Wednesday, March 7, 2012
A Half Dome Day in the Central Valley
The Sierra Nevada in structure is essentially a huge tilted block of granite and metamorphic rocks about 400 miles long and 40-50 miles wide. The gentle slope is on the west side, so the high crest (which reaches 12,000-14,000 feet in elevation) is around 50 miles away as the crow flies from where I live.
An additional problem is air quality. Our fair valley (we actually call it the Great Valley) is completely surrounded by mountains, so the air is usually trapped and pollutants build up ominously. Dust, smoke, pesticides and fertilizers build up from agricultural activity, and industrial smog blows in from the Bay Area. Many of our cities, especially Bakersfield and Fresno, are among the most polluted in the nation.
Seeing Half Dome is especially tricky. It lies at the upper end of Yosemite Valley about two thirds of the way to the Sierra Crest. Although it rises 4,000 feet above the valley floor, it only barely peeks above the other cliffs of the valley. And there are high ridges between the dome and valley making a line of sight impossible.
But...there is a V-shaped notch made by the Merced River canyon that allows Half Dome to be seen from a narrow sliver of land cutting across the towns of Denair and Turlock. I drive past a spot near Keyes Road east of Turlock every Wednesday on the way to class, and if the winds have cleared out the smog, and I've remembered my camera, I can capture the huge mass of rock digitally. You have to know where to look, and you have to use a pretty powerful zoom, but it is there, along with Cloud's Rest.
Enjoy. For my local readers, if you want to see this view, it is about a third of mile south of the intersection of Keyes Road and Hickman Road east of Turlock