Cooling down this Autumn in the Sierras

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After this Labor Day’s excessive heat and smoke we are happy to see the temperature has cooled dramatically and the three surprise fires that have plagued our area this last week are dying away.  The heavy weekend traffic of the summer is gone.

We look forward to the nearest storm and the cold nights autumn will bring.  We are thankful the most beautiful valley is just upstream and the cool air it sends in the evening.  Our tomatoes, peppers and eggplant are ripening in cycles in color in our gardens.  The Buckeyes have already turned yellow to burnt orange, and they will be followed by the Valley Oaks,  the Black Oaks, and the Sedge Grass along the creek.  We are ready, too, to change, and acknowledge every year may bring something rather new.

YOSEMITE SONGWRITING RETREAT
Property Wide
Holiday Weekend October 6th through 9th 2017

We are very excited to see Gail Dreifus and Adam Burns returning with the Yosemite Songwriting Retreat again this year.  Grammy winner Eliza Gilkyson and Joe Craven are among the may instructors who have created an excellent round of courses, including mentor courses, you should sign up for.  This is an event for both newish to experienced songwriters.  Always great creative esprit de corps and jamming sessions abound during this challenging but fun long weekend.  Register via EventBrite and call us to book as a group reservation at 866.826.7108 x1.

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YOGA JAMBALAYA
Yosemite Health Spa and Bodie Room
Saturday November 11th 2017 All Day

Balanced Rock has been coming here for over a decade with the exciting Yoga Jambalaya. They offer many classes where you can choose a range of styles and the best teachers in our large Bodie Room and the Yosemite Health Spa yoga room.  Always popular, this event includes a health and wellness fair access to the Spa’s facilities, and look for special vegan and vegetarian lunch specials.  A community event, the Yoga Jambalaya provides a lively sharing and positive experience.  Book at the Balanced Rock website and at the Yosemite Bug website.  Book any of the essential oil specialty baths, massages, or the herbal rub at least a few days in advance by calling 866.826.7108 x3

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THANKSGIVING DINNER
June Bug Cafe
Thursday, November 23rd, 2017 5pm-8:30pm

Every year since we have opened we have celebrated Holidays with mouth-watering specialty menus.  The menu this year includes Citrus Brined and Herb Roast Turkey, Merlot Braised Lamb Shanks, Mustard Crusted Barramundi with Clam Chowder Sauce, Venison Pot Pie and more.  This Thanksgiving looks to be as popular as usual and we do not take reservations.  We prompt you to show at 5pm if you have a small group and late for couples.  Sharing tables is part of the experience, and we do get everyone served. See you there!

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NOLS WILDERNESS MEDICINE
Bodie Room
Wilderness First Responder Course    November 28th – December 7th 2017
Wilderness First Responder Recertification  December 9-11th

If you work or recreate in the outdoors or in other austere environments where access to medical care is delayed or communication is unreliable, our 9-10 day Wilderness First Responder course is for you! It is the industry standard for professional guides, trip leaders, search and rescue team members, outdoor recreationists, and international travelers.

Upon completion, you will be able to conduct a thorough physical exam, obtain a patient history, assess vital signs, provide emergency care in the wilderness, and make crucial evacuation decisions.  You’ll learn both in the classroom and in outdoor settings regardless of weather, so come prepared for wet, muddy, cold or hot environments!  Call us at 209.966.6666 x2 to book at tuition only or for the whole package including room and board.  Our food alone is worth it!

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MUSIC

We have bands playing through the winter on select weekends!  That includes Grammy Award winner Eliza Gilkyson and Joe Craven on Friday October 6th at 7:30pm at the Bodie Room so buy your tickets here.

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The rest are free local bands all at the June Bug Cafe on Saturdays at 7pm like Soul Galaxy on November 18th, Good Medicine on December 2nd and Bagby Station on December 9th.

 

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SUMMER ITINERARY

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CAR NOTES:  LEAVE THE BUG BY 8AM ON SUMMER WEEKENDS OR AFTER 3PM. During the weekdays in summer the Park Service still recommends leaving the Bug by 9AM OR TAKE THE YARTS BUS IN FROM THE BUG AT 6:06AM, 6:36AM, 7:25AM, 8:07AM & 9:04AM. Our June Bug Cafe opens at 6:30am in summer for breakfast, trail lunches and water to go!  If you arrive after 9AM look at the Highway 140 part of this Itinerary or relax in the Spa or Cafe

PARK YOUR CAR AT ONE OF THESE LOTS BELOW IMMEDIATELY. Also there is a great east end hikers parking lot 200 meters past Half Dome Village not marked here.

