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323. Chilnualna Falls (06/07/03)

Hikers (10): Barbara, Elaine, Eugene, Gwynneth, Oliver, Peter, Rob P, Sue, Taylor, Tim
Distance: 8 miles
Rating: 3 difficulty, 10 beauty
Park info: Yosemite National Park

Write-up by Sue -- Pictures by Sue and Tim

Day 3 of our 2003 Yosemite Trip. The hike after Half Dome was affectionately dubbed the "cool-down" hike. Glacier Point was the originally planned 9.6 mile hike, but Elaine suggested that a drive to Glacier Point at sunset might yield more spectacular views and photo opportunities. Our fearless and flexible leader, Peter, agreed and suggested an alternative day hike to Chilnualna Falls near Wawona instead.

Starting out the day, I'm not sure any of us could have planned a day any better than this one. We ended up hiking Chilnualna Falls in the morning, eating lunch next to Bridalveil Falls in the afternoon, watching the sunset at Glacier Point, and celebrating Peter's Half Dome triumph at night (see below for photos and the rest of the story).

Chilnualna Falls

We set off at 8am for Wawona and Chilnualna Falls in Southern Yosemite. Given the steady influx of cars, buses, and campers since early Friday, it was probably a good idea to get away from the Valley. We took two cars, with Peter in the lead. Peter had said those of us in the second car didn't need a map, we just needed to turn right onto route 41 out of the Valley, and follow him. After following Peter at 70mph for 45 minutes on a curvy mountain road, with two slightly green passengers, I was chanting Eugene's mantra "Are we there yet?" A quick stop at a rest area, another couple miles on the road, and we reached the trailhead.

1, 2, 3 . . . INCH!

The hike began with a short climb up boulder steps next to the falls -- reminiscent of the Mist Trail next to Vernal Falls, but much shorter! The lower falls were booming and beautiful, but the trail quickly turned inland and away from the water.

The view of lower Chilnualna Falls

The next couple of miles wound through open Seqouia forest on a series of gentle switchbacks. Approaching the crest, the trail turned once again into rock steps and the sound of the falls could grew louder. As we made one last turn out of the trees, there was a panoramic vista of the Wawona Valley to our right and the upper Chilnualna Falls to our left. We decided to take a break on that plateau and enjoy the refreshing views.

At the upper falls: Taylor, Eugene, and Peter

Eugene shared his turkey jerky and his new favorite saying "Stay away from carbs!". Tim took photos. Elaine cooled off in the water. Rob went rock climbing and the rest of us shared our snacks.

Eugene was the first to pack up after our break and took the lead heading back down the hill. He encountered a couple of horses on the trail and started to pet one before quickly discovering the horse was drenched with sweat and dirt. Eugene radioed the other INCHers to warn them not to touch the horses - duh! Eugene tried to wipe his wet hand off on Rob, but Rob was in conditioning mode, jogging down the trail with a full pack, and he easily ran past Eugene avoiding the horsey swipe. The rest of us did not have to worry about the actual horses, just the presents they left behind for us in the middle of the narrow trails!

Bridalveil Falls

As we gathered back at our cars, we decided to have lunch at Bridalveil Falls back in Yosemite Valley. A quick stop at the Wawona general store for drinks and sandwiches and we were on the road again. The walking path to the falls was crowded, but we found the perfect spot for lunch.

Lunch at Bridalveil Falls

Glacier Point

After cleaning up from our hike, we all gathered at Curry Village for some celebratory drinks and more food. We enjoyed the afternoon sunshine and the view of a waterfall zigzagging its way down the side of the granite walls of Glacier Point.

During the day Barb had come up with the idea we should honor Peter's Half Dome accomplishment with a signed Yosemite T-shirt. Now, we were all a part of a grand conspiracy to buy, sign, and deliver a Half Dome shirt to Peter without him suspecting our plans. We took turns distracting Peter as others ran off and signed the shirt. At one time I was walking with Peter when he suddenly turned around to head back toward where Rob and Tim were signing the shirt. I saw a water fountain, and asked Peter to help me fill my camelback to give Rob and Tim enough time to run into the building and out the other door without Peter seeing the shirt. A short while later, with shirt and a couple of Half-Dome brand pale ale beers in hand, we drove up to Glacier Point to enjoy the sunset. Elaine was right. The views of the valley were spectacular!

At Glacier Point -- Front Row: Peter, Barb, Sue, Gwynneth, Oliver. Back Row: Elaine, Tim, Taylor, Eugene

There was also a Yosemite Guide that gave a sunset presentation on the Miwok Indian Legend of how Yosemite Valley was formed.

Did we climb that thing???

Afterwards, in an elaborate ceremnoy, Gwynneth presented the signed "I made it to the top of Half Dome" shirt to Peter. As the sunlight faded, the stars and the valley lights started to shine, we happily called an end to a perfect day.

Peter: Fourth time's a charm! Oliver is either giving the finger or pointing a gun -- neither is good!

Peter's 220th leaf

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