Friday, September 26, 2014

Hiking Vernal and Nevada Falls

from left to right: Back of Half Dome, Liberty Cap and Nevada Fall from John Muir Trail

Mileage: 7 miles round trip 
Elevation Gain: 2000 ft
Best Time: Late Spring to Early Summer, when the waterfalls are at their thunderous best.
Trailhead: at Happy Isles ( from the valley, take the Yosemite free shuttle bus and get off at Happy Isles)

Let me start this post with a quote from blogging friend Jo of Poetic Shutterbug: "Yosemite is God's country". Indeed, Yosemite is such a beautiful place and a sight to behold, it's more than just a great valley. Yosemite is one of the first wilderness National Parks in US ( 3rd after Yellowstone and Sequoia). Though it is most well known for its numerous waterfalls, but in Yosemite you will find nature's beauty and power through glacially carved massive granite rocks, an almost heaven on Earth meadows, pristine alpine lakes, giant sequoias, and miles of trails that wind through nature's beauty.   
When we were deciding before which trail to hike, Vernal and Nevada Fall or Yosemite Fall ( probably the most popular waterfall in Yosemite is the Yosemite Fall, North America's tallest waterfall), we considered the following information:
1. Yosemite Fall can be photographed from the valley. In fact, most of the people who visit Yosemite probably have seen only this waterfall thinking this is the only waterfall in Yosemite. 
Yosemite Fall from the Valley Floor
Vernal and Nevada Fall on the other hand cannot be photographed nor can be seen from the valley floor. One really has to exert an effort to take a glimpse of what it is like.
2. Hiking to the top of Yosemite Fall is more strenuous and more exposed to sun. Whereas, hiking to the top of Nevada Fall is mostly shaded by pine forest. 
3. On the day we were deciding which trail to hike next, we just finished a 13 mile Valley Floor Loop Hike plus a 4 mile round trip to Mirror Lake and Tenaya Canyon. With already tired feet, for about the same hiking mileage ( 7+ miles), a 2000 ft climb to Nevada Fall sounded better than the 2600 ft climb to the top of Yosemite Falls. 
4. We already have tons of pictures of Yosemite Fall from the valley but none of Nevada Fall. 
5. We will be back to hike Yosemite Fall and Half Dome via Cloud's Rest :)

So here goes a little bit more description of the hike to Vernal and Nevada Fall. Since you can find complete details of the Vernal and Nevada Fall hike at Yosemite Hikes, I will instead let our pictures speak for our experience.

