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Visit to Yosemite

By: Reynaldo Cuyugan
Date: 12-Aug-2005

I had always wanted to visit Yosemite valley. I never had the chance to do so during my long stay in California on self-exile during the martial law years. Most of my free time then were devoted to political work against the dictatorship. And even when I had the time to do so, I had no one to go with. Colleagues and relatives then were not inclined to do so.

Finally, last June 27 to 28th, 2005 I got to visit the famed valley. With me were my only sibling Caloy, his wife Amy, our cousin Lydia and my elder daughter Ginai.

From Daly City near the Pacific Ocean coast, it took us some five-and-a- half hours to get there by car (the brochures say four hours), with me driving. Ever since I was tagged for overspeeding on the grapevine to Los Angeles, and fined a hefty sum, four years ago, I have been a conscientious driver, rarely exceeding the speed limit, and only in very short spurts, like when overtaking slow moving vehicles.

Anyway, we got there around 1430H, with enough time to take a one-and-a-half mile leisurely walk on paved pathways to where we could see the base of the lower Yosemite Falls. This is a three-part falls composed of the upper fall, a middle cascade, and the lower fall, for a total drop of 2,425 feet, the tallest in North America. Owing to the rains coming in well into into the summer this year the falls in the valley were all roaring in splendor.

The facilities in the valley cater to a wide range of tastes and wallets. Where we stayed was called the Housekeeping Area. Why the name? I never found out. It was beside the river (part of the upper Merced River) and billed as ‘suited for those who want the feel of being in tents without going into the hustle of setting up.’ The blurb could have added ‘ and those who do not really want to leave behind the amenities of modern living such as showers, flush toilets, general stores, and accessible cooked food.’

The next day, my sister-in-law and my cousin, not wanting to do any more walking, decided to take one of the bus tours offered. Three of us, my brother, my daughter and I, decided to hike up to Vernal Fall. The well-maintained trail, described as moderate, is actually easy, for the first 0.7 mile with an elevation gain of 400 feet from the 4,000 feet valley floor. This portion led to a bridge from where the fall could be viewed full-length.

After a short rest and photo-ops we proceeded to the top of the fall some 0.8 miles linear distance away with an elevation gain of 600 feet. Described as strenous, the trail is mostly via granite steps set or carved on the way. The middle third of the way up this portion is the more challenging part. Here, trekkers are exposed to the winds and cold spray churned up by the falling waters. At the upper third, climbers are covered from the overspray and fall-generated winds. By the time we got to the top our clothes were all dry.

The route down is via the same trail. Going down the wet, irregular granite steps was trickier, and the winds and overspray seemed to have increased in intensity. Or was it just our perception?

We made it in five hours going up and back down, not including the half-hour we spent on top. We probably could have made it in less time if we did not have to carefully assist Ginai. Her eyesight was still bad at that time, her cataract operation not having been scheduled yet. Even then, it was a big achievement for the president of a Philippine-based mountaineering club, right? Well, not really! Considering that it seems a good third of the climbers to the top were children, pre-teens really, if I failed to make it, I would have to hang up my trekking shoes. Still, it was a good climb!

Not used to long walks, my daughter’s legs needed some Ben-Gay that night, so the two of us did not do any more long walk the next morning. By 1000H of the third day, we were back on the road for the return trip to Daly City.

So, am I going back to Yosemite Valley? Yes! And, next time I intend to spend at least five days, possibly a whole week there. Three days, including the travel to-and-from, just aren’t enough to fully appreciate the valley.