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1st Day:  Standard Sightseeing With Some Hiking,

Waterfalls & Overlook Point In Yosemite Valley

Valley Loop Drive for sightseeing:  Half day about 1 hour bus ride around.  We recommend finding a place to park immediately and taking a free Valley Shuttle Bus around Yosemite Valley for your camera to explore. It goes around the entire Valley Loop now.  Get out where you want, another bus is 20 minutes behind.  Try to shop outside of Yosemite Valley before your trip into the Park because Yosemite Village is a time wasting car traffic mess.  

Vernal Falls Mist Trail & Overlook and John Muir Trail Loop:  Get off at Happy Isles Trailhead for this excellent falls hike.  It is paved until halfway at a view bridge for young children, dogs or strollers.  After that plan on getting very wet up the refreshing Mist Trail granite step to the overlook above the Falls.  Take the relaxing John Muir Trail back down.  You can go all the way to the Nevada Falls further up the John Muir Trail for a day hike.  3 miles R/T 1000 foot gain 2-4 Hours.  Almost double for Nevada Falls.  Take a lunch and 2 liters water.

Alternative Overlook Point or Big Day Hike?  Mirror Lake Loop & Snow Creek Trail.  Once past Mirror Lake go as far you you can go up Snow Creek Trail at the far end of Tenaya Valley loop.  At top of Valley Rim where the trail flattens, skip over trees on your right for a commanding view of Half Dome and Cloud’s Rest.  No reason to go further.  4-5 Miles R/T with loop, Just under 2000 foot elevation gain at  3-5 hours R/T depending upon how far you go.  Take a lunch and 2 liters water. Dogs can go on Mirror Lake loop part of trail.

 

2ND DAY:  Hiking , Sequoia Tree Grove, & Overlook Point and Sightseeing.  Get out of the Valley and go to the High Sierra!

Sequoia Tree Groves:  The Tuolumne Grove is open off of Highway 120 going west towards Tioga Pass just 30 minutes north of Yosemite Valley.  The Tuolumne Grove is busier and larger.  It has small elevation loss/gain on an old roadbed at about a mile in/out.  The Tuolumne Grove has great interpretation and is okay for strollers, children, and dogs!  Take a liter of water.

Olmstead Point and Tenaya Lake: Continuing on Highway 120 East towards Tioga Pass stop at Olmstead Point and look at Half Dome and Yosemite Valley From the east.  The Nature Trail there is worth it at .04 miles.  The Point is also an excellent place later for a sunset.  Dogs allowed.

Tenaya Lake is a great place for a picnic on a beach!  It will warm as the summer goes for swimming.  Take the time to wander around the Loop on the other side at 2.5 miles total, the outlet facing west will need waded through.

Overlook Points: In Tuolumne Meadows find a spot at Pothole Dome just at the west entrance to the Meadow for something fun for all ages.  The Lembert Dome may still have large drifts but the views are fantastic of the High Sierra Peaks and the Meadow.  Have good boots for this nearly 4 mile loop with an 800 foot gain and take two liters water.

Alternative Big Day Hike:  Instead of snowy Cathedral Lakes hike just now look at the Glen Aulin trail from Tuolumne Meadows.  There will be snow, so take the right gear, but it is fairly flat to the right flank of the Tuolumne River and stop at Tuuloumne Falls and head back.  13 miles total and 600 ft loss so be there early and take two liters water.

East Side of the Sierras: If you are leaving Yosemite on this route do try to stop at Mono Lake Tufa Towers, the Cinder Cone Loop hike and the Bodie Ghost Town State Park!

 

3RD DAY or HALF DAY Hiking, Overlook Point, and Sightseeing! Get a GREAT view of Yosemite!

Sentinel Dome for overlook point:Onroute to Glacier Point off of Highway 41 going south, stop instead at Badger Pass Ski Area parking lot and take the Glacier Point Shuttle bus to the Sentinel Dome trailhead for a great 360 degree view of much of the Park and of Yosemite Valley.  A mile in and a mile out not much gain.  The cheapest but best view!  It is fantastic! Add an hour and 500 foot drop to the Taft Point to elongate to great hike.  Take a liter and a half and lunch (or dinner for sunset)  Bring great hiking boots for at least partial snow into July.

Pioneer Village at Wawona:  An assembly of historical Yosemite buildings at the Wawona Covered Bridge and carriage barns.  Free Stage Coach rides are the best ever Wednesday through Sunday 10am to 2pm.


