August 31, Yosemite


But it was a good night's sleep, overall...don't particularly want to wake up I'm feeling really comfo...


I hate ant bites.

More than I hate mosquito bites, but just barely. Ant bites hurt more and itch; mosquito bites just itch.

No point in complaining about it now, we've got a ways to go until we get into Yosemite, so it's time to break down the campsite. I head off to shower (this place is posh, it's got heated showers!) -- forgetting the quarters. After the proverbial coulda-had-a-V8 slap-on-the-forehead (I couldn't really do it, I would have dropped my clothes, towel, etc...), I head back to camp to get the quarters. Of course, I'd forgotten to look and see how many it took. I've only seen the ones which will take one at a time.

This one takes 2, minimum. argh.

So, because I'm lazy and rather upset with myself I just wash my hair in one of the bathroom sinks and am perfectly happy with that. Hurumph.

I get back, Jon's still in the shower, Chris is eating breakfast, nothing is put away yet, so I start rolling up my sleeping bag, mattress, tent (after dumping Chris' bag on the picnic table), getting the food trash thrown out...eventually we all make it into the car and ready to go. whoo-hoo!

My turn to drive today, and as it turns out we get up to the Yosemite entrance rather quickly, just continuing up the 41N. Once in, however, is a different story, we get stuck behind this Really Obnoxious and Noxious Tour Bus that won't use turnouts and is reeking as bad as the old school buses do. I am suddenly unsurprised by the condition of the leaves on the trees near the road, a typical source of damage from pollutants is lurching along in front of us. You'd think the restrictions on buses would be followed, but apparently not; I think we got it's license plate number and company name but right now I'm not sure where that is. Maybe Jon has it. I feel like calling someone and complaining.

However, we eventually get clear of it and my attitude improves immensely. Yosemite can do that to you, even if it is Labor Day Weekend and there are a Lot Of People there.

We stop a few times for pictures, of course -- at the exit of the tunnel which leads into the Valley, along the field below El Capitan, and arrive and park in the Day Use area around 10:30am. I'm hungry again. We take the shuttle from the Day Use area to Happy Isles, passing along the way the area where the big rockslide had killed someone a few months earlier. The driver told us that the entire area was grey, covered with rock dust, and the trees had just been flattened from the impact blast and resultant shock wave. People hadn't been able to breathe from all the dust! This weekend it was just cordoned off, and the color had reappeared. Sometimes, Nature recovers quickly -- quite possibly because in such a raw environment major changes can still be considered normal (with normal- looking aftermath).

We head up towards Vernal Falls, a rather short hike to the bridge which crosses the river below it, get past all the people and move along the trail another quarter-mile or so, finding a nice boulder on which to eat our lunch. It's downstream about 40 feet from the main flat boulder on which most tourists are stopping (ours required a bit more adventure to actually locate and get to). Bread, mustard, turkey, roast beef, cheese, fruit, yum yum! The bees and yellow jackets don't arrive until we're practically done, and the squirrels and blue jays get a reminder that not all tourists feed wildlife. So they go over to the big rock where clueless people feed them delightedly. It's amazing how fast "Oh, How CUTE" overrides any environmental instinct to not feed animals things which they're not supposed to be eating. *sigh*

We took the Mist Trail up past Vernal Falls, towards Nevada Falls. This is like the Stairmaster On Steroids. Huge stone steps, lots of greenery, up up and up, and affording a few places to stop and take pictures -- some classic shots, and a really nice (and Wide) rainbow looking down into the Vernal Falls' spray. Eventually the steps give way to cemented-together granite rocks, continuing up, back and forth, up and up. It's getting really warm, too, and I'm developing some fatigue and a Really Bad Headache. Realizing that I'd not really had that many carbs at lunch (I'd just had the bread with a lot of mustard and roast beef, some turkey, and a couple of grapes), I sit down and have a Met-Rx bar (powerbar + protein).

So, I rest for a while, and continue...and voila, as luck would have it I hadn't been that far from the top anyway. I catch up with Jon and Chris there (I'd told them to go on ahead, we couldn't possibly get lost with only the one trail, and I do like to keep my own pace -- especially if I'm not feeling well), and we look over the bridge across the top of the falls out towards the way we came. Absolutely Beautiful! We move down to a vantage point just below the very top of the falls, where Jon decides to get a better picture by climbing to the other side of the fence. Now, there's about 2 feet of space on the other side before the ledge drops off, and Jon's camera is effectively about 6 inches further out than where it would have been had he leaned over the fence.

Does this make sense to you?

Chris and I don't think so.

I ask Jon if his camera is going to notice the 6 inch difference.

He doesn't think it will.

I ask him if in that case he wouldn't possibly mind moving back over to the safe side of the fence.

He admits he could do that, but that it's just not as exciting.

I've got a picture to prove this happened.

I tell him that it's plenty exciting for us if he falls off because while he wouldn't care anymore it might effectively dampen Chris' and my future enjoyment of the day and since we really wanted to have a good time, and since he wasn't going to gain much of anything by hanging onto the fence from the other side, we'd really appreciate him moving back.

He does. Chris looks relieved. I feel relieved too, but the headache is getting worse. *grin* Quite possibly that is affecting my mood (no sarcasm there, really) anyway; I can understand wanting to go beyond fences and push limits, but personally I try not to do that if it makes someone else uncomfortable. And I was in that wonderful frame of mind where if something bugs me I'll say something about it -- normal for me, but perhaps I'm less patient with it when in pain. Ow. Maybe I'm dehydrated, but I don't think so, I've been drinking plenty of water...

