YOSEMITE VALLEY FALL November 11, 2003

Seeking to make a good test drive of my repaired car, as well as a visit in search of fall colors, I picked up a friend to carpool. We both are digital photographers, so would get along well with the many photo stops in this most beautiful of locales.

My park pass allowed us free entry, and we noted the fresh snow along CA 120 near Crane Flat. Did we see people trying to cross-country ski? I stopped at the first viewpoint of the big Valley sights, and we started snapping away. Coming into the Valley, I was able to pull off the road and photograph many reddish or pink dogwood leaves. The Merced River makes for a good backdrop.

Four coyotes were ambling along the pavement. I turned around for a picture. Several other cars were stopping in the road for shots. The animals weren't very afraid, being protected by law within the park.

Motoring on, I made stops at the several designated pullouts for pictures. El Capitan and Yosemite Falls are classic views. It was about noon, so I strolled on a boardwalk across a meadow while my companion had lunch. I had no firm plans except to get good pictures.

The Valley isn't well heralded for fall colors. The dogwood are mostly pale red at best, and the maples do not turn red. Some oaks added variety, but they make a common sight in other parts of the low Sierra. The falls weren't running hardly at all, with the biggest falls almost dry. There was some snow left over from the past storms, but not the heavy dusting I wished to see. It may be still too warm.

Headed for Yosemite Village, we toured the shops and saw a new, smaller, NPS visitor center. I purchased some Christmas cards at the Ansel Adams Gallery, thanks to a helpful clerk. We ambled over to the big meadow to the east, and I shot many photos of Half Dome. One of the residences next to a paved walkway has such a million dollar view!

A parade of children, led by teachers, perhaps, celebrated the holiday with flags, and paint-up in the red, white, and blue. I snapped a few photos, but it was too much in shadow to be sharp.

We intended to go for a long walk, but the shadows of the valley incur some cooler temperatures. Back to my car, we were then going to take the free shuttle bus, but it runs only once an hour for the winter. The buses we saw were quite filled.

I followed signs, by car, to the trailhead parking, and we took a new, official, "detour" trail through Happy Isles. It climbs through good stands of dogwood and maples, much still green. Looking up, I saw the cliffs where massive rockfalls crashed down in the past decade.

The trail is marked with detour signs, and then I spotted the old Vernal Falls Bridge below us. We had set a turn-around time, closely approaching, and there was a use trail going down to the bridge. Vernal Falls was hardly running, too. They are rebuilding the bridge, apparently, and the detour trail intersects the Muir Trail, further along. I wished to get back to a sunlit view of Half Dome from the Valley, so we turned around and headed back. Our total hike time here was some 70 minutes. Several other hikers were enjoying this detour. Something new for 2003!

About 4 p.m., I headed back for the Village, and gained a great view back to Half Dome. On our way out, there were some good sights for a few quick photo stops, then the sun began to set. I watched the alpenglow on the hills above the Valley, and then we decided that was enough.

Coming back to our carpool point, I motored on home to enjoy the rest of a modestly long drive with a very leisurely day.

I hiked some 3 miles with 400' gain. I shot some 195 digital images and movie clips, with a few frames of Kodachrome. Paying three dollars for the cards, I used maybe 9 gallons of fuel.

There is some potential for more fall colors yet, with fresh green leaves on many trees. If they do not drop off, some fall colors are still to be seen, for this season, in the weeks to come.