Chilnualna Falls Hike at Wawona:Highway 41 is good  if you are going south and want a looksee enroute back to the Bug which is 1.5 hours past Wawona through Highway 49.   Wawona Meadow Loop is great for dogs.  At the other end of Wawona Meadow is the hidden Chilnualna Falls with a 2300 ft gain at 7 miles R/T.  Take a lunch and two liters water.  Also think about the Sugar Pine Railway or the Yosemite Trails horse rides just past the south entrance.

Remember the Mariposa Sequoia Grove is closed for renovation until October 2017.

 

HALF DAY at arrival before the hectic Yosemite Valley drive.  Hiking, swimming, and sightseeing.

MARIPOSA & AROUND THE BUG ON HIGHWAY 140

El Portal Railroad Park & Merced River Wild and Scenic Area & the Bug Beaches and swimming anywhere or across the silver suspension Briceberg Bridge and further downstream!  It’s too cold and swift at the river now so go to the Bug’s Hornets Nest swimming hole is good probably for June but the Bug Loop Trail is good anytime for the hardy.

From Briceberg Bridge upstream there is a single track trail for dogs or Mountain Bikes in the morning.  Downstream at the end of the 5 mile dirt road trek along the River to a cascade just before the North Fork of the Merced.  Some creeks enroute have some good holes.

Mariposa Old Gold Town & Museums: Shop along the old 1850’s era block and see the Old Jail and the oldest operating western Courthouse.  The Mariposa History Museum takes you back to the Gold Rush, whereas the California State Gem and Mineral Museum at the Mariposa Fairgrounds shows what was dug up here and the rest of California.  Music on the Green every Saturday eve.

Out further and just off Highway 140 is the historic 49’er town of Hornitos where Ghirardelli Chocolates were first made and outlaws ruled.  The old Plaza Bar on the small square is a classic stop for a beer.  Bear Valley north of Mariposa has some Gold Rush buildings.  Also north on Highway 49 stop at Coulterville for some great gold rush era buildings, John Muir and Coulterville Museum!  Go home via Highway 132 or go further up Highway 49 for Gold Towns or Caverns!

4TH DAY Hiking, Overlook Point, Sequoia Trees and Waterfalls.

HETCH HETCHY OFF HIGHWAY 120: Not as busy as Yosemite Valley, just take the day and walk over the dam, through the tunnel and along the south facing side for beautiful lakeside views and late running waterfalls this year.  Flat, turn back as time permits or go all the way to Rancheria Falls for a full day. 1.4 hours from the Bug, take a lunch and 2 liters water.  Usually too warm to recommend in summer, but the Falls at Hetch Hetchy Reservoir are still going and the lake is awesome and worth a walk.

Merced Sequoia Grove: Quieter and smaller, but a bit longer walk than Tuolumne Grove, stop here enroute to the Hetch Hetchy and the North exit.  About 1.5 miles in and 600 foot drop.  Take a lunch and a liter of water!  Look for Sugar Pines, Douglas Fir and Jeffrey Pines on this route too!

 

YOSEMITE HEALTH SPA

YOGA CLASSES
Jon Paul continues to offer his beautifully done Rejuvenating Yoga Classes early Saturday morning 8am-9:30am and his quieter Restorative 6pm-7:30pm Sunday evening class $10 pay him directly.  Discounted $6 day spa access.

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MASSAGE THERAPISTS
URSULA JONES is NOW available for Tuesday, Wednesdays and Thursdays evenings 4pm to 10pm with appointments in advance only.  She is well experienced and a natural bodywork therapist.
TAJ McCOY, Synergy Massage, is available Wednesdays and Thursdays 6pm-8pm or any other time with appointment.  His style has incorporated Reiki and energy work.
BRYCE TYSON, Synergy Massage, is available  & present at the spa every weekend, Friday through Sunday at the Bug Spa 2pm to 8pm.  Walk-in then, or for best results call in advance.  His style is closer to Swedish with emphasis on the needs of you feet and neck!

 

Spring Yosemite - Patrick Pike 2015 (48)

YOSEMITE HEALTH SPA OFFERINGS

H2O2 and UV Hot Tub, Cold Rain Shower and Infused Hot Rocks Sauna access $12 for a day pass.
For the Hot Rocks Sauna try out three 20 minute sauna stints with a cold shower and walk on the garden deck for 5-10 minutes between each session to cool.  Move from the lower benches to the higher benches and from no water steam on the hot rocks on the first session to  eucalyptus infused water on the hot rocks and deep breathing on the last session.  The last sauna session should result in long deep breathing and sweat from every pore before that last cold rain shower just outside the door to wash away the toxins.

