Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Spring Thaw

Last Friday the western section of Highway 120, also known as the Tioga Road, opened to through traffic. Originating in the east near Lee Vining and leading to Yosemite Valley, it is one of those spectacular roads, where as a driver you envision a lapse in attention would catapult you over the edge. It is closed in winter, opening in the spring, usually before Memorial Day. This year, due to dry conditions, it opened a bit earlier than in recent years.

On the Thursday prior to the opening we drove up to the gate at the top of Tioga Pass, unloaded our bikes, and did a 36-mile round trip, passing through Tuolumne Meadows to Olmsted Point. Since it was closed to traffic, we only had to share the road with other cyclists and a few Park Service vehicles. Unfortunately, I forgot the camera, so there are no photos to prove it, and no blog entry dedicated to the ride.

We returned, however, on the following Saturday, the day after opening of the road. We accompanied our friends Dick and Judy on a hike that has become an annual event for them. Parking the car along the road across from Fairview Dome, we cross-country hiked until we met with the trail that drops down into the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River. Along this trail the Tuolumne River drops dramatically in elevation over the slick batholithic rocks. The river was at full flow, fed by the melting snows in the watershed.

Our goal was Water Wheel Falls, but we passed a number of dramatic cascades along the way, with the names Tuolumne, California (top photo), and Le Conte. It was not hard to anticipate that they were near due to the roar in the distance. The power of the water created frothy foam that swirled in marbled patterns in calmer sections of the river (second photo). We paused at each of the falls along the way, mesmerized by the motion of surging water. Water Wheel Falls was by far the most dramatic, with rooster tails over 30 feet high…click here for a video of the action

We were racing the setting sun on our way back, the cost of gazing at flowing water for a bit too long. The mist of Tuolumne Falls created a faint rainbow as we passed it on our return home (bottom photo). What a nice transition from winter skiing to summer hiking and biking.

Thanks D and J for letting us come along!

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All original text and photos are copyrighted Doris Reilly © 2006-2018. No part of the content or the blog may be reproduced without prior written permission.
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