Yosemite Park

Published: May 16th 2014
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Vernal FallVernal FallVernal Fall

Rather than just the waterfall on its own I wanted to show the expansive countryside it is in. Those falls are about 350 feet high and the mountain in the back is a couple of miles away.
Before I start my tale of the day, I want to ensure you know that this blog service doesn’t necessarily show all my images in the body of the blog. Often some of the images are further down, below the advertising, at the end of the writing. I don’t like this and will probably not use this service again in the future, but will keep using it on this trip for convenience.


Yosemite Valley is a marvellous sight. Every direction you look there is a view that is unique, not only in the valley, but, to my knowledge, unique to anywhere else in the world. If you haven’t been to Yosemite and walked some of the valley trails, I think you should put it on your bucket list. You won’t be sorry.

After two false starts when I had to go back to the motel and pick up something I forgot (this is common place these days….), I was on the road by 8 am, latte in hand. A very good business man has set up his espresso shop at the edge of Mariposa and he opens at 6 am. What is more, he closes at 9
People at Vernal Fall bridgePeople at Vernal Fall bridgePeople at Vernal Fall bridge

This gives you an idea of what all tourist spots are like in California. And this is not the peak season. It is a matter of time before every popular spot is like this, in fact I think the time is already here in some places like Lake Agnes above Lake Louise.
pm and the same guy, the owner, is there the whole time.

The scenery change on the way up to Yosemite Valley seems to change every mile. It goes from dry country with pine and scrub brush around Mariposa to lush mountain valley scenes with rivers and spectacular waterfalls. On the way up you can see the old railway roadbed across the Merced River on the other side from the road. The Yosemite Valley Railroad was a short-line railroad operating from 1907 to 1945 in the state of California, mostly following the Merced River from Merced to Yosemite National Park, carrying a mixture of passenger and freight traffic. Rail service did not extend to Yosemite Valley itself and ended at the park boundary. Passengers would disembark at the park boundary in El Portal, CA and take a stage coach, and starting in 1913 a motor coach, to Yosemite Valley itself. Most of its traffic were people from San Francisco going to Yosemite for a holiday. I enjoy watching for evidence of old railway lines and imagining the old steamer pulling old wooden passenger cars. For this reason I like studying the country along the old Kettle Valley Line in
Half DomeHalf DomeHalf Dome

One of the most striking peaks of the valley. The other is El Capitan. One of Ansel Adams first breakthroughs in fine art photography was an image he took of this mountain. He was up on another nearby peak and much closer.
BC. In this blog included a copy of an old Yosemite schedule from around 1915 for the train service to the valley.

The foliage in the Yosemite Valley itself is mostly evergreen, pines and redwoods plus a few sequoia trees, but there is a good display of deciduous trees, the prime one being California Black Oak. Different from the pine and cedar forests of the coast, the forest floor is clear of undergrowth and the sunlight playing on the floor is neat. One of those things that I didn’t find easy to capture in a photograph, but I couldn’t help looking through the trees at it.

The night before my visit to Yosemite, I stopped in at the Yosemite Information at Mariposa and, by chance, met one of the guides who was also a good photographer. I asked him what I should do to see what is truly unique about Yosemite. I told him I only had one day and one knee that couldn't handle too much downhill walking. I also told him that I lived near the Rockies in Canada, so a simple walk in the woods wasn’t what I was looking for.

“You should get that knee fixed,” he started. “I had both of my knees replaced two years ago and I can hike anywhere I want again. It is important to me because I make my living as a guide ya know.

And I’ll tell you something else for nothin’, don’t wait too long. Do it while the rest of you is in good enough health to be able to recover properly from the knee operation.”

We finally got into the information about Yellowstone. He continued, “Here is the map you need. First priority, hike to Vernal Fall. Now there is something you don’t have up there in Canada, even in Banff-Jasper. Here is a photograph that I took a couple of weeks ago. If you get down to the creek you can get this shot as well. Mind you, the spray from the falls is heavy so expect to get wet.”

He thought for a bit and then went on. “Make sure to get to the Ansel Adams Gallery. They have some of his original prints there. And another thing you might try is to get up to the base of the Upper Yellowstone Fall, but you still get a good view of that from the valley floor. Do the walk up to Mirror Lake which is under Half Dome.”

“What about El Capitan, Half Dome and the other peaks,” I asked. “How do I see them?”

“Oh you’ll see that as you drive into the valley. You can see all that almost anywhere in the valley.”

A few other groups had arrived in the information centre and were hanging over my shoulder trying to pick up the information. I had enough ,so excused myself and left the guide to the bevy of Chinese folk trying to learn what to do on their visit.

