YOSEMITE'S HALF DOME looms as an iconic symbol that stands as a testament to the tremendous forces that created its unique shape.  Millions of visitors have climbed its flanks for a spectacular view of the high mountain skyline, and the hike from the valley on the Mist Trail is considered by many to be the ultimate hiking adventure.  In fact, the experience is so popular that permits are now required to climb the summit -- limiting the once crowded cables to only a few hundred adventurous climbers each day.  Moreover, those "lucky" permit-holders must still contend with fatigue, dehydration, and possible altitude sickness while attempting to conquer the dome.  After all, this is a 16-mile trek with nearly 5000' of climbing, and not for the casual hiker!

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Steel cables assist climbers up the final 400 vertical feet -- but the combination of exposed rock and bolted metal fixtures make it a dangerous place to get caught during an afternoon thunderstorm.  Once raindrops start falling, the granite can become treacherously slick so it's best to start early and not linger if the skies darken.

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Over the years I've had the pleasure of climbing Half Dome to enjoy its magnificent views -- a memorable lifetime achievement.  Like many, I'm drawn to repeat the fete, forgetting the challenges one must endure.  You may say I'm one of those irrational souls who just can't get enough.  The annual cable lottery for the 2016 season is approaching.  Will this be the year?  We shall see.  If not, there are many other challenging trails in the park open to explore and enjoy.  And no matter where you stand to gaze and marvel at the surrounding beauty, those high country vistas are breathtaking!

Posted
AuthorRich Monroe
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YOSEMITE'S SPECTACULAR APPEARANCE comes from its glacially carved rock that shapes the valley and mountain range.  And while some brave souls challenge the granite walls with rope and pitons, I prefer hiking the narrow trails a more practical and fulfilling experience -- with rewarding views  at my feet while climbing the awesome rock formations.  Massive exposed domes and majestic vistas are close at hand as you ascend up the narrow Four Mile trail carved in the sheer stone walls.  All who choose to walk this path will agree it's well worth the effort.

The trail takes you from the valley floor to Glacier Point some 3200 feet above. As you ascend you'll gain a sense of personal fulfillment, enjoying the alpine air, while discovering many breathtaking vistas along the way.  One can only imagine the tremendous array of forces it took to carve the granite stone and create this landscape of beautiful forest, course rock, gentle meadows, and vertical walls.  Of course, you can drive your car to Glacier Point for its view, but making a personal effort to climb these walls makes the reward much sweeter!

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Posted
AuthorRich Monroe
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STORIES OF GOLD once drew hordes of prospectors to the Sierras, drawn by fantastic stories of lakes lined with gold and "ripe for the picking." Unfortunately this wasn't the case for most of the early settlers -- it took hard work to extract the precious metal from the ground and many fortune-seekers returned from the mountains broke, disappointed, and discouraged.

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In reality the lakes were lined with trees -- not gold -- which remain to the present day so we might discover their real value: the natural beauty that beckons us to make our own personal discoveries.

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For us the true gems are discovering golden moments to enjoy the mountain meadows filled with vibrant grasses and flowers that capture the clear bright alpine light.

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And If we're fortunate, we might have a chance encounter with the local wildlife who make this secluded mountain retreat their home.  It's a rare opportunity when we discover and can enjoy one of nature's creatures in their natural environment.

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Sometimes the simple challenge of crossing a stream on a makeshift log bridge will transform a typical hike into a joyful adventure, reminiscent of our childhood days.  Conjuring up all our concentration, courage, and balance we cross over this natural barrier to explore deeper into the woods.

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The most exciting discoveries might involve following a trail to see if it really reaches the sky, and finding marvelous vistas beyond the crest.  Another valley to explore.  Another mountain to climb.  Another opportunity to extract special "golden memories" from this splendid countryside.

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 Another reason to return to discover what lies beyond...

Posted
AuthorRich Monroe

MOUNTAIN TRAVEL can present an occasional suprise. While traveling north on highway 89 we encountered a paving project on a narrow two lane portion. As we followed the pilot vehicle through the construction site, we got a close-up view of the entire operation. In just a 12 foot roadway width the crew was able to grind the old asphalt, remix it with fresh oil, and redistribute it on the road surface.

Pavement renewal jobs are "slick" - with many benefits especially in the mountains. Recycled asphalt mix is cheaper with a short contruction time, less exposure to work zone hazards, longer pavement life, and a reduced environmental footprint. That's win-win situation, and worth the minor traffic delay during our vacation trip.  Well done!

Posted
AuthorRich Monroe
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FOR COOL SUMMER HIKES why not visit Huddart Park snuggled on the Skyline Ridge near Woodside? Grassy meadows and numerous hiking trails make this is an ideal place to relax, picnic, and explore the redwoods -- and escape the summer heat. So -- like characters in a fairy tale -- we set off for an adventure into the woods. What surprises await there?

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The blue sky disappears above us as the trees close ranks to block the sun.  We meander along developed trails through ancient groves, humbled by giant redwoods while reassessing our own importance in the grand scheme of life.  Time is suspended and scale is different here in the woods.

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Forest wildlife ranges from lions to lizards (mountain lions to fence lizards, that is!)  Personally, I prefer an encounter with the occasional lizard -- much less stressful!

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Speaking of encounters, we sometimes come upon an equestrian party on the trail.  After all, the Woodside paddocks and stables aren't far away.  It's very clear who has the right of way here, so we just smile politely and step aside.

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Passing deeper into the forest we enjoy the cool shade, the sweet pine smell, and recognize signs of nature's cycle of life: birth and growth, death and decay.  In good conditions redwoods grow more than a foot per year.  Coast redwoods can live incredibly long (up to 2,000 years) growing taller than any other tree in the world, only exceeded by the giant sequoias and bristlecone pines in the high Sierras.  Amazing!

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Of course, the survival of this giant living garden relies on sunlight and moisture from fog and rains, decaying nutrients on the forest floor, and the constant attention of bugs and critters like the lowly banana slug who process natural ingredients that redwoods can readily absorb.  So we watch for and carefully avoid stepping on these brightly colored mollusks.  The redwoods depend on it!

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Posted
AuthorRich Monroe