Yosemite National Park
Updated post with photos taken by Umang, they are better than the earlier links I had sent.
Yesterday's aquarium and beach visit was not enough to make this weekend complete. Umang invited me to join him to Yosemite National Park. For the uninformed, Umang is one of the guys I report to (I am reporting to too many people nowadays).
Yosemite is around 180 miles from my hotel and is slightly more than 4 hours drive. Among other things, Yosemite has two of the top 10 tallest waterfalls, Yosemite Falls and Sentinel Fall.
We started at around 5:50 in the morning so that we can come back before 11 in night. The drive itself was fun and was full of many vista points with lakes, mountains and beautiful flowers. We saw a lot of 80-100 feet tall trees and I couldn't help comparing them with indian trees, these ferns are almost 5 times taller than normal indian trees. We reached the park at around 10:30 and decided on going to BridalVeil Fall first. BridalVeil is a fall that seems to move like bride's veil, the movement is due to wind. We tried walking towards bottom of the waterfall which can be reached during start of winter season but all we could see was mist and of course we were all wet much before the foot of waterfall. BridalVeil Falls are really pretty and we met an old lady who was overwhelmingly happy to be watching them for the first time. She had found a very good view of the falls and we took a couple of photographs from there.
Next halt, El Capitan is the largest single monolith of granite, it stands 3593 feet from base to summit. It is an almost verticle rock but we could see that some people were climbing it (talk about daredevils). You should see the photographs of this rock to appreciate how difficult it must be climb.
Next destination was Yosemite falls, the falls are 2,540 ft high. There were many waterfalls (small and big) on the way to Yosemite falls. We didn't spend much time on Yosemite falls because we couldn't find a place to park :D. On the route we also got to see the famous peaks (el capitan and half dome) from various angles and manged to take a photograph of elephant rock too.
After that we drove to Mariposa Grove to see the famous Giant Sequoias or Sequoiadendron giganteum. They are the largest living things known to humans (by volume). Tallest Giant Sequoia in Mariposa Grove is about 290 feet. Giant Sequoias a from the Redwood family, Coastal Redwoods are the tallest (368 feet/112 meters is the tallest so far). Giant Sequoias are also called Sierra redwoods (the wood is actually red).
There were many trees that had got special attention, among them was Fallen Monarch that fell several hundred years ago and is still lying around. Supposedly Tannic acid present in wood works as preservative and arrests decay. We took the guided tram tour in park and tram driver Sam doubled as guide. Sam made the a lot of difference to the drive, full of stories regarding the park I sometimes envy these storytellers.
We saw the Bachelor and Three Graces first and the next was The Grizzly Giant. It made even the 100 feet tall ferns look tiny. GG has an estimated age of 2700 years. It has a branch that is 2 meters in diameter and said to be larger than any non-sequoia in the whole grove.
California Tunnel Tree and Wawona Tunnel Tree (fallen but still there) are said to have maximum contribution towards popularity of this place in early years. There are a lot of trees that stand in a group of 2, 3 even 8. The most famous couple is called Faithful Couple and there are two other trees right in front of the current couple that will make next FC in 500 yrs or so. A 100-500 yrs. old Sequoia is called a young tree. We did see some that were planted recently and a board that had "Don't step on the Giants" written on it told us what those tiny one actually were.
We saw a a lot of other interesting trees including Clothespin Tree, Telescope Tree. There were just too many huge trees all around, it is said that these trees were present in the when Dinosaurs were ruling the earth, atleast they are proportioned that way. The trees survived the calamity that resulted in extinction of Dinos. Some fossil analysis also revealed that genotype and phenotype has not changed significantly, they already are superhumans (in tree world) so they don't really need to evolve that much.
We left the grove and the trees soon after our 1 and half hour tour was over and headed towards Glacier point. It offers some of the best views of the valley. I was able to touch snow on roadside (actually it had turned in ice, still have to experience snowfall and soft snow). From the rim of glacier point we could see 3214 feet down (almost vertical).
At last count Umang had driven more than 450 miles during the day.