The Hoppy Okapi

Occasional posts about hiking and other stuff

Yosemite Hike: Clouds Rest September 20, 2009

Yosemite Flashback #5: Clouds Rest, September 20, 2008:

Half Dome and beyond, from Clouds Rest summit

Half Dome and beyond, from Clouds Rest summit

Clouds Rest was the final long hike (and final overall hike!) of our Yosemite trip. Because our hiking guide claims that it is 14 miles rounds trip and over 3200 feet of elevation gain, I was really kind of dreading the hike, but the sheer joy of climbing the final ascent of Clouds Rest and the incredible views from the top, where it feels like you’re looking down on the whole world, made it all worthwhile.

Scenery near the beginning of Clouds Rest hike

Scenery near the beginning of Clouds Rest hike

This was another hike that started near Tuolumne Meadows, so we woke up early and left the lodge around 7am to arrive at the trailhead around 8:15. The trailhead was already crowded when we arrived, a mix of day-hikers getting an early Saturday start and people camping in the wilderness and even in the parking lot.

Scenery near the trailhead

Scenery near the trailhead

We started from the Sunrise trailhead, as our hiking book seemed to suggest a phantom “Tenaya Lake” trailhead that we were simply unable to find. We started our hike, with the initial sign promising us 7.1 miles to Clouds Rest, starting off in a pine forest as so many of these hikes do. We passed a mini-meadow, traipsed along a flat trail, then descended a little bit after about half a mile.

A pretty pond along the Clouds Rest Trail

A pretty pond along the Clouds Rest Trail

the other end of the alpine pond

the other end of the alpine pond

After some minor undulations, we began the first of two eeevil uphill sections that I had been dreading based on the trail profiles in our book – this ascent was shown as a mile and a half of steep climbing. It started out on a mild ascent, a sandy pine-covered trail climbing slowly onto a rockier ridge. After some climbing on the rocks, we soon came to…steps! I do really dislike steps on trails, but I was already in ultra-slow mode, prepared for the mile-and-a-half long slog I believed this to be. We made our way ever so slowly along the rocky trail, stairs intermingled with rocky inclines, upward and onward until finally the ascent started to lessen, rocks and stairs fading into another shady wooded trail. Right about then, when I had hope of reaching the top soon, the top of the ridge in sight, Chuck said that we still had almost half the climb to go, and I fell into despair at the thought. Alas it was a false panic, created by the ridiculous exaggeration of our hiking book, and we truly were only about a tenth of a mile short of the ridge.

Our first view of Clouds Rest from the trail

Our first view of Clouds Rest from the trail

We reached the junction at the top at 2.5 miles from the trailhead, instead of the 2.9 miles the book would have us believe, and took a break for a snack on top of the hill. Shortly after the junction, we descended steeply for about 300 feet of elevation – it wasn’t nearly as steep as the descent to the base of North Dome, but we could tell it would hurt a little on the way back! From there the trail had a few more undulations, past a peaceful looking pond (well below its high water mark so late in the season) and a few “creeklets” that actually did still have water; we then climbed steeply up again for a few minutes before settling into a more gentle slope for our final long ascent to the base of Clouds Rest.

Chuck and I at the beginning of the final ascent

Chuck and I at the beginning of the final ascent

As we passed the final trail junction, we noticed something peculiar – according to the trail signs, the distance to Clouds Rest from the trailhead kept increasing! First it was 7.1 miles, then 2.5 to the trailhead and 4.7 to the summit (for a total of 7.2 miles), then finally it was 5.3 miles to the trailhead and 2.5 to Clouds Rest – a total of 7.8 miles! Either someone is bad at math, or the Clouds Rest trail exists in some sort of space warp. That was both odd and somewhat discouraging, but we kept trekking onward.

Me climbing to the top of Clouds Rest

Me climbing to the top of Clouds Rest

Before too long, we got our first glimpse of Clouds Rest from the trail, and it certainly appeared to be close enough to inspire us to keep moving!

Chuck ascending to Clouds Rest summit

Chuck ascending to Clouds Rest summit

We rounded the ridge and started approaching the east shoulder of Clouds Rest, ascending up the rocky shoulder then dropping a little to the side until we came to a spot just below the summit trail, where some hikers waited for their companions to return from the top. From the summit trail sign location it was perfectly clear that reaching the summit would be ultra-fun, and much less scary than Half Dome.

