After yesterday’s crazy hiking shenanigans, this morning came as a warning from each of our bodies that we daren’t try that again lest the bodily rebellion we were feeling today return even more forcefully tomorrow. It turns out that when I call hiking down 3,200 feet a knee breaker, that’s pretty accurate. This morning my knee (only one though… weird) was so sore from turning through all the switchbacks yesterday that I was often reduced to going on stairs using my blown-out-kneed-mother’s mantra of “up with the good, down with the bad.”
For sure, we were all in need of a quieter itinerary today. Tioga Road was more than ready to answer the call. It was a peaceful drive with occasional stops, like the obligatory one at Olmstead Point and a less-obligatory but felt-essential one at the Tuolumne Meadows Grill and Store for lunch and junk food (all of which disappeared within 4 hours).
When we reached the end of the road, we had a dilemma. If we turned around we would come to the hikes at Tenaya Lake and Pothole Dome that we’d been putting off all day. But in front of us was the end of the park. However, knowing what lay southeast of us on US 395, I quickly seconded my mother’s motion to continue on, just to see what we could see. I was hoping I’d be able to convince her to drive all the way down into the Owens Valley, where she’d get a full view of the astounding Sierra Escarpment, but I only managed to get us as far as Mammoth Lakes. A nice town in its own right (I stayed there in 2011), it also lays claim to Mammoth Mountain, the largest and most renowned ski resort my skiing sister and former skiing mother had ever seen. When we got to good ol’ Minaret Vista I got to take some pictures and all of us left town happy.
In the end, neither of those hikes along Tioga Road happened – it was just too comfortable in the car and we decided that today not walking was a better idea than any kind of exercise. Instead we could take our time visiting the enormous gift shop in Yosemite Valley before my pestering finally paid off and we made it to Tunnel View for sunset. Well, I made it at least. The rest of the group sat in the car – which was not facing the overlook – and waited for me to return. “It’s the same sunset we’ve seen all week,” they sighed. You can be the judge of that.
After a leisurely dinner at our “resort” (I’d call it more of a bunch of little hotel buildings with a sit-down restaurant within walking distance), I decided that, being only 8 miles outside the park, I wanted to return to Tunnel View after dark to see if Yosemite had a last photographic hurrah to share before we left for good tomorrow. this viewpoint had the added benefit of containing a large parking lot surrounded on 2 sides by steep cliffs and the other 2 by roadway (one of which was even lit). So I was fairly confident I would not be eaten by a bear tonight. I only resorted to stomping my feet once and I even worked up the courage to turn the flashlight off for long stretches while the shutter sat open.
I tried various compositions, with many attempts ruined (or maybe enhanced?) by cars driving to and from the tunnel. I wasn’t able to get the Milky Way over the valley – I would have had to wait around another 4-5 hours – or Perseid meteors, but I did capture the Andromeda galaxy over El Capitan (it’s the large fuzzy yellow object about 1½ El Capitans above El Capitan’s nose.
They’ll definitely need a bit of processing before they’re Facebook-ready. But Once I get home I’ll have a whole 14 days before starting law school. What’s that time for if not making cheese and processing travel pictures?