Tuesday, October 5, 2010 Fog, rain, 50 degrees in Yosemite Valley, 40 degrees in Mariposa Grove
One and four tenths inches of rain fell in Yosemite Valley yesterday, but snow in the northeastern portion of park closed Tioga Pass. The rain and fog continued today in the rest of the park.
We decided that we would retrace yesterday's stops before heading around the mountain to Mariposa Grove. The play of light and fog created ever changing scenes as we drove into the park. El Capitan looked mysterious as it was concealed by fog and then reappeared again. Bridalveil Falls was visible, but only the Lower Yosemite Falls was in view, and Half Dome was completely hidden.
We also drove through Curry Village which is the setting for much of the camping in Yosemite. There are spaces for tents, campers, and RV's, but there are also permanent tents set up on platforms. Heat is available, and it sure was needed day with the low temperatures and high humidity overnight.
Finally we started up CA 41 toward Mariposa. We hadn't gone far when we came to Tunnel View, a pull-out just before the tunnel on the road to Wawona and Mariposa. This spot provides one of the park's most recognizable vistas, memorialized by photographer Ansel Adams. Looking to the right we could see Bridalveil Falls from its precipice until its spray disappeared behind the trees. Directly across the valley was El Capitan still partial hidden in fog, and Half Dome, straight ahead, was still completely obscured. We stayed at the overlook for quite awhile waiting in vain for the fog to clear.
The road to Mariposa is strictly a driving road. There are no pull-outs, and trees are close to the road, blocking any possible views. It is also under construction, but the delay was no more than ten minutes. We were losing altitude so we were hoping for clearing and higher temps. No luck.
We took a two mile hike through the Lower Mariposa Grove in steady rain. This area is home to a stand of giant sequoias, some of which are about 3,000 years old, 300 feet tall, 50 feet in circumference, and weigh an average of 2 million pounds. Tannin is responsible for the red color of the sequoias, and it also makes it resistant to rot and insect infestation.
Along the trail we saw a plant called horsetail which looks like a thin stalk of asparagus, thriving in the same moist environment as the sequoias. We made our soggy way to Grizzly Giant, the largest tree in the grove, to the Bachelor and Three Graces, and then to the California Tunnel Tree which had its center hewn out years ago to draw tourists to the park. A tram ride through the grove was available, but we had more shelter under the trees than they.
The stubborn low pressure system is hanging around through tomorrow. Looks like we'll get to enjoy more rain and fog in King's Canyon and Sequoia National Parks.
TODAY'S ROUTE: from Mariposa, CA 140 into Yosemite Valley, then CA 41S to CA 180W to CA 99N in Fresno
From yesterday: A male black-tailed deer, sporting an impressive rack, was grazing nonchalantly in front of the Visitor Center, oblivious to all of the excitement he was causing as young and old grabbed their cameras to snap his picture.