From Happy Isles Stop to the footbridge of Vernal Fall is about 0.8 miles, 400 ft climb. This is the view from the footbridge when we were there. 
Vernal Fall From the Footbridge
( can you spot some of the people at the top of the waterfall? see how small they are compared to Vernal Fall?)
I met some tourists who probably did not do their research prior to this hike. They turned around from the footbridge very disappointed! Saying, "ahhhhh, I worked so hard for nothing!"- yes, because of the very thick leaves from the trees, the footbridge view is obstructed and the waterfall was hardly seen. What some of these tourists were meaning about working so hard was that a climb of 400 ft in 0.8 mile is very steep for those who are not much into uphill hiking and climbing stairs is a battle. But for those who did their assignment, they knew that there is so much more to Vernal fall beyond the footbridge.
After the footbridge, we continued hiking the Mist Trail, in another 0.5 mile and 400 ft climb, we were greeted with the unobstructed view of the Vernal Fall.
Unobstructed view of Vernal fall, less than 0.5 mile from the footbridge
Rainbow at the base of Vernal Fall 
( we got there at Vernal Fall between 10:00- 11:00 am, early summer or late June- but anyone can ask the park ranger at visitor Center at what time does rainbow appear in specific waterfalls because it varies with day and month of the year)
Vernal Fall and Rainbow
From the base of Vernal Fall, the trail climbs up over 600 steps over a steep granite stairway. The trail is very slippery here because of all the waterfall mist and spray. In about 0.7 miles from the footbridge, and 600 ft climb, we reached the top of Vernal Fall.
left to right: granite staircase, rainbow, and Vernal Fall from the top
At the top, there is a very scenic pool ( sorry, I forgot the name) where we stopped for our nutrition and hydration break.
Pool @ the top of Vernal Fall
( this pool is closed for swimming due to very close to Vernal Fall and some tourists who did not pay attention to the "no swimming signs" had lost their lives being swept by rushing current down to the fall )
After our nourishment break, we continued up the Mist Trail to the top of Nevada Fall. In less than half a mile from that pool above, we were greeted by the beauty of Nevada Fall.
Nevada Fall from the Mist Trail
Then, we continued up the rocky strewn slopes to get to the top of Nevada fall. For a while, we got lost of the sight of Nevada Fall in the trail, but we knew we were close because of all its thundering sound. When the trail opened to the sight of Nevada Fall again, we were again meandering an exposed trail of rocky strewn steep slopes.
Nevada Fall from the Exposed Rocky Strewn Trail
The Power of Nevada Fall 
( I took this picture with a fast shutter speed since I wanted to show the power and action of Nevada Fall. I usually use the cotton effect or slow shutter speed for waterfall shots when the waterfall is not as powerful and thunderous)
After about 1.2 miles and another 1000 ft climb from the top of Vernal Fall, we reached the top of Nevada Fall. Before reaching the top of Nevada Fall, there is a legal swimming hole where a lot of kids and other tourists stop to have a cool swim. This swimming hole is safe enough for swimming, but because we did not do our research, we did not have swimsuit, we passed the opportunity to swim in the frigid waters of Merced River. We instead moved away from the swimming crowd and seek a cooler place to enjoy the scenery with more solitude.
Where we stopped at the top to enjoy the fruits of our hike, this is where most hikers also refill their water container
When we were done resting and enjoying the scenery at the top of Nevada Fall, we looked down and looked back at where we've come from.
Looking Down and Back from Where We Came ( Though of Course we could not see the trailhead here)
Nevada Fall from the Top
Instead of returning the same route, we took the longer but less steep John Muir Trail. We had several purposes for taking a different trail, first is to photograph the very first picture above. The shot of Half Dome, Liberty Cap and Nevada Fall is from the John Muir Trail. Second was to see different scenery from a different trail. And third, it is friendlier to the knees to go downhill when the miles is longer since it means the slope is less steep. 

Here are my other posts about Yosemite and places near Yosemite:

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Another Beautiful Day

My Weekend's Pleasant Surprise
Right in front of our school, there is a canyon that has hiking trails. The canyon does not look very special, it is nested between hills and there is a railway that passes beside it.
Rose Canyon, San Diego
What stopped me before from hiking or walking here is that this canyon is just two blocks away from one of San Diego's bigger malls, and around it are many restaurants serving the many biotech, high tech and many other Science research firms. In short, this walk is very much within an earshot of civilization's noise. However, what made me take this trail is because of the fact that it is right in front of our school, where I can walk/and or run to get my dose of daily exercise after a day's work. What made the walk special is that, once we (my husband and I) entered the canyon, the civilization around us disappeared and was now blocked by plants and trees in this chaparral environment.
The Trail 
Some Colors At the Trail
Plants that live in a chaparral environment are oaks (these are what provide some fall colors), but mostly are evergreen pines and mahoganies, and many other low lying bushes.
Low Lying Bushes Found in the Trail
Now that I discovered this place, I can't wait for spring when I am imagining the hills around this canyon would burst with color from a diverse display of wildflowers. Right now however, this chaparral environment looks very dry and brown. Don't get me wrong, brown has its unique beauty too. Even though the flowers are already dried up and brown, but they still hold their beauty like this one.
Dried Wildflower @ The Trail
One of the many things that made the walk special in an otherwise very ordinary place was the presence of tiny creatures and a lot of birds and bunnies around. I however did not get lucky enough to catch any singing birds and jumping and running bunnies, but I sure loved seeing them. There were still some wildflowers on the ground, and I was happy to see some busy bees, butterfly and moth.
Busy Moth
( you can click on this picture to enlarge to better see how happy this moth is )
And the moth looked so happy sucking out sweet nectar of the flower.
Busy Bee
( we may not see the hairs of the bees when we look at them, but thankfully, the lens could. you can click on this picture to enlarge )
Alone But Not Lonely
( was surprised to see this one poppy in the trail, thought all poppies were all gone summer, so this is another pleasant surprise)
This Is My Husband's Find
Now that I have discovered this place, I know this is one of the places I can go to if I have the time to stop and simply enjoy the small creatures around. Hopefully, someday, I will get lucky enough to picture some of the birds that frequent this place. This is a place that looks very ordinary and nothing special from the outside, yet, it abounds with life inside.
After exploring this canyon, we went to the nearby ocean cliff to watch sunset.
Torrey Pine Cliffs
Torrey Pine Cliffs
Though I may live close to the ocean where we may be able to see sunset year round, but each time I see the sun disappearing in the horizon, it always makes me thankful that I see its promise of a beauitful tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

