what a difference a day makes
Not wanting to dawdle at the campsite like we had the previous day, we set out for a short hike before breakfast. It was a pleasant 2.5 mile round trip hike from our campsite to Mirror Lake. The lake supposedly reflects Half Dome, but in order to get that view one has to hike next to the road. We decided to walk on the more scenic horse path, so we wound up on the other side of the lake, looking up at North Dome instead.
After breakfast, a bit of laziness set in. We had to leave the Valley and set up camp in Wawona on the southwestern edge of Yosemite. And because the presence of bears makes it inadvisable to lock up food in one’s car, we could not simply park and go for a hike after checking out of our Valley campsite, which we had to vacate before noon. After hiking for 9+ hours the previous day, we decided to take it easy and spend our afternoon driving around, stopping to take pictures at various scenic spots before heading south towards Wawona.
Unlike the previous day, most of which we had spent swathed in clouds, we woke up to clear blue skies and sunshine. The turnoff for Glacier Point was on the way to Wawona. Some of the roads in Yosemite are closed for the winter, and the previous day the Glacier Point road, which goes up to 7200 feet, was still off limits to vehicular traffic. Fortune smiled on us – the road had been opened for the first time this season that very morning and we joined a throng of cars on the 16-mile zig-zag route all the way to the top.
The view we should have had the day before when we hiked up to Glacier Point was indescribably beautiful. The entire Valley was spread out for us to admire, with Yosemite Falls on one side and the two waterfalls we had hiked the previous day on the other. The Sacred Arches, Clouds Rest, and various other peaks and giant granite domes, all strikingly sculpted by millenia of glacial water erosion, were on display. And towering above it all, the naked frame of Half Dome, with a wisp of snow still clinging to its summit, dominated the skyline.
Not only had the road opened that morning, but also the café that had been closed the previous day. There was hardly a soul at Glacier Point when we hiked up there the day before. This time, half the Valley seemed to have made the trip up, and almost no one had bothered to do so using their own two feet. We manouevered among a throng of would-be amateur photographers, all of them toting small cameras and giant tripods – why they needed the extra stability to photograph the unmoving peaks and valleys that had stood still for eons we’ll never know.
After snapping a few photos ourselves of what must surely be among the most photographed mountains in the United States, we brought our lunch from the car and sat soaking in the sunshine and enjoying the view for which we had worked so hard the day before and which had nonetheless eluded us. Somehow the time flew by and it was 4pm by the time we finally made it off Glacier Point and down to Wawona. To balance out the gorgeous afternoon, it started drizzling soon after we set up camp, so we spent the evening in our tent, hoping for good weather for the next morning – our last before departing Yosemite.