Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Way it Was Yesterday: Yosemite Valley in Autumn

One of my greatest pleasures is the opportunity that I have of living only a two hour drive from Yosemite Valley. Many places in the world are on my bucket list, and I've managed to see a lot of them over the years, but for many of them the visit is short and will probably happen only once in my life. At Yosemite, I get the chance to explore and revisit places throughout the year. I joke sometimes that my favorite time of the year in Yosemite is the time that I happen to be there, but autumn is truly special.
Yosemite may not have millions of acres of deciduous forests like those in the eastern United States (and the fall colors of such places are on my bucket list), but the valley offers plenty of colorful trees and shrubs with gigantic cliffs as a backdrop, and the calm still pools of the Merced River as a reflecting mirror.
As I mentioned in the previous post, we discovered a nice little spot on the Merced River across from the sheer cliff of El Capitan. I don't think I've captured it before mirrored in the river as it is in the photos above.
 We moved up the road a bit to the Swinging Bridge Parking Lot, which was full of people as usual, but it wasn't hard to wander across the bridge and leave most of them behind. Above is a shot of Yosemite Falls (minus the water, of course) with the Merced River in the foreground.
Behind me on the southwest side of the valley were the cliffs of Taft Point and Sentinel Rock. The rocks are rugged and amazingly steep, but sometimes receive a bit less attention with Yosemite Falls just across the river.
Half Dome wasn't yet visible, but we could see the high peak of Clouds Rest at the upper end of the valley, along with Washington Column and the steep cliffs below Half Dome.
To the west were the cliffs of the Three Brothers. The largest rockfall in modern times thundered off the cliffs there in 1987, when 600,000 cubic yards fell onto the valley floor. No one was injured, but the road was blocked for a while. If you want to know a bit more about this rockfall and others, check out my roadside guide to the geology of Yosemite Valley over at Geotripper Images.
Looming high above Swinging Bridge is the towering spire of Sentinel Rock. It's not so easy to climb, but Sentinel Dome lies behind it, and is accessible by an easy trail from the Glacier Point Road. I recommend it, but I have a feeling that with the first substantial storm coming in tomorrow or Tuesday, you might have to wait until next summer to check it out!
Our next stop was Sentinel Bridge for one of the most iconic views of Half Dome. Autumn is one of the best times of the year for photographs as the river is low and calm, providing wonderful reflections. Sometimes, though, I just don't get the moronic things that people do. I cropped it out, but someone had tied a swing rope to a tree on the left side of the river. I tried to pull it down, but couldn't, so there it remains. I'll see if someone removes it before next week when I come up with the students from my Earth Science course.

The other side of the bridge offers a nice view down the valley towards Yosemite Falls, and on that side another idiot had strung a rope across the river, and was trying to cross the river in a hammock kind of thing. He was having problems with his contraption, and I am glad to report that he sploshed into the river. I would have liked it even more if a ranger had happened by and ticketed him for something or another. Recreation is great, but don't do it in front of the most iconic picture spots in the valley (I'm reminded of the selfish people who linger in Delicate Arch in Arches National Park just as the sun is setting and dozens of people are trying to photograph the span without people mugging for cameras in the middle of it).
 Our last stop before leaving was in the meadow next to the Ahwahnee Hotel. The view is towards Happy Isles and Glacier Point. The day was every bit as peaceful as it looks, and the vast majority of people that I saw there were clearly loving the view. Everyone seemed just a bit quieter and introspective than the boisterous crowds I experience in the summertime.
 It was a beautiful day in one of my favorite places during my favorite times of the year!


Anonymous said...

Your photographs are amazing. Thanks for posting

Anonymous said...

Your photos really tell the story of the beauty that is Yosemite. Thanks for sharing.