Friday, February 17, 2012

Hiking in Yosemite

After procrastinating it by few weeks, we finally hiked in Yosemite for which we prepared ourselves by hiking local mountains.  The plan to leave office by 3:30 was completely changed and we left an hour later, thanks to Roberto and Umesh.  By the time I picked up everyone and revved the SUV towards Yosemite officially it was 7 in the evening.  After a sumptuous dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Santa Nella and picking up coffee at drive-in Starbucks, I drove non-stop to  Yosemite view lodge at El Portal.  We checked in showered and crashed.

We were up by 6 and were out by 7 for getting some golden hour shots, but the lights  and clouds played beautiful drama over the mighty Yosemite valley.  There were patches of light falling on the valley wall and the Yosemite fall and the clouds diffused the light beautifully on the meadows in the center.  There were a herd of photographers covering this natural drama and I joined them.  We then head to the parking at Lower Yosemite, had a look at the Lower Yosemite fall and started our Upper Yosemite hike.  The hike is long, steep, strenuous but definitely picturesque.  After a break for having the tortas that we had packed at the Mexican restaurant on the previous night, we continued to the top.  The mountain tops had fresh snow and was completely obscured by the fog.  Only a small patch of waterfall was visible from the summit of Upper Yosemite.  After relaxing there over energy bars and fruits, we continued our hike to Yosemite point.  The hike was fully among the snow and it was just the way I had pictured in my mind.  At Yosemite point again, the fog formed a heavy veil which, luckily, was torn by the winds only for few seconds and gave a glimpse of the beautiful valley.    We then resumed our descent which was a heavy toll on our knees and thighs and seemed never ending.  We started the hike at 9 in the morning and by the time we touched back the trail head it was 6 in the evening, a normal office hours long.  We grabbed a coffee at the food court and went back to the hotel and showered away all the sweat and fatigue and head out to Mariposa for dinner.

The next day we were up early, had a heavy, healthy breakfast at the restaurant in the hotel, checked out and head out towards Yosemite.  We wanted to do Mist Trail, but were disappointed to know that it was closed during winter.  We stopped by at the river side ahead of the valley and I got lucky with the rainbow on Yosemite fall and a beautiful reflection of it on the water.  It looked like a handwork of an impressionist painter with beautiful hues artfully distorted by the water surface.  We then head to Happy Isles parking and head out towards Vernal fall.  It was a pleasant elevation on the asphalt all the way up to the bridge.  From the bridge, we get a distant view of Vernal fall and the Mist trail starts.  Since it was closed, we decided to take the longer trail to Vernal fall and we were glad we did that.  We got a very different view of the Yosemite valley and we encountered snow again on the mountain top.  As we proceeded towards the fall, the snow gradually turned to ice and it became slippery.  The view of the Vernal fall was splendid and also Nevada fall showed up at the distance.  We went to Emerald Pool and Silver Apron just above Vernal fall and finally reached the top of the Vernal fall which has safety railings.  The feeling was literally "Top of the world", you're standing right next to a roaring fall and have the vista of the pine tree covered valley in front of your eyes.  From there we head to Nevada fall which was another 45min hike.  The beauty of reaching the bottom of the Nevada fall is the gigantic boulders that you have to cross by jumping, scrambling, crawling and pouncing on the rocks.  The bottom of Nevada fall had a huge iceberg underneath of which the water flowed.  After few clicks we hurried our way back with the hope of getting a glimpse of Fire Fall, the famous event that happens in the month of February, in which the light hits  Yosemite fall in a particular angle during sunset that makes the fall look like a falling flame, but we were unlucky.  The clouds had completely veiled the sun and I got was the landscape with fleecy dark clouds.  We then grabbed the same coffee from the same food court, had dinner at the same restaurant at Mariposa and drove back in the rain.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Hiking in Point Reyes

Saturday morning at 7 I received a call from Roberto which was quite surprising, a Mexican waking up at 7 on a weekend morning!  He told me "No te levantas todovia?  Voy a pasar por ti en trienta minutos" (Not awake yet? I'm gonna be there in thirty minutes).  Cursing him for waking me up that early, I got out of bed and was ready in fourty minutes and he took exactly sixty minutes to reach.  Almost by a toss of a coin we decided if our destination was Mt. Diablo or Point Reyes and we decided on the latter since the former was tougher and for both of us it was quite a while that we had hiked and kept the former for the weekends to come.

We drove for two hours with a coffee break at San Francisco to reach Point Reyes National Seashore.  We wanted to do Palomarin trail but we ended up at Bear Valley trailhead.  After collecting the map and required information at the information center at the trailhead we started our hiking exactly at 11:00AM.  Instead of taking the conventional and easy Bear Valley trail, we deviated to Mt. Wittenberg trail and there was a steep hike for first one hour till we reached the summit of Mt. Wittenberg.  The view from the top was breathtaking - pine trees in the foreground and blue Pacific in the background.

We then took Sky Trail to reach Arch rock area which was a good three hours hiking.  The view of the Pacific kept changing as we walked with beautiful stony islands at the horizon and a spectacular play of light on the blue waters.  We reached Arch Rock area by around 3PM and it was crowded with hikers.  Arch Rock is an overlook point which has a terrific view of the Pacific, it's an outstretched piece of elevated land over the beach.  There is a small rocky trail that takes you down to the cove which is a bit of an adventure.  One has to cross the creek holding the rocks and go down to reach the actual arch which forms a small estuary opening to the beach.  I believe its hard to reach this place if the tides are high.  Even though it's a tad tough and adventurous to reach this place, I personally felt this is the best part of the whole hike.   I so missed my tripod there but could get a couple of reasonable shots handheld. 

With a couple of energy bars and water, our energies were pretty much drained out but we still had 4 miles of Bear Valley Trail to hike to reach to the trailhead.  We talked about camping, about babes, about bikes, about movies, about music and somehow finished it.  Our legs were sore but hearts were happy for the fatigue of the hike, we drove down to Novato to refuel the car and ourselves with some delicious comida Mexicana serverd by a beautiful chica Mexicana in Novato and drove back home.