Saturday, August 25, 2012

Views of the Half Dome at Yosemite from all Directions

The Half Dome at Yosemite is the most famous landmark there. It is a granite dome with an elevation of 8840ft, located at the eastern end of Yosemite Valley, and it rises above the valley floor 4737ft. The unique feature of the dome is that its west face is flat, and thus the name of half dome.

The best location to view Half Dome is Glacier Point, which is only 4 miles hike south of Yosemite Valley, but it would take 40 mile winding mountain road to get there from the Yosemite Valley. We visited there the first day we entered Yosemite from south entrance.

What a view we had when we got to the Glacier Point area: the Half dome is prominently in the center of the vista, its unique feature of flat west face commands attention. The Verna Fall and Nevada fall (the lower right hand corner of the first picture) to the east of the half dome, still ran strong despite the late summer time (mid August). The flying white ribbons, green forests all add to the beauty of the Half Dome.

                                                            view from glacier point area

As we reached the Glacier Point, the Half dome was slightly to our right, a canyon, known as "the tunnel", was in front of us. Though Half dome is more than a thousand feet taller than Glacier Point (elevation7214ft), we had the the illusion of looking at the Half dome at eye level, due to the distance between the two objects. It really felt great to have the commanding view of the half dome and high sierra. I could only imagine how much more beautiful and awesome of a view it would be if we had a clear blue sky as the the background.

                                                      tunnel view from Glacier Point

Another view of the half dome was from the top of Sentinel Dome. We hiked to the top of Sentinel Dome (elevation 8122ft) from glacier point via a 1.6 mile trail, a gain of 900ft in elevation.

As we gained elevation on the Sentinel Dome trail, we felt like looking downward at the Half Dome now. The hike was moderate, but I was a bit slower than Lily and our boys. When I got to the top, they were done exploration and taking pictures already. The boys were sitting on the rock resting.The dark cloud was moving in, it started to drizzle, and it was windy. It did not stop me from walking around the dome top, enjoying the feel of on top of the world! Lily and I also took a few playful pictures of ourselves  - I patted the Half Dome at "head", Lily, half squatting, gently touched the Half Dome.

view of Half Dome from Sentinel Dome Trail

on Top of Sentinel Dome - a pat of the Half Dome at its head

on Top of Sentinel Dome - a gentle touch of the Half Dome

The next day, it was Sunny, we could clearly see how blue sky and white clouds enhance the beauty of Yosemite. From Yosemite Valley, we hiked to the top of Nevada Fall, about half distance to the top of Half Dome, via Nevada Fall trail - a very steep, and strenuous trail. We were almost exhausted when we got to the top Nevada Fall. The scenery, the clear water, the rocks, the bluer sky at the top, made all the efforts worthy.

From Nevada Fall, we took John Murr Trail on the way down back to Yosemite Valley. This trail is not as steep as Nevada Fall Trial, and presents gorgeous view of the little Yosemite Valley, and a different view of the Half Dome, a view of its back, or its east face.

The back dome in the following picture, is the Half Dome, the front one is Liberty Cap (elevation 7076ft). The Half Dome is actually 1800ft taller, another illusion of distance. 

View of Half Dome from John Murr Trail - on way back from the top of Nevada Fall

From Yosemite Valley floor, where our Curry Village tent house was,  we had to look up to see the Half Dome . We could see Half Dome's flat west face from almost anywhere. A peculiar and strikingly beautiful moment of the Half Dome is at sunset. At sunset, it is peach colored.

Sunset over Half Dome  - view from Curry Village tent house

Sunset over Half Dome - view from the middle of Yosemite Valley  near Yosemite Fall

The most beautiful view of the half dome is from south, west and southwest directions. But I had the obsession to view it from north.  I read an article from National Geographic, about hiking to the top of Half Dome: the danger, the steepness, the cables etc. I did not plan to hike to the top of the dome, primarily due to my acrophobia. I might be able to climb up, but I would definitely have a hard time to climb down. Since I will not climb it, I wanted to see it.

We drove 60 miles to Tuolumne Meadow at Northeast Yosemite to take a good view of the north face of the Half Dome. The best viewpoint is Olmsted Point by the Tioga road. The haze in the mountains that day, the cloudy sky, and the distance from Olmsted Point to Half dome prevented a clear view of the north face. But I did have a good view of it, and saw climbers near the top. Hats off to those climbers!


View of Half Dome North Face from Olmsted Point

The hikers on the Half Dome Trail near the top look like little sticks

Despite the less than ideal weather during our stay at Yosemite, Yosemite amazed us in many ways. The Half Dome is only one of the many addicting natural beauties there, though an overpowering one. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Trip Itinerary for Sequoia, Kings Canyon and Yosemite National Parks

Earlier of the year when we planned for summer vacation,  instead of our usual practice that Lily and I make the decision and the kids just follow, I proposed a few places, Yosemite, Utah, and Arcadia at Maine for the whole family to vote on.  Yosemite was the unanimous choice.