The H2O2 & UV Hot Tub works without chlorine to clean the surfaces and the water respectively.  The Hydrogen Peroxide breaks down upon contact with your skin and the free oxygen gets absorbed into your bloodstream through your skin like a third lung and should be invigorating.  If you hop between the sauna and hot tub, use the rain shower between to rinse body oils off and to cool off to avoid overheating and dehydration.

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Essential Oil and Salt Therapeutic Private Soaks –
Our spa has a private soaking room with two NEW stainless tubs for three specialty ayurvedic style essential oils for deep inhalation, salts for wellness and organic herbal mixtures for skin. Best to only rinse off afterwards with no soap. If you use the inclusive day pass first do a short sauna first for open your pores and lungs beforehand! Call us up for an appointment before arrival or ask that morning for time slots!Ask about our Skin Renewal, Muscle Soak & Energizing Specialty Baths and Herbal Body Rub & Massage.  Watch the rain and cold winter scenery from the penetrating warmth of the hot tub.

Muscle Rejuvenation Soak with salts for Fatigued or Injured Muscles including Eucalyptus & Orange to Absorb & Inhale                                      1 pers $35 / 2 pers $50
Skin Renewal Soak to Cleanse & Moisturize the Skin with Exfoliation Steeped Herbal Bag with Lemon & Clary Sage Oils to Absorb & Inhale               1 pers $35 / 2 pers $50
Energizing Wellness Soak with blended salts for Wellness & Related Fatigue with Lavender and Chamomile Oils to Absorb & Inhale                     1 pers $35 / 2 pers $50

Organic Herbal Rub
We now offer the  Organic Herbal Rub – Local Herbalist Crafted Non-Allergenic Rub Including Sauna to open pores, Swedish Style Herbal Rub With Disposable Suit to all ow these organic nutrients to absorb deeply into your skin, and lastly, and Herbal Skin Renewal Soak With Linen Herb Bag & Rinse Wand (do not shower with soap afterwards). Ingredients include Aloe Juice, Chamomile, Burdock Root, Kelp, Blueberries, Neem Honey, Rosehips, Oats, etc.  1.5 Hour $85  A Bentonite Clay and Sea Kelp mask is an additional $10.

 

THE TREE’S COLORFUL LIFE

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Unlike Galen Clark, I couldn’t tell you an Ash or a Blue Elderberry if it slapped me in the face during a hike.  There are many trees in the Sierra I will not know for years.  But I bet I am not much different than you for we all have our favorite trees, yes?

You can read a ton about Mr. Clark or his writings, but his inspiration for me is the determination  to protect the Mariposa Grove of Sequoia trees he stumbled upon near his Wawona settlement.  Outside of the immense respect I have of another hotelier making something from nothing, he clearly loved the land and the living trees around him.  When you wander about the Upper Mariposa Grove where he had a cabin, still standing, you cannot help but be immersed in another plane of existence.  It seems after the Lower Mariposa Grove and the drive, I am dragging others through the pre-dusk Sequoia forest when the orange red colors of the bark seem to glow in the half light.  It is enchanting and worth any camera, including the most sophisticated, your eye.

For more colorful tales, you must come in the autumn.  Sure, in California this season doesn’t seem to show up until the last minute in late October after a warm Indian Summer.  But you know instinctively the color changes as the cold slowly spreads down from the peaks of the High Sierra into December.  Yes, we have heard recently that the broadleaf trees are always yellow or red underneath the green at all times.  That the chlorophyll the trees make is the green you see, and when the sunlight gets thinner the tree makes less of it to cover the other colors.  Romantically, I prefer to believe the trees are giving their last shimmering display before the deep winter breath puts them in hibernation.

Outside of the Quaking Aspens & Cottonwoods up the Eastern Sierra’s canyons you must see when driving to or from LV or LA in October, you will find yourself focusing upon Yosemite Valley.  This is for good reason since the fall colors in the Big Leaf Maple, White Alder, Black Oak, Pacific Dogwood & Black Cottonwood are easily accessible there.   The first maple section on loop road alone makes you want to double park and walk down the centerline for the view.  Give yourself the time and explore the entire or a few sections of the underrated Valley Loop trail to find the secrets you desire.  Spend extra time at quiet & still sections of the Merced riverbanks.

