Walking / Hiking, Yosemite National Park
I bought a book called "Off the Wall - Deaths at Yosemite". It's available at the tourist shops in Yosemite and should be recommended reading for all those who venture off the main road. I shudder at times when reading it as it records many wrong things I have done bushwalking (hiking) in Australia. Even simple short walks in Yosemite can end up fatally as the instances in this book clearly illustrate.
Some basic things to remember are: Take warm clothing no matter what the weather when you start; take plenty of fluid, take a waterproof box of matches, a map and a compass (GPS units can easily fail) and let someone know where you intend to go.
These are the main things people overlook.
People with great reputations as rock climbers, experienced walkers and astute horsemen have all perished. It's not a place to take lightly; you have been warned!
Gotcha. The pot in question is the smoking pot that is located in Yosemite Valley Village. It is a given to most people that smoking any tobacco product would be a no-no inside the Park except for the designated areas. The pot is a clever idea that you stub out any smoking butts and drop it down the tube to the pot below. As Smokey the Bear says, "Help prevent forest fires".
Yosemite National Park has trails for all levels of hikers and some of them are quite advanced. The last portion of the climb to the top of Half Dome requires the use of cables for 400 feet of slick rock traversing. It is a harrowing experience for those with a fear of heights. Add to this, the number of people on the cables at any given time and you have the recipe for disaster. Surprisingly, there have been few deaths considering 50,000 people clime it every year. There have been a few deaths in the last few years but generally when the rock has been made even more slick with precipitation. For that reason, you should not attempt this if it looks like it might rain or snow or if it has just done either.
Make sure to grab a pair of gloves at the bottom of the cables. There is a big pile of used gloves left behind over the years. The cables are metal and can wreck havoc on your hands, especially on the way down.
Try not to look down and get a photo of yourself on the Visor, it looks worse than it is on the ledge itself. That said, I wouldn't linger. You never know when the Visor becomes the Headband.
Be careful at Yosemite. 12 people die on the average in the Park every year. The number of people climbing Half Dome has increased by at least 30% over the last decade, resulting in congestion and death. Most visitors are not prepared to scale the Dome, therefore making it much ore risky for seasoned climbers. A Japanese man lost his footing and fell to his death just a month agon on Half Dome.
Keep an eye on the forecast, and to the sky.
Don't climb to high places like Sentinel Dome if you hear thunder.
Rain will also be a hazard if you need good footing.
Stay inside or in a vehicle if the weather gets bad. At this elevation, there are a lot of things to consider for your safety.
This lovely little sign warns of the dangers at the top of Ilillouette Falls. We filled our water bottles here, but had to be extra careful. The wet part of the rock was like glass and if we had put our weight on it, down we would have went. It would be like a giant natural waterslide with no traction whatsover.
Yosemite is surprisingly touristy and surprisingly untouristy. As in, I was surprised by the number of people that go, and how crowded the valley floor is, but I was also surprised that, for a place with so many tourists, the park had nondescript trailmaps, few rangers around and a general sense of danger. When we got back to camp, we learned that someone died while climbing up half dome right before our friends got there. But then again, I find that people who are used to the outdoors have no idea how clueless to this stuff city kids are. City kids know about other things, but there's just no need to learn how to wear mud boots, how to put on snow chains or that poison oak even exists. Especially in paternalistic San Francisco, where the solution to suicide is a fence. I guess what I'm getting at is that there are few fences in Yosemite.
While visiting the rivers and waterfalls, do NOT scramble about on top of the rocks. They are slippery, often unstable, and very treacherous. Far too many people have been injured, and sometimes killed, due to carelessness of this kind. Rather than become a candidate for a Darwin Award, just stay on the trails. Heed the signs!
If you take the Yosemite shuttle to the Mirror Lake loop trail, it is quite easy to end up walking down the wrong trail. When you walk towards Mirror Lake after you have been dropped off at the shuttle stop, there is a bridleway path which is quite wide off the roadway to Mirror Lake with the Mirror Lake information sign right at the start of the bridleway. I walked this route thinking this was the start of the Mirror Lake loop trail, given that I didn't expect to be walking down an access road. Boy, was I wrong! I met others on the path who had thought the same as myself.