So I set my first objective as Vernal Fall. They call it a fall rather than falls. Don’t know why.

In the park valley proper you park your car and take the park shuttle. I found this to be good as I met several interesting people while being shuttled. As I got off the bus at the trailhead for Vernal Fall I heard someone call out behind me, “We were trying to estimate how much that camera bag weighs that you are carrying.” I turned to find a couple who were
Yosemite Valley Railroad Schedule (1915-1916)Yosemite Valley Railroad Schedule (1915-1916)Yosemite Valley Railroad Schedule (1915-1916)

This would have been an adventure. Taking the train out of San Francisco, transferring and then winding up the valley to the park behind a steam engine. Well, it would have been fun for me anyway.
approaching me. We got into a conversation. They were Mari and David. Both photographers, but Mari had been a professional photographer for most of her life, although she was now fully retired. They were both very interesting and we stood and talked for a good 20 minutes before I set off on the hike. I would love to see some of her images as the stories of some of her jobs/contracts were fascinating.

The trail to Vernal Fall was paved. I presume because it is so well used. The falls were about 3 miles away and the trail rose steep almost all the way. At the end it is so steep that steps are needed. There were lots of people starting at the trail head, some with good walking shoes but many with just sandals or other lounging footwear. Regardless of footwear they all seemed to make it to the top, which was commendable. Near the top I met a couple with their wheelchair bound daughter. The daughter was in her 20’s so she wasn’t that light. They had tied ropes to the wheelchair and had made it almost to the falls. Unfortunately the stairs were a barrier to going any further. Still, I thought, how marvellous. Their daughter was clearly enjoying the hike and so were they. Down in the valley there were many facilities and trails that were wheelchair accessible, so I’m sure they had a great time in the park. I didn’t talk to them about their daughter’s condition, just about how great it was that they were doing the hike together.

You can see from the included images that the falls were pretty spectacular. The closest comparison I could think of in Banff-Jasper was the Athabasca falls near Jasper. I thought the Veral Fall was more picturesque. Probably the huge domed granite mountains looming above the falls added a lot to the scene. I was impressed.

By the time I got back down to the bottom my right knee was hurting. I have no pain from it going up, but coming down is something else. I don’t know whether it is lack of walking exercise or it is just age. I must say, regardless of all the training I do on my bicycle during the winter months hiking long distances taxes me in a different way. Still, I felt good once I was down and walking on the flat again.

I had lunch in Yosemite Village. I tried for some healthy stuff, but what I had still had a lot of salt and fat to it. Awful. Afterward I went the Ansel Adams Gallery and saw more of his original prints. Just to demonstrate to you how famous he is, one of his very best images of Yosemite Valley is called ‘Clearing Winter Storm’. In that gallery they had an original print actually done by Ansel selling for $70,000. Not $7000, but $70,000! I guess an artist has to die for the value of his work to increase. OK, I’m not THAT keen on my photographic art popularity.

During the rest of the day I did a lot of hiking in the valley bottom. I went to Yosemite Falls and to Mirror Lake. The falls were impressive. My goodness they are high. The upper falls reminded me of Takakkaw Falls in the Yoho Valley. However, the upper Yosemite Fall has a drop of 1430 feet compared to 833 feet for Takakkaw.

Mirror Lake wasn’t a mirror at all. This was because the water level is so low that the lake is only at about half its normal depth thus the river flowing in and out of the lake kept it stirred up and moving more than it would normally. Evidently the area had a very low snow fall this past winter and this is effecting the runoff. This was explained to me by a chap who had a large format field camera set up and was photographing the lake with part of Half Dome in the background. For those that don’t know, a field camera is one of those large boxes where the photographer looks at the screen on the back of the camera with a cloth draped over their head so they can see the image on the ground glass screen in the daylight. There are some who still like using this method, although most of them scan the very large negatives and then do the printing digitally.

After going to the Weston Gallery and now the Ansel Adams Gallery I feel rather humble about my own photography, for a couple of reasons. One, I seem to have to make more progress with my ability to fully design an image. Not just composition, tone, and subject, but all those done in tune with each other. Two, I feel a bit down because I find it hard to believe there is anything out there that hasn’t already been photographed and thoroughly explored, artistically speaking. I know, there is always something more, some light that is unique, some storm clouds that show in a way never seen before, or some people who have never been seen in an artistic photograph, but at this moment I wonder how I’m ever going to have the time to develop as far as I need to in order to satisfy my own goals.

Once again I’ve relearned that you can’t just drop into a place and expect to do masterful art work unless you get extremely lucky. You need to be in a place on a regular basis so you can respond to changing conditions and moments of magnificent imagery, or you have to work on a theme or project that takes place over several years and you explore it further wherever you go.


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