At the Tunnel View parking area you cannot miss the lush spread of evergreens that appear to be freshly laid dark green shag walk-to-wall carpet of Yosemite Valley.  Hiking up around Tuolumne Meadows during summer the Lodgepole, Mountain Hemlock & Whitebark Pine show you how they thin out and shorten closer to the tree line.  Yes, in fact, you can never escape the cloaking, reassuring presence of the conifers about Yosemite.  But it is winter that shows how very much alive they are.  The mixed conifer forests about Wawona  and Crane Flat trails are the most fascinating.

The Rockefeller Grove is a case in point.  Though I want to send you there to look for a hidden grove of sequoias, what you must always be paying attention to are the specimen Sugar Pines, Jeffrey Pines, White Pines, Dogwood, Douglas Fir, White Fir,  & Incense Cedar.  The frosted Sugar Pine foot long cones are irresistible to touch.  Rub and smell the sweetness of the sugary sap that drops off them and be happy.  The nearby trail to Merced Sequoia Grove is also outstanding.

What comes down must go up, no?  It is unclear why I see summer as the midpoint of the year, but I feel that is the way California is.  The warmth slowly moves up from the blooming pink fruit & nut trees in the Central Valley.  The first line of Blue Oaks come into view with the most true fresh green leafing buds opening up as you drive past the old barns & grazing cattle.  The evergreen Live Oaks even have new bright red & green serrated leaflets further up the hill.  Of course, the Black Oaks leafing above the Bug is what makes me the happiest, you can feel youth flowing in your veins.  The flowers litter the ground everywhere shortly afterwards.  Just follow youth all the way up to the highest peaks in July to hear the tiniest alpine flowers trumpeting for all animals to drop by for a visit.

In the land of fire we all understand the risks.  The forest seems to to want to embrace the flame for health because regular low burning fires do help California forests.  Look at the relationship the Sequoia and the Bristlecone pines have with fire.  Both have seeds that need fire to open and help germinate.  The red bark on the Sequoia has so much tannin it can resist the regular fires throughout it’s long life.  Burn areas open ground to a variety of tree seeds that would find it hard to penetrate the forest floor cover. unless another tree fell over.  You know you are in a healthy Western American forest when it is easy to wander through and get lost in your mind rather than in person.  Well then at last, summers hot wind brings out the earthy resin-piney smell that Sierra forests emit just for you,

Yep, that’s what I like most about all these trees.  The air is so fresh and healthy because they exhale the cleanest oxygen ever!   Even the water seems to breath in all that sweet air while spraying over cliffs and sloshing whitewater over boulders to get as much of it is possible before becoming meandering laggard rivers on the flatlands and out to sea.  But not before I get to frolic about in it’s refreshing and clear eddies below my home here at the Bug.

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THE HIGH SIERRA FOR THE HIGH MINDED

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So there tends to be an itinerary in every summer visitor’s mind of what to see on their Yosemite vacation:  A waterfalls, an elevated view of Yosemite Valley & a sequoia grove.  This is, in fact, what we would recommend to any guest staying for 2-3 days.  However, you might find such an itinerary reduced to this:  Walking up to Lower Yosemite Falls (or Vernal Falls if you are adventurous), driving to Glacier Point for a scary look over the cliff, and walking through the Lower Mariposa Sequoia Grove to the Grizzly Giant and back.

We would like to believe our average guest may be somewhere between this description and a recreational rock climber.  And though you may wish to climb up the cable to Half Dome once or twice in your lifetime, really you are looking to avoid the tidbits in summer every other chicken in the yard is crowding in on.  Well read on then.

Yosemite’s High Sierra.  TaDa!

There’s one day, at least, in your trip to enjoy in the rarefied air of the high country.  You may encounter many hikers, but it is joyous.  You come to say hello, or, er, chat, with another soul enjoying the sun and 12000′ mountain tops in your view.  You are all here to be the 11% of park visitors who make it our of Yosemite Valley or off the road.

Let’s talk about he the Tioga Pass Road.  Sure, it is two and a half hours over the Sierras, plus a bit more from the Bug.  But you have made a wise and fulfilling choice.  This road is closed up to 6 months of the year.  You can stop and do the Tuolumne Grove near Crane Flat.  A mile in and a mile out on the old road surrounded by 300 year old Sugar Pines to the Grove.  There’s Olmstead Point & Tenaya Lake.  My first sighting of a cute little Pika was in the scree below the viewpoint looking down on the lee side of Half Dome.  You should take the little hike out to the real viewpoint.  Note, at the other end of the carpark is a great view of Tenaya Lake & Piwiak Dome, my favorite in the Park.

