Yosemite Trekker Post #7 --- 7/18/09
A K2 comfort cruiser survives Bridalveil path -- 7/15/09.
The Road Less Traveled (to Bridalveil Fall)
It was a summer morning I'd planned to spend in Cook's Meadow in search of wildflowers. On the way there, however, I saw the trailhead for the famous waterfall at the far end of the valley and decided I could use the exercise.
After seeing some joggers returning along the flat and paved route that starts behind Yosemite Chapel, I figured this trek would be a breeze on my bike. Back to Curry in an hour. No need to bring water... Ha, ha. Less than about a mile and a half into this adventure, my leisurely amble through the woods transformed into a mountain goat's slog! Between the gaps in the deteriorating asphalt, the dried-up stony washes and the rock-laced hillside, my inexpensive little cruiser was taking the beating of its life.
(Before and After...)
Fortunately, the pump and patch kit I forgot to bring with me weren't needed. I could have used a few Clif Bars, though, because after walking - sometimes carrying - my bike over many steep granite inclines, my stamina was taxed to the limit. The challenging topography begins just after crossing the intersection with the 4-mile trail to Glacier Point (below left). Luckily, the hair-raising course does include one exhilarating stretch in which you sweep down toboggan-like along a pine-needled, dirt-packed run.
And then the alpine trudge up begins a anew. Now I was nose to nose with El Capitan to my right, separated only by the swoosh of the Merced River below and a skinny tract of woodland, some of it burned to a crisp in recent years. I stopped to rest along this open-air ledge - bright sunlight, summer heat and all. Either I was too spent to think clearly or reasoned that the vantage point cancelled out any creature discomfort, I'm not sure which.
Perhaps my internal compass had sensed what lay ahead, for when I rounded the next bend, I glimpsed the sandy tourist trail that connects a parking turnout with the walkway to Bridalveil Fall. I sped directly to the big lot nearby to get a drink of water, but was discouraged to find only restrooms without plumbing. Oh, well, I made the decision to come here without provisions, so a little dehydration I must endure. I hitched my conveyance to a trail sign and joined the scores of other pilgrims hoofing it for the short distance to the waterfall's base.
Like Yosemite Falls, this natural spigot empties the snowmelt from the High Sierras into the Merced. Boys were clambering up and down the rocks around it like bobcats. The grownups pushed strollers or each other. The girls posed for photographs in front of the quintessential backdrop.
In fact, it was something of a mob scene along the stretch of the path that faces the waterfall.
Walking back to my bike, I saw the water from the Falls splurging along and wondered why I couldn't just quench my thirst directly from Mother Nature's tap. Park rangers frown on the practice, warning of Giardia and other pernicious pathogens swirling about Yosemite's creeks and rivers. But I found a little spot where the water was filtering its way through a rock obstacle course with such intensity, I couldn't imagine any parasite withstanding the abuse. I scooped up a couple of mouthfuls from this brook and said a prayer to Cathedral Rocks, which towered somewhere nearby. (The photo below right is of the peaks a little to the west. They sort of look like spires, don't they?)
Here in mid-July, different wildflowers color the otherwise parched landscape back along the road and hillside. The 4000-foot elevation no doubt has something to do with the timing of these late bloomers.
As for getting back to civilization, I wasn't about to retrace my wheel tracks along the same bumpy route from which I came. I followed Southside Drive back instead. Since traffic flows one-way, I was traveling with it now rather than against it, which is considered a moving violation here. Sadly, there's no bike path alongside the road until you reach Swinging Bridge and the 4-mile trail. And that's four miles into the trip! It's a pretty ride coming into the park, or it would be if not for the many speeding packs of RV's and SUV's. Not much of shoulder on Southside Drive, either, so you have to hug the yellow line on the left edge like Dorothy on her way to Oz.
Since the day's sojourn was less demanding on the return leg, I halted several times to photograph interesting landmarks. Below on the left are the twin trees - a Ponderosa pine and incense cedar - that share a root base. President Kennedy saw these two when he toured the park in the 1960s and suggested the everyone should share the planet in a similar manner. On the right is a shot of the Merced River hurling westward with all the water delivered by the various falls streaming down into the valley. As the spigots dry up, the river shrinks in size.
The rock below on the left was the one that John Muir used to prove his theory that glaciers cut the valley to its present contours. He knew the kind of granite that composed it wasn't local and came from about 30 miles north. That meant that it probably rode the glacier down and got deposited here. On the other side of the river is what's called the "terminal moraine", a big bump in the lanscape made up of the debris pile that got pushed ahead of last glacier when it passed through these parts ten thousand years ago.
Needless to say, that glacier had an easier time crossing to the west end of Yosemite Valley than I did. Just like those folks in the raft above. Whoever's raising money for trail renovation in the park (hint: it's the Yosemite Association), the Bridalveil path should be the poster child for your cause.
Return to Yosemite Trekker main menu
Copyright 2009 TheCityEdition.com