Yosemite: A Travelogueby Bhooma Sundararajan June 11 2020, 8:21 am Estimated Reading Time: 11 mins, 24 secs
Bhooma Sundararajan transports you to Yosemite and brings you back from an exhilarating journey from there.
My first visit to Yosemite was in 2011 on my 49th birthday. It was also my first visit to any national park. My kids were students then.
My son gets very excited when it comes to going on such trips to see natural places of the world. In his excitement, he jumped like a small boy of 10 years old, only to hit his head on a chandelier and crack his skull with blood flooding out and soaking his shirt.
Cancelling the trip was on our minds, much to his dismay. I guess it was his firm determination and willpower to go on this trip that healed his skull.
My son was on an internship in a company and my daughter was visiting Los Angeles to attend a conference. Here I must appreciate my kids, my sister and her family for the effort they took to make this trip happen especially when money and time were two constraints.
My knowledge about Yosemite was nil. I associated national parks with the parks in India. I was e-illiterate as well.
Google search, a gateway to knowledge was beyond my comprehension It was during this trip that I learnt Yosemite is America’s most treasured place. We hiked up to the Vernal falls, saw The Bridal Falls and went to Glacier Point.
Yosemite had a lot of snowfall that year. The snow fed waterfalls was at their best. It was also the wettest year of the decade.
The lakes were full. The sound of gushing water could be heard from anywhere in the valley. The scenery was so breathtaking and colorful that I thought for a moment, I was in another world.
The road to Glacier point had been opened only the previous week post winter. It had snow piled up on the edges.
At the Glacier point, we sat on a rock from where Half Dome was very clearly visible. Half Dome is a granite dome located on the eastern end of the valley. The Granite Crest rises more than 4737 ft. above the valley floor. A ranger explained to us that this Half Dome which was “perfectly inaccessible” till 1870, was conquered by George G Anderson in Oct 1875, who then made it “perfectly accessible”.
He also told us that now thousands of hikers reach the top each year following a trail from the valley floor, and that the final leg of the hike was completed with the help of steel cables laid on the rock.
My son was listening intently. His mind was convinced about doing this hike once in his life. Hearing about how difficult the last leg was going to be, made my stomach churn and my heart started its usual job of beating rapidly. I told myself to postpone this anxiety and to cross the bridge when the time comes.
I had a wonderful 49th birthday. I felt that I had seen the almighty’s best creation.
However, in 2014, that anxiety resurfaced, when my son and his friend decided to hike up the Half Dome. It was in June 2010, the National Park Services had announced that a permit would be required to hike up the Half Dome via cable route on all Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays of the week.
Being the protective mother that I was, I started to pray that my son and his friend don’t get the permit. But God does not listen to such petty prayers and granted them the permit to hike to the Half Dome. I, on the other hand thought, I should circumvent fear by staying behind. There is great logic in the fact that you can distance yourself physically from fear by staying away from the scene.
But my son, being stubborn as he is, insisted that I accompanied them. He booked a tent in Curry Village and arranged a valley tour for me while they were going to be away on the hike. I made enough parathas and pulihodarai rice for the journey. The boys packed their camel backpack.
On the eve of the journey, they rented a car to drive down to the valley. After sincere prayers we took off very early in the morning.
In contrast to my 2011 trip, this time my son was in the driver’s seat. He took the route via Tioga Pass. He wanted to show me the beauty that nature had to offer. My mind was swaying between the beauty around me and anxiety.
Anyway, mentally I surrendered to God and decided to enjoy the ride. I have also read that the best time to visit Yosemite was in the summer, when the meadows are decorated with colorful wildflowers, lakes are filled with pristine blue water and peaks are free from snow cover.
By this time around, I had become e-literate so I had gathered enough information from the Internet. Every bend on the road had something awesome to offer. Sometimes it was sandy brown - the mountains, sometimes it was lush green - the meadows or sometimes it was a deep valley with seemingly no floor.
It was a very beautiful journey.
At Olmsted Point, we were able to peer down into the valley and also catch sight of the curved, sharp pointed nose of The Half Dome. The sight of Half Dome sent a wave of shiver down my spine.
We reached the Valley at around four in the evening.
We headed straight to the curry village to get our bookings registered. This village is situated right in the heart of the valley. From the village floor, one could see the majestic Half Dome and Glacier Point.
My son had booked a heated tent. I had no idea what the tent would be like till I saw it. I thought it would be like the guesthouses that we are used to at Indian hill stations.
Oh My God! What did I see????
Only a canvas covered with a wooden frame and floor, the tent was equipped with 3 cots and beds, blankets, heater and an electric bulb.
Wait!! What shook me the most were ‘bear’ facts!!
No food was allowed inside the tent, as bears are very sensitive to the smell of human food and they follow it. Each cabin had a bear box planted outside the door of the cabin. This bear proof locker was for storing foodstuff, which had to be sealed in plastic covers.