Stick to the road access route and you will pick up the walking trail approximately 0.6 miles down the road.
Luckily, in autumn when I went, Mirror Lake was bone dry (a bit of a disappointment) which meant it was easy to walk across one of the paths across the dry lake bed and pick up the loop trail but this was after I had walked out for over an hour and turned back.
The complimentary Yosemite park book you can get at the Visitor Centre tells you that this is a 2 mile, one hour round trip. I'd be a little surprised if this was the case, especially when the lake is full and there would be great scenery for photo-taking. The little green booklet, which is very useful, seems to underestimate the length of time to walk the easy trails listed given that most people want to stop to take photographs.
For years, we have all been told of the importance of water. The general guideline has been to drink 2 litre of water each day. For a person who is not living an active lifestyle this may be enough, but if you are physically active, you need more water than that. That is especially true if you are hiking in Yosemite National Park due to the fact the average temperature is much higher than other areas and the landscape goes up and down.
Water is essential for everyone, especially if you are hiking. Water helps almost every part of the human body function properly. Our bodies are almost two-thirds water, and proper hydration is essential to keep your body functioning properly during the hike. Some of the things water does in the body are:
* The brain is 75% water; even moderate dehydration can cause headaches and dizziness;
* Water regulates body temperature, which is especially important here in the area where the temperatures can be so brutal;
* Water carries nutrients and oxygen to all cells in the body
* Blood is 92% water;
* Water protects and cushions vital organs;
·* Water converts food into energy (which is something you will need on a 3 to 4 hour hike…);
* Muscles are 75% water, and you will use many muscles on a trail as you climb above the desert floor.
During peak snowmelt, some Yosemite waterfalls will have exceptionally high water and flood footbridges over streams. An easy example of this is the Wapama Falls footbridge, a wooden bridge across Falls Creek just beneath Wapama Falls. Since the spray and the water of the fall is propelled so powerfully, the bridge (early in the season) will be completely flooded, with water rushing over it. I crossed the bridge once and found it to be a somewhat harrowing experience; at times, the water was strong enough probably to wash me away (thankfully you can hang on to the handrails.) There was probably even more water before I came (late June) since regular peak snowmelt is early June.
It's true that being at a top of a thundering waterfall is exhilarating, but be careful and remember where you are. Each year, quite a few people slip at the brink of waterfalls, fall into the Merced River, Yosemite Creek, or something like that, and plunge a few hundred to a few thousand feet down to their deaths (Waterfall accidents are almost always fatal. If you fall down Upper Yosemite Fall, you'll have quite a bit of time to think about your dilemma before actually hitting anything). So be careful, and try to stay in places where there are railings. Also, the Silver Apron/Emerald Pool area above Vernal Fall is also potentially dangerous; stay out of the Merced River around there.
These signs were posted in numerous areas near waterfalls warning people to beware of the danger of falling while scrambling around on a boulder or getting too close to a cliff. This is probably because California is such a litigious state. Its also due to the fact that these areas are unstable and slippery and there's a chance of falling and getting hurt.
In addition to the boulders, keep an eye out for falling rocks as well. And not just on the trails but also on the roads.
The rocky areas around the waterfalls are generally slippery because, as you could probably guess, they get wet. These rocks leading to Bridal Veil Falls were very slippery and even in hiking boots with good traction, its still possible to take a spill. And if you fall, it may be a while before a park ranger comes by with a band aid and other firsr aid supplies, so be careful in these areas.
Be careful when walking on high points, such as the top of a dome. There's a sheer drop off and I've heard its not the most pleasant way to see Yosemite. At least, that's what the park rangers say.
But if your approaching the edge to get a better photo or see a better view, exercise caution.
Be safe when hiking, especially if you are not experienced.
Stay on the marked trails at all times. The hiking can be treacherous if you are careless. Wear the proper shoes and clothing, and be particularly careful in Winter. The hikes can become very icey.