Tenaya Lake.  Hmmm. How many times have I asked myself to bring a sea kayak and paddle out onto that for hours to soak in various aspects of the view.  On one occasion I have ice skated out and around, and it isn’t the same as from a car on the road.  Eat lunch on his shores if a casual traveller.  The walk about the lake is fantastic as is the Sunrise Lake Trailhead which is a starting point for Cloud’s Rest, my superior & easier replacement for Half Dome’s hike.  Take the kids and lay upon the sunny beach at the far end while they romp and play in the water (just take your suncream since you will get more UV up here).  The low angle granite rising from the lake can make a good future mountaineer of anyone well prepared.

Further up into Toulumne Meadows you have quite a few options.  Take the time and plan this hike as your one hike of the day: Lembert Dome.   Park at its feet and take the 2-3 hours left up and around.  Take the short spur to Dog Lake for a refresh.  Once on top you will see what Lembert does for Tuolumne Meadows: An elevated view of the High Sierra over a huge alpine meadow with the Tuolumne River running through it.  Can’t be explained.  Don’t leave your pack to far away in your reverie since you may find a marmot has found it and taken all of your lunch.  Walking down and crossing the road a bit follow the meadow back and see Belding Ground Squirrels popping up to take a look at you. We love to mimic their bark to have them stay a few moments longer up on their hind legs.

There is Cathedral Lakes hikes if you have more time.  Cathedral Peak will change faces for you on your journey.  There are multiple Park views from points above & around the lakes worthy finding.  You can go a bit further for views of Tresidder Peak and  sit upon Columbia Finger for an inspiring rest above the world.  Glen Aulin is a High Sierra Camp below White Cascades.  It is a long hike but you have no need to complete it, you can turn around along the meadow at any time or you can make prior arrangements to stay there.  Most of the elevation loss on this trail is near the end.  Stop at Soda Springs and Parson’s Lodge on the way for a bit of history from the darks ages before the Park Service!  Everyone should plan a 3-4 day backpacking trip further down the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne for one of the best backcountry hikes in the US in my estimation.  Think a longer narrow Yosemite Valley all to yourself.

Mono Pass trail is the ancient Paiute trading trail with a view of all points east including Mono Lake with a small alpine lake at the top.  Lyell Canyon heads in the direction of Devils Postpile near Mammoth as a backcountry hike, but I love the perfect glacier valley shape, the wildlife & the peace of the canyon itself.  Perfect place to stare up into the clouds for hours (if there are any).  There’s close by Elizabeth Lake  and Gaylor Lakes from Tioga Pass.

We can talk all day about the steep East Side of the Sierras.  It’s towns, hot springs, historical sites, ghost towns, canyons and bristlecone forests.  If you are going to Tahoe, Vegas or LA, do NOT miss the summer opportunity to circle around the east side around after Yosemite.  You will be happy.

We can still finish with the alternative options for falls, elevated views of Yosemite Valley & sequoia groves.  So here it is:  Vernal Falls runs all year, so take the Mist Trail up, and/or down with the John Muir to lunch up on top of the falls.  You can go further for the just-as-beautiful Nevada Falls.  Sentinel Dome is a nice one mile in and one mile out cheat for avoiding Glacier Point.  It is spectacular for sunset and a bottle of wine. And lastly, yes, go the extra mile for the upper Mariposa Grove with to be surrounded by the giants and on to Wawona Point.

OR, take the easy similar walk down to the quiet Merced Grove, with its log cabin you will want to spend the rest of the year in.  Maybe the rest of your life like me.

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THE WATERSHED WONDERS

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Hardly five months after we opened in ’96 we were cut off from Yosemite upstream because of a raging Merced River.  On a very warm New Year’s Eve we were playing pool in t-shirts on the covered deck, both now gone, drinking great beer in celebration.  The corrugated tin roof shot a stream of water from each low curve of the corrugation, making it like the old Tonga Room Hurricane Show.  The storm was easily recognizable to a native Californian to be a Pineapple Express.  This one had barreled up from Hawaii direction with a special blessing from El Nino and was now raining up to 12000 foot elevation where a early and large snow pack had already been dumped.  You see old timer pictures of Central Valley towns under 20 feet of water and folks upon the roofs, but after a century and a half of taming the Sierra and Valleys you don’t think much of this kind of disaster.  The first guest off to the park returned in short order to make it clear the river was up over the highway and impassable.  What with tent cabins floating down the river, roads washed away and visitors in the Park cutoff for days because of this “100 year flood” it was a disaster to us.  I hunkered down alone for three months awaiting an open road hoping to make it through without guests.

