The Panorama Trail – It’s Panoramic!

24 July 2013 in Memories, Trails/Hiking, Traveling, Yosemite National Park

Half Dome from the Panoramic TrailIn our quest to conquer the Park starting from Yosemite Valley and working outward we found ourselves kicking up dust down the Panorama Trail today. This stretch of trail runs from Glacier Point east along the rim of the Valley and down to Nevada Falls.

An early start is important, but a big, home cooked breakfast is key. It’s our treat at the end of a long work week and the celebration of beginning another wonderful weekend of hiking. On today’s menu we had Lindsay scrumptious biscuits covered in my mouthwatering gravy. Then it was into the truck and up to the trailhead.

As we expected Glacier Point was a madhouse. Like a small mall parking lot there was circling cars and impatient families waiting for grandma to climb out of the backseat of the family minivan. Pure chaos. The kind we like to avoid. Thankfully the trail provided distance from the commotion and as always a mile or two separated those seeing the park upon four wheels, sat in climate controlled cars from those of us who prefer to travel on foot.

While there was probably a hundred tourists clustered about the scenic point we only encountered a half dozen or so on the trail. First was the ominous descent down to Illilouette Falls—ominous in the fact that we’d later have to climb back up. This hidden gem is tucked high up in a narrow crevasse and I’ve only been able to spot it from one other view point – North Dome which sits directly across the Valley floor. We approached it from above today and peered over a cliff and down at the plunging white spray.

Half Dome, Vernal Falls and Nevada FallsFrom the falls we continued down to and crossed a large stream that was flowing heavily, crashing and splashing among a maze of massive boulders. It looked as though for several folks this was the end. Scattered about were several couples lunching and taking in the sounds, sights and sun. We continued on and next climbed several switchbacks. We were ascending out of the valley cut by the stream and up onto the high rim again. As we climbed we began to hear the roar of Vernal and Nevada Falls. These two falls form a chain that tumbles water hundreds of feet down year around. We had hiked to the summit of both falls, but we had never taken them in from above.

Half Dome and Illouette FallsThe trail kept us just out of reach of the view, but not far enough to keep me on the trail. I was too enticed by the possible vantage points we were passing and the slope of the ground was too subtle to prevent my descent. So we wandered down, off trail, the crumbling ground breaking like sand below our feet. I can see why the trail is set higher, but I was surprised at the lack of tracks from other wanderers. As I had guessed the viewpoint at the bottom of this scramble was well worth the hassle. We sat and ate our lunch perched high above Vernal Falls, the masses at that frequented point resembled ants.

Nevada FallsAfter a leg scorching scramble back up to the trail we continued on and slowly made our way down along the rim to amazing views of Nevada Falls. Once again we had hiked this from the base up to the top, but we had never took in the view from across the way. And today it seemed to rush with more fervor than it had on previous occasions. The plummeting water was bright white and opaque. It thundered down heavily crashing on the rocks below.

As we walked on we found ourselves in a familiar area and soon we reconnected with John Muir Trail – a trail we had hiked before. Here we were also reconnected with crowds of people. School groups and closely clustered sets of day hikers began to appear with an increased frequency, taking over the well worn trail.

GrousseWe had a six mile trek back up to Glacier Point so we turned back and began our climb. There wasn’t much of note on the return trip. We spotted our first grousse towards the end of the hike. Sitting atop a large fallen log it was surrounded by popperatzi otherwise we may have walked right past it. But there it sat like a chicken. It appeared to be incapable of flight or at least any flight of much worth. Heavy with short wings it looked to do more flying than walking, but as Lindsay snapped it’s photo it didn’t move at all.

Eventually we proceed up the final stretch and into our truck. As we pulled out of the parking lot we almost passed a couple with their thumbs raised high, but we decided to stop. They were older, seemed friendly and nonthreatening so what was the harm? It turned out they were from Mammoth which is a long drive across the entire width of the park. They had taken a single day off in order to drive three hours to the Tunnel View parking lot and then hike 14 or so miles along the entire southern rim, and then drive three hours home that same day. We were inspired by their ambition. Never again will a long drive, a long trail or a looming work day stop us from getting out and hiking.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a comment