catch breath, stops to look at the view, stops to take off outwear and de-bag (unzip and remove trousers legs to create shorts). Too few stops to take pictures, unfortunately: the stunning views, scent of pine and general air of holiday left me thinking only of where I was. This is Vernal Falls from the Mist Trail, which was fortunately not at all Misty due to lack of water this late in the season. We didn't mind! The sky was the usual BLUE, although clouds were drifting in.
At 5000' we reached the top of Vernal Falls. After a brief pause for photos (which must be on A's phone) They were, and now I have them!
Looking down from the top at tiny people labouring up the Mist Trail
We took one couple's photo, they took ours …
we continued onwards and upwards on what seemed a much easier trail even though the profile indicates there's little difference. Perhaps fewer people on the trail was a factor; most seemed to stop at Vernal Falls. I could have sworn I took more photos than I can find on either phone or iPad; maybe the altitude was affecting more than my breath?
Looking back down the trail towards Royal Arches, on the other side of the valley.
Never mind the falls, look at the granite!
After a last series of switchbacks that grew shorter and shorter as space to turn decreased, we reached the top of Nevada Falls at 6000'. We sat and ate lunch and listened to a man escorting two sub-teen girls (his daughters) express his envy of the two lads next to us, who had permits for the hike to Half Dome. He'd entered the lottery and failed. He lectured them on the dangers of the metalwork in an electrical storm; they listened politely, but seemed to have the situation under control as they checked the weather forecast on their phones.
Wonderful granite slabs.
Wonderful view from the bridge just before the falls.
Wonderful panorama with Liberty Cap at right. But what caused that prominent slanting crack across it, and when?
Just wonderful everywhere. But everything speaks of erosion by water and frost; I looked at the slabs of granite and thought about how cold, how much snow, how harsh this would be in the winter.
The iCameras are not good at fine detail: those grey shadows in the sky were a lot darker In Real Life. We'd planned to try for the Panorama Trail, which climbs higher from Nevada Falls, eventually leading to Glacier Point and stunning views of the Valley, but a light rain began to fall as we walked toward the trailhead. Discretion is the better part of valour: our light raingear wouldn't suffice at altitude, plus we knew our knees would slow the descent. If we went higher and longer, we might seriously regret it. So we headed down the John Muir Trail. There were consolations:
Autumn colours on the descent.
Tiny people again, this time at the top of Vernal Falls.
We have time to explore and enjoy the granite sheets above the Emerald Pool (above Vernal Falls).
We'd asked each other so many questions about the geology and landscape as we climbed that we went straight to the Visitor Centre to find answers. The interpretive display was good but very general; I headed for the bookshelves to assess the offerings. Time passed, and A. went to sit outside. More time passed. I asked one of the staff about the pattern of cracks and varying erosion in the granite of Liberty Cap and Grizzly Peak; he was keen to help, but could only say how much Greg (Stock, the Park Geologist) would enjoy talking to me. Best I could do was buy Geology Underfoot in Yosemite (Greg Stock is one of the authors); Roadside Geology in Northern and Central California accidentally stuck to my hand as I was heading for the till. Greg's book was almost as good as Greg himself, or at least it answered some of the questions.
By the time we'd showered, it was cooler and raining in the Valley. It was cold and raining harder as we headed back to the cabin and, sadly, the energy-efficient lightbulb gave off little heat: we didn't read in bed for long. All the blankets supplied for the bed had sufficed for our first night, but that had been warmer; we stripped off the top blanket, piled all our spare clothing on the bed, and put the blanket back. That was enough for a comfortable night; the cold woke me at one point, when my down vest had slid out onto the floor, but after making a long arm to replace it, I was fine. And the next morning we packed and moved on once more...