I marveled at the person who had designed the box, outsmarting even bears. When I learnt that there were some 200 active bears that visited the village each night, I was totally devastated. “How was I going to manage when my son will be hiking?”
Communication offers a great deal of security, but in Yosemite, mobile phones are beyond reach of the signal.
The tent was comfortable but I was jittery.
I was given the duty of winding up the cabin and leaving the keys at the reception the next morning. But first things first, our kidneys work overtime when in fear?
The washrooms were a few feet away from the tent and I was scared out of my wits to walk to them. It opened with a magnetic card. The urgency to enter the washroom made me very clumsy. I kept dropping the magnetic card. The washroom had a row of toilets and shower rooms. It was well equipped with soaps, towels, etc.
Finally, the night passed safely with only three gunshots (thankfully) by the ranger to shoo away the bears. The next morning, after my son and his friend left, I cleared myself out from the cabin.
There was deer everywhere. I became brave when I saw some people about the place. After breakfast I left the key at the reception.
I took a shuttle to Yosemite lodge, from where my valley tour was to start. My son and I had decided that he would join me at this lodge after the hike. The previous night I had suggested that I could reach Curry Village where the car was parked, but this did not register with my son; neither with his friend!!
The guided valley tour was in an open-air car. The duration of the tour was 2 hours. A lady ranger introduced us to Yosemite’s most famous sightseeing spots. In her eloquent way, she briefed us about the history behind the development and preservation of this valley.
Yosemite is recognized for its granite cliffs, waterfalls, clear streams and giant sequoia groves. The development dates back to 1864, when the Granite pact was signed. The granite rocks are as old as 10000 years. During the tour, we were able to see the Bridal Veil Falls and the Vernal falls with no water in them.
The ranger talked about the early natives who called themselves Ahawahneechees. It was very interesting to hear about the war that had taken place to claim this valley.
The ranger also talked about rock climbers for whom this place is paradise. She enriched us about the history, animals, geology and plants of this valley.
Our final stop was at tunnel view, from where we could see the El Capitan, Horse Falls Clouds Rest, Half Dome and Sentinel Rock.
From there we were brought back to the Yosemite Lodge.
The time was 2 PM and I walked here and there in the Yosemite Lodge, trying to occupy myself. The thought that my son and his friend were hiking up the Half Dome kept haunting me every now and then. I said my prayers mentally, for their safe climb.
Around 4 PM I decided to go to Curry Village where our car was parked. I took it for granted that my son would reach there, unbeknownst to me, that the change in meeting point had not been communicated to him properly. At Curry Village, I was eagerly looking at each shuttle returning back to check if my son or his friend were in it.
I started to get restless by 6 PM.
Then suddenly I caught sight of my son’s friend walking slowly, as if in pain. I was very happy to see him. My son was not with him. My son had taken another route to reach me as fast as he could. Only then did it dawn upon me that there might have been some confusion about the meeting point. His friend too was not aware of the fact that I had changed the meeting point.
What a grave mistake had been made by me, but all’s well that ends well, right?
My son came to Curry Village to take the car and then to go searching for me. He was panic stricken when he didn’t find me at the Yosemite Lodge. He went searching for me in all the stores and lounges at the lodge. When he saw me at the Curry Village, he shot words like bullets at me and was in tears.
I too wanted to tell him something comforting but failed. He looked so tired and shrunk in size. I was very sad to see him like that.
After everything had calmed down, he told me how fast they’d hiked up to the final leg, after which they had to use the cables to reach the top of the dome. The same rope was used to climb up and down. The right side of the path was for the hikers coming down.
It is common sense to give them the way.
The traffic on the cable path had got congested when one hiker due to fear of heights or fear of hikes or whatever be the reason, blocked the path by neither going up nor giving way to the hikers climbing downwards. As a result my son being very tall had to hang on to the cable in an awkward position for a long time.
He had developed cramps on his upper and inner thigh thus paralyzing him. The top of the Half Dome was so near yet so far for him to reach in that condition. I believe he sat there in pain not able to move for an hour or so. He drank all the water he had carried with him. His friend had then given him some tablets to relieve him of cramps. He had gulped down all the bananas he had, compensating the last four years of not eating them. After a big struggle his muscles had relaxed and loosened. Then he had gathered his strength and made it to the TOP.
The boys had taken a lot of Photographs on top.
Top of Half Dome was like the ‘Top of The World’ for them. Yes, they deserved it for they had trained each day for this.
My son also had every reason to be mad at me.
But as i already said, all’s well that ends well. He forgave my lapse.
The boys treated themselves to T-shirts, which had the wordings, “I MADE IT TO HALF DOME”.
We sat in the car and headed towards Frisco for dinner and a one-night stay. Next morning, soon after breakfast, we headed home with a song in our hearts.
Boys had hiked and I was tired!!!
I realized that this trip was going to be like an undeletable stamp in my memory. Now, I am looking forward for yet another trip to Yosemite, to gaze at the Glacier point!!!