Ascending Clouds Rest summit

Ascending Clouds Rest summit

The ascent stretched out before us, a series of ever higher granite pillows flattening each other as they led up to the top. We set off on the summit path gleefully, each slowly finding our path up the final ridge. For a while I stuck to a lower path on the right, but as I became more comfortable I started to walk along the highest part of the ridge. That was quite exhilarating, as the cliff edge seemed to fall away rapidly on either side.

View from top of CLouds Rest I

View from top of CLouds Rest I

I was still enjoying the top-of-the-world feeling as we reached the summit, where we again had amazing views of Half Dome (to our west this time) plus the Sierras and the previously unseen Merced River valley.

View from top of Clouds Rest II

View from top of Clouds Rest II

View from the top of CLouds Rest III

View from the top of Clouds Rest III

We fought off some bees as we ate our sandwiches at the summit, and enjoyed the windy views for a while before heading back down.

Me at the top of Clouds rest

Me at the top of Clouds Rest

Chuck at the top of Clouds Rest

Chuck at the top of Clouds Rest

As we descended, we passed a few more people making the trek out to Cloud’s Rest, and tried to give them encouragement to reach the top. (The summit, by the way, was only 6.1 miles from the trailhead according to our GPS, nearly a mile shorter then the most conservative sign claimed – bizarre!).

The pine-flanked trail on the way back...

The pine-flanked trail on the way back...

On our way down, I almost stepped on a chipmunk that Chuck spotted – it was upside down with hind legs sticking our of a hole on the trail, then it suddenly broke free and darted right past me to hide in a tree.

Gooey sap on tree trunk

Gooey sap on tree trunk

We made sure to stop for lots of pictures of the high sierra scenery on the return trip – topping out at over 9900 feet, this was our highest hike by about 500 feet over Lembert Dome.

High-Sierra scenery

High-Sierra scenery

We fortified ourselves with some beef jerky before the big ascent back to the trail junctions, and only stopped to let descending hikers pass as we trudged up our last big hill.

an alpine meadow

an alpine meadow

Moments later on the perilous (to my ankles) mile-long descent, I was actually surprised that I made it up that ascent with so few stops along the way. Certainly descending was faster than the steep climb up, but picking our way safely through the rocky switchbacks was still tiring going downhill.

A few wildflowers still blooming in the meadow

A few wildflowers still blooming in the meadow

Once we reached the bottom, we had only a few minor undulations and a tricky trail junction (I almost went the wrong way! GPS to the rescue) left, and we found our was back to the car triumphantly, happy with the twelve mile trek and our cloudless trip to Clouds Rest.

Rocky terrain and bendy trees

Rocky terrain and bendy trees

 

Yosemite Hike: Sentinel Dome and Taft Point September 14, 2009

Filed under: hiking,outdoors,Uncategorized,vacation — Amanda @ 12:44

Yosemite Flashback #4: Sentinel Dome, Taft Point, Glacier Point, September 19, 2008:

Yosemite Valley from Glacier Point

Yosemite Valley from Glacier Point

On our “rest day” between big hikes, we headed out to Glacier Point Road on the south side of Yosemite Valley to tackle Sentinel Dome and Taft Point, two small hikes starting at the same trailhead just a few miles away from Glacier Point. Since I was feeling kind of lazy and Sentinel Dome sounded like the harder of the two from our books, we did that one first.

First view of Sentinel Dome from the trail

First view of Sentinel Dome from the trail

From the trailhead, we followed the Sentinel Dome trail east through a lightly-forested ridge, the trail mostly flat or gently ascending. After about half a mile, we scampered across an exposed granite bank, then up through the pine-covered base as we walked around to the east of the dome.

Peek-a-boo! View fo Half Dome through the pine trees

Peek-a-boo! View fo Half Dome through the pine trees

Already enjoying good views of Half Dome to our right, we walked up to the Dome itself, finding spectacular views and a lot of wind at the summit.