I am Missing This

Just 3 weeks into my reality ( meaning, back to work after a long summer break), and I am missing swimming with the fishes already so much! Hmmmmm, I am not saying I don't enjoy my job, I do, but somehow, the call of the outdoors is hard to resist.  

A Walk In the City

San Diego at Dusk
A lot of people living in the city may have neglected the power of their feet, for oftentimes, they rely on the power of their wheels. However, walking in the city streets can be another fun-filled cardio exercise that can be enjoyed by the city dwellers, if we only take time and give ourselves the physical exercise our body needs. It may pale in comparison to hiking National Parks, but I believe, city Walking Tours can be equally educational. It may not be as challenging, as serene, and as fun compared to hiking the nature trails in the canyons and mountains, but nevertheless, it is a walk that could open our eyes if we take a deeper look around us. In my case, I probably walk in the city streets of San Diego almost everyday, 

Balboa Park, San Diego
only that I neglect the beauty and the drama that lies behind these streets. For I am always thinking of a get-away, away from civilization, towards nature's beauty, towards nature's best, which luckily for me, is just but a matter of minutes in San Diego. 
Torrey Pines State Reserve, San Diego, CA
I do not even have to take a vacation away from the city to enjoy what I love the most, that is hiking on unpaved trails with nary a feel of civilization. 
Enjoying the Sage Scrub and Matilija Poppies in the Trail
On Top of the World @ Mt Woodson
However, there are some instances that I do choose sometimes to take a walk in the paved city streets to enjoy the world that I may be taking everyday but just do not have the time to observe it because of work. One of my favorite city walks in San Diego is at Balboa Park.
Organ Pavillon, Balboa Park
Balboa Park is actually one my favorite places in San Diego to experience natural beauty (there are canyons and mesas that spans through the park), wonderful art and culture, and stunning Spanish Revival architecture.
California Tower, Balboa Park
Hallways of Casa Del Prado
Even though this kind of city walks is on the manicured paths of the city streets, but nevertheless, it can be a good alternative to hiking the backroads sometimes. City walking tour is definitely a cheap way of sightseeing activity for those who are usually visiting another city. Anyone can look online for some guides to take walking tours like in New York, San Francisco, Tokyo, or London walking tours. If you are planning to have a stop-over at some city in your next vacation, you can definitely take a city walking tour and you can find a lot of resource online to help in your planning. Some of my friends in London for example who are enjoying so much photography right now, are finding tips where to spend their walking tours of London for sightseeing and photography most of the time online as well. 

Monday, September 08, 2014

Personal Favorites in the Canadian Rockies

 Athabasca Glacier Hike, Columbia Icefield, Jasper National Park ( choice: hubby's niece )
 Glacier Pond, Mt. Edith Cavell, Jasper National Park ( choice: hubby )
Bow Glacier Falls Trail, Banff National Park ( choice: mine! :) )

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Wishing Weekend Stays A Little Bit Longer

Weekend at my side of the world. Ahhhh, wish weekend stays a little bit longer. But then, it is over. :) So thankful though for another beautiful and relaxing weekend here in San Diego.