Yosemite National Park (6/29/03 - 7/1/03)


Summary: Yosemite was a lot of fun and it was my first recent exposure to "nature" in quite some time. The visit included everything from snow in June, to beautiful waterfalls and interesting hikes filled with a taste (not literally) of the local flora and fauna.

  Danger, Will Robinson! Danger! Excruciatingly boring details below!

The first day of our trip mostly consisted of the drive from Sunnyvale to Yosemite (pretty boring), with a stop near the Tioga Pass (the highest elevation road in California -- if I remember correctly, almost 10,000 feet above sea level) to play in the snow.... the cold snow and fresh mountain air was a great contrast to the intense heat of Sunnyvale.

On the second day of our trip we did a little hike to Bridalveil Falls where we took the pictures shown below. The falls are magnificent, but since the hike to them is really easy (paved road and a very short distance), they were very crowded and less peaceful than what I would've liked. We also visited the Lower Yosemite Falls, which were nice but also quite crowded. Despite the numerous danger signs ("fatalities occur here every year"), people let their kids play on slippery rocks right in the stream at the bottom of the waterfall. Where is natural selection when you need it?!

We also had the chance to do a little hike to Mirror Lake using a horse trail (big mistake -- tons of horse excrement, and associated smells detracted from the otherwise pleasant hike). Neat thing about Mirror Lake is that the surrounding mountains are beautifully reflected in the still waters of the lake. The original name of the lake in the language of native Indian tribes was, quite appropriately, "Still waters". From Mirror Lake you also get a good view of the Half Dome which the natives called "Woman turned into stone". It's really too bad that the conqueror's instinct of the white man required renaming of each and every place in America... I think I prefer the old placenames.

The Tulomne meadows are quite pretty too.. they had this creek (or brook) or was it a river? In any case, it was nice, and there were also deer that Daria got to see, which made her happy... though she can be somewhat greedy for that sort of stuff and complained that we "hadn't seen a single bear or mountain lion" -- as if all of the squirrels, rabbits and deer weren't enough! The best time for deer watching turned out to be after 5pm when they come out to the meadows in herds for grazing and drinking from creeks (brooks?), lovely graceful creatures that they are. Some people don't care as much for deer beauty thought; in midwestern states deer are considered pests, as they often raid fields and gardens of peaceful citizens. I heard that the Bamby movie was a disaster for farmers because they could no longer shoot intruding deer without causing hysterics in their children: "Daddy killed Bamby!"

Anyhow, here are some pics of Tulomne meadows....

We also got to do some kayaking at Gull Lake, which was pretty close to June Lake where we at the Heidelberg Inn during our visit. Supposedly a lot of movie stars stayed at that Inn in the early part of the century and the place was charming and cozy. Quite a few movies were filmed at Heidelberg Inn as well, since the inn itself and the area around it carries a close resemblance to Swiss Alps, especially when buried in snow in winter time.

Another interesting place that we visited near Yosemite was Mono Lake. The lake is really salty and alkaline (much more so than the ocean, and I'm sure Daria will add the exact values in her blog) with these interesting rock formations called Tufas. Daria's input: Yes, the lake is 2.5 times saltier than the ocean, owing to the lack of any waterways out of the lake. The lake is refilled from the streams running down the surrounding mountains during snow-melting season, but the only means of lowering the water level is evaporation. Therefore, all salts and sediments brought into the lake stay there forever, making the water saltier and more alkaline overtime. Now it even feels soapy to the touch! The high salt content of the water makes it impossible for any fish to live there; the only wildlife in the waters of the lake is shrimp.

There are also a lot of flies that subsist on alkaline algae and ignore people for the most part. In the picture below, the whole black area is just flies, and whenever you walked toward it (or a gull ran through the area), the black would spread, much like Moses parting the Red Sea. Pretty interesting, but still a bit nasty, especially when combined with the salty smell... however Daria really liked it and wasn't grossed out (go figure). And why would I be grossed out? For your information, the native tribes in the Mono lake area gathered the flies for food and for trading with other Yosemite peoples. The original name of the lake, which later on got shortened to "Mono", meant "fly-eaters". Supposedly the algae flies, when dried out, make for a wonderful crispy snack. Yucky :-)

Pretty-looking tufas (see pictures below) get formed when freshwater springs from the bottom of the lake propel their calcuim-rich water through alkaline waters of the lake. Their chemical reaction creates calcium carbonate, the building material of tufas. Varying water streams shape tufas into all sorts of fantasmagoric formations that look a lot like coral reefs - or like that stone for scraping the soles of your feet, if you prefer down-to-earth analogies.