Since Sequoia, Kings Canyon National Parks are close to Yosemite, we included the two parks in our Yosemite vacation plan. The best access point to these parks is Fresno-Yosemite International Airport.

I visited these parks when I was at graduate school years ago. It would be the first time visit for Lily, and our boys.

Day 1

Fly to Fresno- Yosemite International airport (FAT) from DFW in an early morning flight, arriving around noon (pacific time). Drive to Sequoia National Park.

visit Giant Forest Museum
hike to Tokopah Falls
stay at Wukasachi Lodge

Day 2

visit General Sherman Tree area
hike on Big Trees Trail
visit Grant Grove Museum

hike to Moro Rock
visit Crystal Cave

Day 3

drive to Kings Canyon - Cedar Grove on Kings Canyon Scenic byways
visit Roaring Water Falls  trail
hike on Zumwalt Meadow trail 

hike on Hotel Creek trail
visit General Grant Tree

stay at Grant Grove Lodge and Cabin

Day 4 

Drive to Yosemite from Fresno

visit Glacier point
hiked to Sentinel Dome 

drive back to Fresno - stay at best western hotel

Day 5

Drive to Yosemite, stay at Curry Village at Yosemite Valley the rest of the trip

Hike to the top of  Nevada Fall
Check in at Curry Village

Day 6

Bike in the Valley   - Yosemite Falls, Swinging Bridge

El Captain and Yosemite Creek

Starry Skies over Yosemite  - a park program

Day 7

Drive to Northwest  and Northern Yosemite

- Hetch Hetchy

- Tuolumne Meadow
   visit  Olmsted point and Tenaya Lake
   hike to Lembert Dome

Day 8

visit Mariposa Grove on the way to Fresno

Leave for DFW from FAT early afternoon

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Summer Nights at North Texas

In the blistering hot summer of North Texas, my sister and two distant relatives visited us last week.It was her first ever visit to my house. We managed to show them the best of North Texas life.

Dallas Arboretum at Night

Lily wished to visit Dallas Arboretum to see Chihuly at night after our visit there during Memorial Day. So it was natural that she picked the Arboretum as the first destination for our guests.

We went there Thursday evening and started with a picnic under the shade of an Arbor. The beautiful scenery in the evening along with ice water, cold produces, cool turkey, beef slices and croissant.compensated for the hot evening.

After the picnic, we walked around to see the garden and Chihuly's artwork while waiting for the darkness to fall. We have never been at the Arboretum in the dusk. The setting sun cast the garden and Chihuly pieces in a different hue,  and we were pleased to be there at that time of the day.

As darkness fell, the lights rendered Chihuly in yet another way, mystic and attractive. "The Sun"'s brightness lured tourists closer to it.  The "carnival boat" in the mirror like reflective  pond projected the festival atmosphere in the tranquil night. The lighted "reeds" spread in the Arboretum in the darkness intensified the mystic feel

Late Dinner at On the Border

After taking them to a day's shopping at Stonebriar Mall and Allen Premium Outlets, we went to On the Border for a unique Texas dinner - Tex-Mex around 8pm. The restaurant was full when we got there. The receptionists tried hard to make a big table for our group of 7, and we were finally seated after 15 minutes or so. We were almost full before starting to have our entrees of tacos,  quesadillas, fajitas...we had too much nacho with salsas.

The Texas style of hospitality of the waitress, the delicious food made it a very enjoyable dinner.

When we got home, a full moon in the clear sky was over our house, a breeze was blowing gently. It was a beautiful Texas summer night.It was a perfect setting for my sister's visit.

BBQ in the Back Yard and Night Stroll in the Community

Texas BBQ was one item they heard about before coming visit us. Lily, our master BBQ chef, delivered a beautiful table of BBQ food - ribs, sausages, Salmon, Scallop and veggies along with home made drinks for everyone in addition to red wine for adults.

Dinning, winning and chatting, it was past 8pm already when we were done.

We went out to have a group picture in front of my house and then continued to stroll in the community:
There were few people in the streets, there was birthday party at community pool, and the beach volleyball courts by Russel Creek Pond were full of youngsters and a few adults with two matches going on.

On the way back to my house, taking a trail cutting through the center of the Russel Creek park, we saw a few stars shinning in the sky, we saw lights in the horizon in all direction from streets and residential area glistening in the perimeter of the park, we felt the southeastern breeze. I felt wonderful.

Those were their glimpses of our simple, quiet and yet lively life at North Texas.