Our family just got back from a few days in the glorious Yosemite National Park. We had an excellent time all around, with gorgeous scenery and some challenging hikes.
Upon our drive up, one thing stood out clearly, and that is all the dead trees in the Sierra Nevada and foothills. This is a news story that has been circulating, around here at least, for a month or so. After five years of serious drought conditions, and an increase in a certain beetle that preys on weak trees, the situation is dire. Looking around, it's impossible not to be awestruck at the magnitude of the problem and the possible fire danger. It's going to take years to remove all these trees.
The scope of the issue was very evident on our first day at the Hetch Hetchy reservoir.
Yosemite alone is nearly 1500 square miles. The Sierra Nevada range spans a distance of nearly 40,000 square miles. If one of every three trees is dead, you can start to grasp the enormity of the issue.
However, at Hetch Hetchy, there were plenty of nice things to look at, too! Clarkias and lupines, flowers that bloom in my yard in April and May, were on full display here, along with goldenrod, prairie coneflowers, and popcorn flower. In the meadows, there were carpets of blossoms.
The reservoir itself is spectacular, with one active waterfall at the moment, and more in the Spring. We took a hike up to see the lone fall. Some of us dropped out after a mile or so up, some of us after 2 miles or so, and Adam and my dad made it all the way to the falls. Dad brought his filter, which was great on these hot, dry hikes - as long as we could find a stream or lake to dip in to.
Our second day, we drove the the east rim of the park and explored Tuolumne Meadows. We started with an overlook of the Valley.
After driving through the meadow, we parked and took a hike up around Lembert Dome to Dog Lake. It was a challenging, rocky path up to 9200 feet, and the altitude made us very short of breath, but the weather here was very cool and breezy and our lunch spot at the lake was gorgeous.
On our third day, Adam and my dad decided to take an extremely challenging hike to the top of Upper Yosemite Falls. This was a 7 mile round trip, 2700 foot elevation gain climb to the very top. For perspective, El Capitan is 3,000 feet tall, so they hiked nearly that high. It took them all day, but that was an experience Adam will never forget. Tom, Kate, my mom, and I decided to spend the day on the Valley floor, walking around, exploring, and taking a smaller hike to Bridalveil Falls (hiking is very decidedly NOT Kate's favorite thing). Man, was it crowded. There are backpackers getting permits and bear canisters and food and then heading out to the back country. There are tourists from every country you can imagine. There are day hikers, like us, looking for water and a shady patch to cool down (the temperature on the Valley floor was 95, a considerable difference then in Tuolumne Meadows the day before). There are kids everywhere and families riding bikes all along the Valley. It sure is great to see so many people enjoying this National Park, but it does sort of stink to navigate the traffic. Like many National Parks, Yosemite is trying out a shuttle system to prevent folks from driving from one spot to the next, and it helps a bit. There's a LOT of people, though.
Today, we had a nice leisurely drive home with a stop at a cheesemaking farm in Oakdale. We bought some of their aged gouda, some fresh baguette that had just come out of the oven, and some salami. We stopped off at the next farmstand and bought a flat of strawberries. Lunch was complete. Finding a picturesque spot to eat it an hour on, around Tracy, wasn't so easy, but we finally found a neighborhood park in which to enjoy our purchases.
The person who had lived at our home this week did a wonderful job, and we came home to a garden full of tomatoes, cucumbers, and green beans. The animals seemed happy to see us, and I spent a good amount of time taking a look around. It's nice to travel, but nice to come home!
This last plant is very interesting. It puts out greenery in the Spring, which then dies back. In the hot summer, it blooms without any foliage, hence the common name 'naked lady.' But it's actually the only true Amaryllis. The ones we see indoors at Christmas aren't really amaryllis at all. They are from an entirely different family!