Stroll before dinner
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Distance: 1.21 Miles
Duration: 34 minutes
Coppertone and I decided to do a bit of walking prior to eating at a Mexican Restaurant in Napa we like. Oxbow Preserve was on our not-yet-done list so we decided on it even though we know it would not be terribly long.
Just under a half mile of the trail was paved with the rest being easy to follow singletrack. We found a great discrepency between official preserve trail map and what's actually on the ground. The most glaring is the 90 degree error on where North lies. Some of the trail differences could be chalked up to rogue trails that have since been adopted as a main trail, but not all. I think the map may have been based on some original plans that were modified in some way during installation.
Zipping back and forth to try and get all of the main trail segments we still ended up under 1.25 miles, so this is not the place to go for a serious walk. But it may serve as a nice pre or post meal walk if eating at the nearby Oxbox Market.
Canyon and Pony Gate Trails Loop
Sugarloaf Ridge State Park
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Distance: 2.93 Miles
Duration: 1 hour, 33 minutes
Coppertone and I decided to hits the trails for the first time in months in part to see the falls here while the water levels were high. It just would not be the same in the fall when there might best be a trickle.
We walked past the park entrance gate along the road until we got to the Canyon Trail trailhead. The trail immediately begins a consistent descent towards Sonoma Creek below. The path all along this trail and mostly through Pony Gate Trail is heavily treed, providing some relief from the Sun.
Just prior to encountering the main falls on the trail there is a miniature but long, multi-step falls that of a seasonal stream that feeds into Sonoma Creek. It was worth a stop of its own. Compared to its larger companion nearby, the falls here provide but a whisper.
The main falls, which seems to have no official name, is a short distance beyond and at high flow levels provides a nice aquatic roar that drowns out most other sounds nearby. It was not crowded at the falls, but during our time at the spot there was always someone coming or going. It's obviously the highlight of the trail.
The trail continues on to the west this time ascending until it intersects with Adobe Canyon Road that leads into the park. We took a right for a short distance along the road to the Pony Gate Trail trailhead.
From here, it's more uphill hiking. The dense vegetation doesn't provide for much of a view but there are several additional streams, all easily fordable, bubbling and darting around their rocky beds.
Rather than continue on a small unhiked section of the Canyon Trail back to Adobe Canyon Road, we elected to go with the unnamed trail that heads more directly to the park entrance gate. This choice minimized the distance we would have to walk along the road to get back to our parking spot. It also turned out to be a fortuitous choice. The sky opened up as the trail gently descended down a grassy meadow with the peaks of Sugarloaf Ridge clearly visible in the distance. A fine way to end the hike.
We found that we are both woefully out of shape! This wasn't a particularly hard hike and the elevation gain was not that high, but we suffered far more than we should have - a sure sign that we need to make a point of hitting the trails more often.
Short walk to start the day
Bridalveil Falls Trail
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Distance: 1.00 Mile
Duration: 30 minutes
Coppertone and I decided to do a relatively flat hike on the valley floor today and the parking at the Bridalveil Falls trailhead looked like our best bet. Since we were here we might as well do this short hike to the falls, right?
The trail is paved all the way to the base of the falls. There is one small steep section, but overall it's a very easy hike. The viewing area at the base of the falls has only one way in and out and it can get crowded. Even on a fall day with school in session it was a bit packed. I can't imagine the logjam in the heat of summer.
Waterflow was low, but still a respectable amount crashed onto the rocks below. There are signs warning people of the dangers scrambling on the rocks to get closer to the water, which was ignored by many. In their defense though, the lower water flow meant no mist in the area to moisten the rocks so that they were even more dangerous. If you're going to pick a time of year to scramble, I guess now's the time.
From the falls we followed the trails onto the valley floor proper to start our hike on the Valley Floor Loop.