My favorite stories though were about water flowing on all parts of the Yosemite Valley floor.  If not from the river, then from water flowing down from all the granite walls.  Now THAT would have been a truly wondrous boast to say you had seen a waterfall stretch around the whole valley like a end of the world sci-fi flick!   The rest of us, however will make due with the water falls that the late winter and spring provides us every year. For all the times a traveller will go out of his way to see one, a waterfall is clearly one of those entrancing natural phenomenon humans cannot resist.  Now time that by dozens and you have a happy traveller!

Where to begin?  Once you have seen tall waterfalls about the earth, you tire of looking up in wikipedia which is tallest in what way on what continent and how a new one has changed the boastful line-up.  Sort of like Amundsen, Scott, Dawson or Shackleton, who remembers, they are all great!?  Even in deference to storied Angel Falls, Yosemite Falls still holds my attention whenever I visit the valley.  It’s the water mark on the cliff face when it’s gone by October that requires you to envision it anyway that makes me laugh at my own stare.  The snow cone that develops through deep winter cold as water turns to ice on the falling journey.  I have yet to carry a scoop, cup and cherry soda syrup up the upper Yosemite Falls Trail and clamber across the rocks at it’s base to make a statement but don’t count me out.  Catching it at it’s highest flow and watching how it angrily shoots off that first outcrop trying to defy gravity and tossing out thunderous roar of water bashing itself against the cliff and talus must be experienced.  Yes, you may think that taking you grandma or your dog to the Lower Falls paved trail is boring, but you must do it first!  The Upper Falls trail is popular in winter because is is south facing and stunning from Columbia Point, it also leads you close to the Upper Falls in winter.  In summer go to the top peering every other moment at the falling water and cross it at the top (over a bridge always for smart humans of course) and peer over victoriously!  Until you see someone slack-lining nearby to the Lost Arrow Spire…

Now I could write a book about all the Falls in Yosemite so we will stick to my favorites, sure.  Too bad so many are everyone else’s favorites like Vernal & Nevada Falls!  First off, everyone who visits wants me to go see them too can any time of year.  But in early summer on a hot day will I fail to tell them they will be soaked getting to the top.  Only through having your sins washed away will you receive an epiphany about your existence at the sunny top.  There you will ogle at the water rushing over the clean straight edge into the abyss clutching wisely at a steel pipe rail. A form perfect falls it is.  For those who are adventurous, catch the Glacier Point shuttle bus from the Valley and do the Panoramic Trail from the Point, stopping to see Illilouette, Nevada and Vernal Falls down to the Valley in one stunning half loop.

Another exceptional falls walk is to the Wapama Falls in Hetch Hetchy.  This place is a warmer, lower elevation,more winter than late spring excursions.  These falls, like Yosemite Falls, make a warm winter day seem summery as only California can.  Though this dam should have never been placed here, that event should not be held against the beauty it still offers.  Any child inside would love the skip across the curved 1920’s design dam, into a dripping and puddled long tunnel perfect for laughing and whistles and exit upon scenes really made by artists like   Parrish and Hopper.  The Native Indian signage adds depth & wonder to the trek through their flooded home.  As you pass the Tueeuala and then the more substantial Wapama.  You can go further on the trek to Rancheria Falls, our favorite as swimming holes when the current is near nil. Possibly one day you could plan a five day Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne backpacking trip from Tuolumne Meadows mid-summer, stair-stepping all the way down through different unspoilt ecosystems, cooling off on the various holes and cascades, through burnt forests until you glimpse the super massive guard Kolana Rock reflected on the lake before it.  Learn to keep an eye out for rattlers!

We could extend this blog upon the virtues of flaming Horsetail, sculpted Bridalveil, hidden Chilnualna, stair stepped Sentinel Falls and exhilarating Ribbon Falls, but you wouldn’t have much to explore for you next time!  It seems everywhere you travel in this mountain range there are going to be cascades to entrance that basic part of you.

The other story I liked about New Years ’97 was about watching boulders the size of small houses bounce and smash against each other while being pushed down the steeper part below Arch Rock Entrance.  The colossal rock vs rock collisions made bright blue sparks seen from deep below the raging grey water.  You could hear the thunder each episode made through the wind, rain and whitewater decibels.  Like the dangerous rockfalls that happen regularly enough in Yosemite, I am not sure I want to see that in person at all.

