Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Beautiful and Precious Day: How it was in Yosemite 2

My geology field trip to Yosemite Valley last weekend was one of those stunningly beautiful days, the kind made all the better by the clearing storm that cleaned the air, filled the waterfalls, and left a wonderful pine-filled scent throughout the valley. Although I had two dozen students with me, I had a two hour break in the middle of the afternoon (because we needed to utilize the NPS trams to get around the valley, we made "appointments" at various spots on the valley floor). With those two hours I had a choice of walking four miles along the Valley Loop Trail, or sitting in a pizza joint and grabbing a tram at the last second. I opted for the former.

For all the times I've been to Yosemite Valley, the north side of the Valley Loop Trail was a new one for me. I'd been on parts of it here and there, but not the whole thing. It was pleasantly deserted, and offered some very nice perspectives on familiar sights from new angles. I started at Yosemite Falls and walked around the base of Yosemite Point (above), which towers about 3,000 feet above. That little spire near the tip is Lost Arrow, a famous destination for rock climbers. It formed as a consequence of vertical joints (fractures) in the granitic rock.

I had thought the trail stuck to the valley floor, but it actually climbed a hundred feet or more onto the talus slopes, giving a nice view down-valley towards the Cathedral Rocks and Cathedral Spire. These cliffs, famous, but sometimes overshadowed by El Capitan across the valley, are also the result of vertical joints. The Cathedral Rocks (slightly right and partly obscured by clouds) have widely spaced joints that could not be effectively quarried by the glaciers, the cliffs are bold and protrude as bold cliffs.
Zooming in on one of the Cathedral Spires reveals a more narrow and sharper tower. The cliffs are more closely jointed. Looking closely in the clefts, one can see fall colors starting up (click on the picture for a closer view).

The trail is a pleasant and quiet way to explore the valley. It was not a crowded day anyway, but I seriously saw no more than 4-5 people in an hour. The sound of motors was present, but distant.
I wasn't the only person in Yosemite last weekend. Fellow teacher of geosciences SciGuy315 posted a series of absolutely stunning photos of a rainbow in Yosemite Falls, from across the valley on Sentinel Dome. With his permission, I've posted one of them here. Copyright is obviously his, check the link for contact info.
Precious? Every day in Yosemite is precious! If you want to learn more about the geology of this wonderful place, check out my newly revised roadguide to the geology of Yosemite Valley at Geotripper Images. I also did a themed blog series some time back called Under the Volcano and Into the Abyss.
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