Longer than expected
Valley Floor Loop
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Distance: 8.00 Miles
Duration: 4 hours, 39 minutes
Coppertone and I decided on a flat hike to day to wrap up our week. A guided hike out of Yosemite Village opened our eyes to some of the sights one could see from a less glamorous trail such as this one.
We started off with a short hike to see Bridalveil Falls since we started at the trailhead there. Then it was off to complete a reported 4.6 mile loop in the western section of Yosemite Valley.
Things started off great as got several great views of El Capitan. The trail paralleled the busy road for a bit before retreating closer to the river, giving the hike a bit more solitude. The path would undulate towards and away from the road multiple times during the day.
The water coming off of Bridalveil Falls fork into several streams, each of which needed to be crossed without the aid of a bridge. For our fall visit this was not too much trouble but we can imagine things may be a bit trickier in the spring when flows are more robust.
Passing along the path of the Merced River afforded us yet more views of El Capitan and the hike was starting to look really good.
The turning point, figuratively and literally came at the Pohono Bridge. Once the trail turned back to the east there were fewer vistas (at least for now) and much more persistent gnats (or whatever bug was in the air).
Things improved a bit when we made to back far enough east to be near the base of El Capitan. The gnats started to thin and we enjoyed stopping for a moment here and there to watch the mountain climbers scaling the sheer walls.
We didn't do the entire loop and cut the route off at Devil's Elbow and crossing the river on the El Capitan Bridge. We should have continued through the Cathedral Picnic Area to rejoin the loop on the southern side of the valley, but our guidebook gave some other instruction that involved following the road some more and using what must have been a maverick trail to get back onto the loop.
Turning west again we started back on the loop heading to Bridalveil Falls. Though not as famous, the cliffs on this end of the valley are also in high demand by climbers and we go closer looks at the teams as they worked their way up vertical routes. The hiking here is perhaps the best in our hike as the trail undulates through rocky terrain though the trail itself is not that difficult.
After about 8 miles we finally get back to the Bridalveil Falls area. This turned out to be a lot more than the 4.6 advertised in two guidebooks. Yes, our GPS could have been having a bad day accuracy-wise, but we encountered two ladies on the trail going in the opposite direction we were so we stopped and talked during the second intercept. They too seemed to think the trail longer than advertised. Well, at least it wasn't overly hilly at the same time!
Giant trees and large crowds
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Distance: 2.67 Miles
Duration: 1 hour, 38 minutes
Mariposa Grove is one of the most popular trails in the park. Coppertone and I got there early enough to walk the paths in relative solitude, one of the benefits from staying in nearby Fish Camp. But it was not too long before busload after busload of visitors arrived to fill up the paths. A large group of schoolkids pierced the earlier quietness with shreeks and hollars.
The Sequoia grove has undergone an extensive transformation recently with car choked roads of cars replaced with boardwalk trails and lots of informational signage. We never visited the area prior to the transformation, but we're convinced that things must have been improved dramatically.
We overheard the radio of park employee yesterday that reported a bear sighting at the grove, but we saw no sign of it today.
We kept our hike short here both due to threatening rain that never fell, but also due to tired legs from our hike to Vernal and Nevada Falls yesterday. We did the Grizzly Giant Loop Trail which provided us views of several of the important named trees in the grove included the California Tunnel Tree and the imposing Grizzly Giant.
The start of the trail from the trailhead is a boardwalk path (almost certainly ADA compliant) studded with information signage. Once the trail gets to the Fallen Monarch conditions get slightly more difficult with a bit of elevation gain, but nothing in this loop would be considered challenging.By the time the trail gets to some of the other named trees the path is well worn compacted dirt.
After the California Tunnel Tree the trail becomes far less regimented. Up to that point the trail is boardwalk with railings or a well marked path with barriers on either side keeping people on the trail. The rest of the loop is easy to follow, but the "guard rails" are all gone. Thankfully people staid on the trail anyway, but the lack of barriers does mean you get a bit closer to the Sequoias than in earlier segments.