However, this doesn't stop me from mugging for a silly picture...

We had a turnaround mark at 2:15, in order to make Glacier Point for sunset, so we didn't have time to do Half Dome. However, we continue along the trail towards it; this is a nice, mostly sandy and mostly level path in a small valley which eventually leads to the back of Half Dome. Jon and Chris range ahead, and return to say that no, you don't get out of the valley for quite some time, so we just head back towards Nevada Falls. I dunk my hat in the water and put it back on....ooooooh, cold water feels so good sometimes...

We take the John Muir trail back down, on the other side of the falls. This is a hard packed surface, puddles all over the place higher up, with a rock wall. We follow it along a ledge of the ridge facing Nevada Falls, then down into switchbacks through the trees; still hard packed dirt. My (new) boots did a great job, I have to mention; this was the first long day of walking in them and I had no problems up to this point, but eventually the downhill/hard pack did give me a small blister on one toe. My main problem was the headache. It had worsened into semi-severe photosensitivity; at this point I realize I'm actually sick -- both symptoms for me usually mean Fever. At 4:15 I stop for another Met-Rx bar, and Jon and Chris keep me company. It's only another mile to the end (less than that to the fresh water available at the bridge by Vernal Falls -- an important point because by now we're out of water. Jon had eased a young girl's day by giving her one of our bottles; her mom had dragged her up to Nevada Falls with only a 12-oz bottle, so she'd only used half of it, and was apparently already getting dehydrated).

We get down to the fresh water and refill, and continue down to the shuttle stop. I lay down while waiting for the shuttle, which in about 10 minutes arrives, and we take it to the car. Jon drives over to Glacier Point while I fall asleep lying down in the back. By the time I wake up I've got shivers and impending nausea too -- now I know what it is, great, I've got some level of food poisoning. I figure it was probably the roast beef, since Jon and Chris mostly had the turkey, and I had more roast beef than either of them, and it had looked a bit odd but had smelled alright. Last time I don't trust my eyes. sigh.

I take 1.2g of Advil (normal dosage for me), bundle up in Jon's Cornell sweatshirt (ooooooh, waaarrrrrmmm), and slowly walk out to the Point.


It's an absolutely amazing view, the entire valley laid out before you, a light fog interweaving among the lower peaks, Half Dome doing it's normal impressive act as a rather stunning reference point. I find out there's been a fire going on a few miles behind El Capitan; apparently it had been burning for about 3 weeks by now. One of the tourist-info stands even has a map of the burned area and reference points! Others name the various peaks which show against the horizon.

We move to a different vantage point and find out that a Ranger Program is currently going on; a re-enactment of a historical tale of someone (didn't catch the name) wanting to build a hotel on the top of Half Dome! Very funny skit. As it turned out, they were also hosting a star party that night -- we quickly realize that our departure time towards Berkeley is going to be Much Later than we'd planned. *shrug*

We watch two slide shows, the first on general astronomical structures, the second going into more detail and including the recent images from the Hubble Space Telescope! We were impressed. I started talking to the guy running the projecter, turns out he was the one impersonating the wanna-be hotel builder in the earlier skit. Ranger Dick was his name, and the guy doing the first slide show was Dave Rodriguez, followed by Al ??, both at Livermore Labs But we didn't know that until later. Also, my headache is finally subsiding; by the end of the first slide show I am able to see clearly and my head isn't throbbing nearly as badly as before.

After the slide shows we had about 40 minutes until moonrise (full moon), so Ranger Dave led a naked-eye constellation viewing, tying in some of the Native American myths which go along with them. Turns out that many many cultures have all called Ursa Major something to do with bears! We identified Ursa Major/Minor, found out that the Little Dipper hasn't been seen in Los Angeles since World War II (light pollution), Cassiopea, Pegasus, Perseus, Hercules, Andromeda, the Milky Way, Scorpio (with Antares), Jupiter, and Saturn as it was rising in the east/northeast. The moon rose around 10pm, wiping out a large portion of the visible stars, but making a beautiful picture as it rose over the Yosemite horizon.

After moonrise we continued looking through the varous telescopes people had brought up the mountain, talking with their owners, viewing the moons of Jupiter and Saturn's rings. Ranger Dick is going to be living up there alone for most of the winter, but will be visiting Los Angeles in the spring, so I gave him a business card. We talked with Dave Rodreguez more, turns out he knows Dave Atkinson (one of the JPL Radio Science folks) and has seen my WWW page! Small world.

We finally left around 11pm, Jon driving, me sleeping so Jon could wake me up when he got tired. He did so around 1:30am, about 1/2 hour out of Oakdale -- which was the first place we could get gas; there are no 24-hour gas stations between Yosemite Valley and Oakdale! Luckily our gas gauge was only on the second rung of the "E"; Jon claims that there is still about 20 miles after it sits on the floor of the bottom rung of the "E" but I was just as happy to not test that.

We fill up, I get a huge Mountain Dew (ooooh, caffeine fix!!), and continue driving. We get to KJ's place around 3:30am, where he was actually awake, having just finished watching MST3K.

Needless to say, we quickly crashed. That is, fell asleep. No longer in the car.