The Sentinel Dome summit "trail"

The Sentinel Dome summit "trail"

Me climbing to the top of Sentinel Dome

Me climbing to the top of Sentinel Dome

From the top of Sentinel Dome, you get a 360 degree view of Yosemite and the Sierras; since the day was fairly clear, we got incredible glimpses of high peaks in the distance, and we had fun identifying the, using the circular brass plaque erected on the top of the dome. This was a great hike, probably with the biggest view-vs-effort payoff of any hike we did. We took lots of pictures (with Pandora!) at the top, then headed back down the trail to start on our other hike.

View from Sentinel Dome I

View from Sentinel Dome I

View from Sentinel Dome II

View from Sentinel Dome II

View from Sentinel Dome III

View from Sentinel Dome III

View from Sentinel Dome IV

View from Sentinel Dome IV

Me on Sentinel Dome

Me on Sentinel Dome

Pandora points the way to Taft Point

Pandora points the way to Taft Point

The trail to Taft Point was more forested than the one to Sentinel Dome, and it headed generally downhill until descending more sharply down a ridge to an exposed rocky outcrop.

Trail to Taft Point

Trail to Taft Point

Walking along the edge of the outcrop, we came to The Fissures, a set of cracks in the cliff that were large enough to climb (or fall!) into if we had been feeling especially brave or crazy. For all that our book describes them as “five vertical, parallel fractures”, I was somehow expecting them to be far more numerous or grand than they actually were.

View from near the Fissures

View from near the Fissures

Me on an outcropping near Taft Point

Me on an outcropping near Taft Point

We headed out to the little railed overlook (it seemed much scarier looking down, as the rock seemed to fall away underneath), then around to another outcropping just below the point, where we got to screech “Nevermore” at some ravens.

Nevermore!

Nevermore!

The view from Taft Point and and thereabout was nice, but compared to the spectacular panorama of Sentinel Dome it didn’t quite generate the same lelvel of excitement. After walking back to the car, we drove over to Glacier Point, stopping along the way for pictures at an overlook with views to the east and south.

Pandora peers to the southeast

Pandora peers to the southeast

Chuck takes in the view

Chuck takes in the view

Glacier Point was a Grand Canyon-like viewpoint with a mini-geology center, amphitheater and gift shop. The main destination is a railed-in section of cliff where you can gaze down all the features of the valley below.

View fo Yosemite Valley from Glacier Point

View of Yosemite Valley from Glacier Point

View of Clouds Rest from Glacier Point

View of Clouds Rest from Glacier Point

 

We have lights! September 3, 2009

Filed under: home,kitties — Amanda @ 20:51
Tags: , ,
Icicle Lights

Icicle Lights

Nearly a year and a half ago, I wrote that cooking in the dark was no fun, and that kitchen lights were a top purchasing priority…and now with summer’s long daylight hours fading into memory again, we finally got some lights! Despite his frustrations installing the light in our bedroom last year, Chuck bravely set forth to install our new kitchen and dining room lights.

The kitchen ceilings are only eight feet tall, so the first installation went fairly smoothly. It’s a small spiral with five adjustable spotlights that we’ve aimed at the counters:

Kitchen Light

Kitchen Light

The ceilings in the dining room are a bit higher, and installation there required a bit more…creativity:

Chuck's ladder-on-desk light installation method

Chuck's ladder-on-desk light installation method

Zephyr was fascinated by the light installation process; in this picture, I’m pretty sure he’s thinking about hor crazy Chuck is to be standing on top of a ladder on top of a desk…

IMG_0536

Zephyr says "What's going on up there?"

The light fixture looks like a giant stainless steel spider…

the itsy bitsy spider climbed up the concrete ceiling...

the itsy bitsy spider climbed up the concrete ceiling...

A few lightbulbs and many glass icicles later, we have a light!

Icicle Lights

Icicle Lights

Another look at the kitchen light:

IMG_0547

After installation was complete, Zephyr needed to do a close-up inspection:

Zephyr checks out the new light

Zephyr checks out the new light

Later we discovered that the icicles are sitting directly in the jetstream of the air conditioning vent, and thus sway lightly in the wind, but luckily they’re high enough to be safe from curious kitties who might try to jump from the table top. I think we’ll keep them (the lights AND the kitties, that is).

IMG_0565

 

 
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