I was reading Sheena’s blog about her visit to Yosemite, and it brought memories flooding back of our trip there. There is so much to see and do. We were lucky enough to have a place in the Yosemite NP Lodge, right on the valley floor at the heart of the park. Why lucky? Well these rooms are at a premium during peak season and we had booked 12 months earlier and they had nearly all gone!
My wife, 2 friends and I had 5 days to explore the park and managed to pack a lot in. Unfortunately, even 5 days was not enough to “do it all”, we missed out on the walk to Half Dome and up the “ladders” but still managed most of the iconic walks: Valley Floor, Bridalveil, Happy Isles/Nevada fall, Tuolumne Grove, Mariposa Big Trees etc.
I think, though, that the most impressive walk was to Taft Point. Why “most impressive”? Well, because it held the biggest surprise. From an innocuous start to jaw dropping splendour in under a mile.
Taft Point and The Fissures can be approached in a couple of ways, you can walk up from Glacier Point, over Sentinel Dome via the Pohono Trail, this is about a 4.5 mile round trip on a well marked trail, or you can use the Taft Point trail head on Glacier Point Road, which is ca 2 mile round walk. For the really adventurous you can use the Four Mile Trail from the valley floor to Glacier Point, but given the steep climbs, this isn’t for the faint hearted, especially if you want to do this as a day hike. But just remember, whatever route you choose you are at 7000 to 8000 feet in altitude so be prepared. We chose the short route, so we could then spend more time on other trails, maximising our time in Yosemite.
We were up and on the road, pretty much at first light for the 30 mile drive to the trail head. Allow a good 50 mins for the drive, longer if the traffic is building up. Hitting the trail heads at 8am gave us this trail to ourselves. Not until we got back to the car did we see anyone else
The Taft Point trail is fairly flat and begins in mixed pine and fir forest on a sandy track. As you pass through the forest you join the Pohono Trail and have to ford a small stream. Take some time to enjoy the flowers this creek nourishes; corn lily, senecio and cow parsnip to name a few. So far, so nice and easy. The heady smell of pine and sand is quite soothing on the senses and does nothing to prepare you for the next part of the walk.
As you emerge abruptly from the forest onto open rock, the trail steepens. The flower filled gully suddenly narrows, deepens and falls through a gap in the rock, sending the little stream tumbling to the valley floor a long way below you. As you descend the trail, the view starts to open up in front of you – and what a view it is – The 3 Brothers and El Capitan looking as though they are within touching distance. But you need your wits about you, keep looking at the granite you are walking on for the first of the fissures to appear.
These are narrow deep cracks in the granite some 30-40 feet in length. They are deceptive and feel easy to stride over. Maybe they would be, other than as you look down through the crack, all you can see is the valley floor some 3000 feet below you! As the fissures extend towards the edge of the plateau the gap widens and gives even more vertigo inducing views.
Continue straight forward and follow the rock plateau as it gently rises and finishes abruptly at Taft Point. You know you are at the right place as there is a ridiculous metal fence 4 feet height, 6 feet wide to stop you falling over. The view to the valley floor is dizzying, the view across to El Capitan quite, quite, magnificent.
Of all the walks we have ever done, this short walk still stands out as one of the best and lingers long in the minds eye, even after the rest of our trip to Yosemite faded in memory.
If you have the chance to do this walk, make sure you take a step back and look at the rugged cliff edge below Taft Point, it looks to me like stone giant, keeping watch over Yosemite, perhaps it is the Sentinel. This is the memory that will last a lifetime.