Friday, April 19, 2002

San Francisco to Sydney - Day 3

Day 3 : Yosemite National Park

I'm typing this while something in the next cabin is barking. This leads me to suspect one of two possible scenarios : our neighbours have snuck a small dog into their cabin or they have a squirrel trapped in there that, with a voice that loud, is clearly not one to be messed with. It's raining outside so I'll defer my investigation until later.

Mule Deer While we're on an animal theme, here's a photo that I took of a mule deer we encountered on our morning hike around Mirror Lake. The deer was, as you can see, completely unconcerned by our presence, and looked up at us disinterestedly only once or twice.

The Mirror Lake area is also home to mountain lions and signs at the start of the hike list the recommended behaviours if such a beast is encountered. These include :

  • making yourself seem as large as possible by, for example, opening your coat and flapping it about (this of course is merely a gesture of courtesy as it gives the mountain lion an opportunity to assess how big you are, and hence whether to drag your carcass back home for the family dinner or instead to just eat you on the spot). Perhaps at this point the mountain lion collapses in a fit of laughter and you make your escape while it catches its breath.
  • throwing sticks and stones (Go on boy, fetch!)
  • making a lot of noise (absolutely not a problem)
  • not running (try telling your legs that)
  • putting up a fight (great idea! let's smack it around the head a few times and see if that'll make it see reason. Might just as well try to explain to it the health benefits of a vegetarian diet)

About a mile and a half into the hike Debbie and I heard what sounded like a low growl off in the trees. Whatever produced the noise didn't sound very far away. We'll never know for certain what it was, but let the record show that I was ready to flap like an idiot if the situation required it.

Mirror Lake Mirror Lake is so-named because of its mirror-like and lake-like characteristics. I applaud this sort of honesty in the naming of geographical features. In Sydney, we could follow this lead and rename the Cooks River the Likely-to-find-a-dumped-car River and, in a similar spirit, Melbourne could rename the Yarra River the Yes-it's-always-this-brown River. The possibilities are positively boundless.

What gives Mirror Lake its extraordinary reflective properties is the stillness of the air over the Lake brought about by the wind-shielding effect of the mountains on either side.

We completed the 5-mile Mirror Lake hike just before noon and then hopped on a shuttle bus bound for Yosemite Lodge. There we had lunch in the cafeteria and witnessed the world's only Zen table-clearer. For her, speed was totally unimportant; time was irrelevant. There was a deliberateness in her every action, a need to ensure that everything that was cleared from a table went into exactly its designated spot on the clearing trolley. She was, without a doubt, living fully in the moment; I fear she may soon also be living fully without a job.

Yosemite Falls After lunch we walked the short distance from Yosemite Lodge to Lower Yosemite falls. A sign on the way boasted that Yosemite Falls has been proclaimed one of the "world's grandest falls", though it's entirely unclear who proclaimed this or the basis on which such a proclamation was made. Perhaps more interestingly, which falls failed to achieve the status "grand", and what status was instead conferred on them? "Fairly impressive"? "Not quite grand, but damp nonetheless"?

In any case, Yosemite Falls are an awesome sight at this time of year, as thousands of litres of water cascade down the Upper and Lower Falls, dropping a total of 2700ft (820m) in the process. They are a worthy example of what all waterfalls craving the title "grand" should aspire to.

It's raining harder now and it seems we're in for another cold night. On the bright side, that barking squirrel seems to have escaped from the neighbouring cabin, so there's no need for me to go and investigate. G'night.

Originally posted by TC

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