12/29/16: Half Dome Village & Lower Yosemite Falls
We got up about 8 after a well-earned good night’s sleep. Since we didn’t pre-make breakfast yesterday we had to do it all in the room which got us out the door late at about 10:15. We drove up to the park and there was a bit more traffic going into the park. We took the turnoff for Bridalveil Falls as our first stop. There were plenty of parking spots when we got in and Joyce thought we should put on our shoe cleats since the parking lot was icy. I said it was a flat, short 20 minute hike & we would not need them. I was wrong. The path up started fine but soon got very icy until, at the end, it was covered in a thick slab of slippery ice. People were falling & sliding all over the place. Nobody got hurt but there were some very near misses. Joyce actually fell twice. Once was while she was filming others sliding and was laughing at them. While she was laughing she went down and it was caught on video. I was able to climb up some rocks to get a better view of the Falls but we weren’t able to scramble over the rocks to get under the falls like you can in the summer.
Once out of there we drove to Half Dome Village and found parking easily. It was about 11:30 so we grabbed our skates and walked over to the rink where we found the next session started at 12:00. We put the skates back in the van & I talked to a guy who wanted a van himself while Joyce changed her shoes. We walked around the village a bit and found a bathroom and then went back to the van to grab our skates. When we got to the rink we found we needed to buy tickets from a booth near where the bathroom was so back we headed to get those. Once we had tickets in hand it was back to rink where we dominated the ice with our mad skating skillz. The rink was small & similar to the one they set up at the Hotel Del in San Diego. The ice was pretty bad & it got crowded but it was a good time. We decided to let others have the ice around 1:30 since the ice had really deteriorated by that point & the crowds were getting worse. We walked back to the van and ate our lunch inside. While eating we had some van looky-loos checking out the van outside. I don’t think they knew we were in there. That happens to us fairly often.
After lunch we grabbed a shuttle and took it over to stop #6 where we picked up the Lower Yosemite Falls Trail. This was an easy hike but there was lots of ice so our traction devices were deployed. This hike has great views of both the Upper and Lower Falls at the same time which is unique since most views around the valley only have views of the Upper Falls. The trail was roped off with yellow tape before the viewpoint due to snow covering the paved path. Everybody was crossing the tape so we were joiners and followed along. We had to walk over quite a bit of frozen snow to get there but it was worth it. Once at the Falls we had great views of the Lower Falls crashing down & the runoff flowing out towards the Merced River. In some spots the snow was about 8 ft deep which was surprising and the runoff flowed underneath the snow and was visible in a couple of spots where holes had formed in the snow. The trail then led off over a bridge where another strip of yellow tape was blocking the trail. Again people were crossing so again we followed. This trail led back to Village I think so we just hiked in a bit and then turned back. The trail at points was covered in icy snow so we made good use of our shoe spikes. We followed the trail back out the same way we came in and then walked back to the General Store where we picked up a shuttle at stop #10 and took it back to Half Dome Village. The ice skating ended up hurting my right outside ankle where the boot pressed against it. I had to loosen the laces near the top of my boot in order to hike semi-comfortably.
We ate dinner at the pizza place there and it was surprisingly decent. My right outside ankle became very sore at this point due to pressure from my ice skates. I forgot that they caused that problem for me. After dinner we walked back to the van and made the now familiar drive back to the hotel. Traffic was pretty much non-existent at this point. This was surprising since traffic was bumper to bumper while we hiked near Lower Yosemite Falls. This was a great day in Yosemite and the weather was nice as well. Definitely cold but the sun was out. So far the Ibex Woolaire jacket & Rab gloves are working out for me.