SNOW ADVENTURES

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Any winter at Yosemite has snow.  But the tiny sparkly glitter vying for your attention from the white blanket as you ski through a sunny meadow is the best that it gets.  For all the stunning views you can get around this park in winter you still appreciate the true mountain meadow framed in hefty lodgepole pines and a cloudless cerulean blue sky the most.  Surely it doesn’t hurt that the stunning silence interspersed  with your heartbeat in your ears while looking about during the pause. It is all thrilling to embrace.

You can play at different venues nature has made available to you.  Some have cool man-made perks to round it off.  Let’s talk Badger Pass first.  This old small ski resort is an oddity.  Really not up to super wonderful mega resort standards or price, this place is still a little gem.  Sure a fast pro downhill skier could get down that slope in a matter of seconds. Who cares?  This place is made for the those who absorb rather than gulp.

I like bringing along someone who is need a new adventure, be it child or adult, to learn the basics in the universe of snowsport.  An excellent place to learn and to goof off.  Build your own jump before the staff makes a big one or find a tree zone with powder only you can get through. After you, of course,  have thoroughly upset your pupil at the lift tops before he heads off to a more considerate and professional ski class offered much nearer the lodge.  Don’t forget the extra refreshing beer stop somewhere in the day at the Snowflake Lounge.

For those adventurists who plan well you must look up Ostrander Hut, Dewey Point and Glacier Point Ski Hut starting at Badger Pass.  All of these are worth the time and effort that will be extracted from you!  Ostrander Hut has that winter hostel warmth, chatter and cosiness that make the eves and funs as the ski days.  My best memories is a hilarious themed charades game we played once.  After summiting the squat  Horse Ridge you can see the stunning Mt Starr King and Clark Range in the High Sierra before you ski back down to the hut.  When the lake outside the hut is frozen, circuit it in your skis during  a pink and purple sunset or bring your skates if there has been little snow.

Dewey is a snowshoe destination from the Badger parking lot done in a day starting at dawn.  We have taken many tours there to the narrow but spectacular winter Yosemite Valley view point.  Everyone roundly comments upon the cool meadows we pass through near the beginning, grumbles under the heavy breath about a half mile from the point, ogles with joy and exuberance  upon arrival, find new and imaginative words about their guides the last grueling mile back and then; showers us with accolades and beer upon our return to the Bug.  We smile and laugh throughout.  After all, if they just knew how to use touring XC skis, it would be half the time; but would you stop to see if the tracks are from Pine Martin, Deer Mice, Chickaree or White-tailed Jackrabbit?

Glacier Point Ski Hut is at the end of the 10.5 mile snow covered & groomed road from Badger.  This trip on track skis or fun skate skis is exhilarating!  Upon arrival at the hostel style ski hut, take your time with exceptional company that night, and track about the starry sky with cocoa in your hands.  The stunning winter views of Half  Dome and environs make the summer views seem cheap and unworthy of your heart.

The reason the Bug rents snowshoes is really for the Groves.  Tuolumne Grove is the easiest on an old gradient road. For those inclined and do not get lost, go off trail downslope and stay above the creek until you wander into orange and green monsters in full contrast to the white powdery blanket.  Merced Grove is half as much longer and steeper in part.  But the peace and quiet with the nifty log cabin nestled under the big trees that draws you to investigate are worth the trip.  For those who need something new, try the Rockefeller Grove of old sugar pines a bit further down the road.

In the Valley just after a heavy winter storm, yes, you can ski about the meadows and take the best pictures of your long life.  In absence of that, however, the Curry Ice Rink is makes happiness several times a day.  Where else can you skate under a Half and North Dome painted red with sunset!  Take a break with coffee next to the fire pit and push yourself out for more happiness under the stars in a twirl.

Lastly and sadly, are the winter adventures I have not yet done.  Years of stories about an old ski hut above Snow Creek, used commercially in the 20’s, squatted by hippies in the 70’s , boarded and locked up for years, this old place holds my imagination as a cross between Hansel & Gretel’s Gingerbread  Witch Cabin and Sound of Music Meadow on Fungi.  I ran into a friend who invited me up to the place midweek to ensure a spot to crash using skis and snowshoes. If this part is NOT updated by next February, you will know to join Yosemite Winter Club and do the Trans-Sierra Ski Trip which uses this cabin enroute from Tuolumne Meadows to find out what happened to me!