November 3 - 5, 2000

Yosemite "bubble"
Yosemite road  
Yosemite Road

Tioga Pass was open, although a sign on the road at Mono Lake, only few feet before the turn, read that it was not. The highway was a bit slippery in woods, but Yosemite is impressive - especially Yosemite at times when most of people do not anticipate that it could be open. Covered with snow, it is probably much more beautiful than the one I know from usual "summer" pictures.

Yosemite mountains look like huge granite bubbles and it seems you can easily walk on them (they are not covered with jungle). It feels funny to walk on flat, slanted rock. Granite (or whatever it may be) is nicely compact, almost not eroded, and snow does not stay on curving slopes. We wanted to hike up one of these "bubbles" and it took us over an hour.... it did not look that tough before we did, but we crawled pretty high up.

Tree - Half Dome in background!
Half Dome  
Half Dome

Roughly in the middle of our route up we found a paw imprint in one of the snow holes. We could not agree whether it was a track of a mountain lion or one of a little bear cub. I must admit that either of those possibilities made me quite jumpy. A mountain lion is far too big a pussycat to fight with, and in winter possibly quite hungry. Little bear cub would be even worse, because where the cat or big bear are most likely to run away, a little bear gets frightened and starts to yell, which would alert a bigger bear.... wow. Sid was trying to comfort me claiming that I am safe with him, as he looks and groans like a big and specially bad-tempered bear, so a real, furry one would get scared of him. Well, to my relief we did not have any oportunity to verify this claim.

We did not get to the very summit. The hill had a stony hat requiring "real" climbing laced with deep snow. We decided not to attempt to break our legs unnecessarily that far from any civilization, and we turned back down.

On the edge

I was attracted to Yosemite mainly by El Capitan. For non-climbers: a three thousand feet rock face, which became a climbing Mekka. A hard climb that takes several days, a climb which I won't ever be up to (guts and strength). Still, I must admit that I was much more impressed by Half Dome. It is a granite half-breast towering over a canyon edge, dominating the whole Yosemite Valley.

We visited the obligatory Bridalveil (waterfall) - as it was only some 500 feet from a parking lot, it was surprisingly crowded. We were considereing whether to join the weekend return traffic with all the others, or to manage yet another show. Sid stared into a map for a while and said that there was a view point above the waterfall so we could go there.

On our way up we stopped on yet another viewpoint where we could see at once Half Dome, El Cap and Bridalveil. Then we curved further up. After some half an hour, I asked if we were there yet. Sid told me that it was total thirty eight miles, and to keep driving. So I drove on and on.

Sid was reading to me that we would have a breathtaking view from the Glacier Point at Half Dome, especially at sun set or in moonlight. Since every guide decribes locals sights as breathtaking, amazing and wonderful, I did not get much impressed.

El Capitan  
El Cap on the left, Bridaveil on right, Half Dome in middle
Half Dome  
Half Dome face to face

But it was worth the trouble. We were standing on bare rock, high above a deep valley, with Half Dome sticking out of the opposite canyon wall. It was still sunlit while the whole canyon was already in shade.

Then Half Dome got into shade too and faded into gray.

And after a while the sun descended some more and illuminated Half Dome through a gap between the canyon walls. Imagine a darkened landcape, where a great rock face suddenly lights up.

Western Sky  
Western Sky

For this, I would definitely drive further than some silly seventy miles. If you own any sunset pictures, tear them into tiny pieces and have a look at sunset with Half Dome.

Our evening show included something they call "western sky" here. We wanted to take a picture, and almost missed it. The road was narrow and consisted of unpredictable switchbacks, so stopping would not be a good idea, as someone might hit you from behind. And it was starting to get chilly. At the very last moment, we found a dirty turnout, so here it is.

Eventually all the lights went down; all that remained was five hours driving, ahead of us.

Text & Photography Copyright © 2000 by Carol & Sid Paral. All rights reserved.