County Hike Group was once again on the move. Julie Hornback had a
funeral to attend, but the rest of us - Wes Thiessen, Carolyn
Amicone, and Dick Estel, set off on the morning of October 13, 2014,
hike to the top of Sentinel
Dome in Yosemite
destination is an 8,000 foot dome near Glacier
Point. Many years ago you could drive to the base of the dome,
and it was just a short walk to the top. That road is now closed to
vehicles, and the usual route is a 1.1 mile hike that starts from a
trailhead a few miles from Glacier Point. You can also hike 1.4
miles from Glacier Point or walk up the old road, but we took the
"normal" trail route.
To get to
the trailhead we drove up Highway 41 to Oakhurst, 45 miles from
Fresno, where we stopped and got sandwiches from the deli at Raley's
Supermarket. It's another 15 miles from there to the park entrance
just past Fish
Camp, then about 20 miles to the junction with the Glacier Point
Road at Chinquapin.
location was once a small settlement. Later there was a ski lodge,
then a ranger station, and a gas station till the 1990s, but the
only thing there now is a restroom. After a quick stop, we turned on
to the Glacier Point Road, going past Badger
Pass ski area and Bridalveil
Creek Campground, heading for the trailhead 14 miles from
most of our trip we had enjoyable scenery, especially after entering
Yosemite National Park. But as Wes says, as soon as you get in the
car you're on vacation, so enjoy the journey. The foothills offer
their own beauty, even though they are normally dry and brown at
this time of year. With a couple of years of below average rainfall,
they look even more parched than usual, and another dry year would
leave this area virtually barren of grass.
Point road passes through forests of ponderosa and sugar pine, white
and red fir, lodgepole, and many high altitude shrubs. Along the way
there are glimpses of the high rocky peaks of the Sierra crest east
of our location.
We found the
trailhead crowded but managed to get the next to last parking space,
and soon were on the trail. There are two destinations from this
Point and Sentinel Dome, both relatively easy hikes of just over
a mile one way. I had been to Taft Pont many
years ago, but had never hiked the Sentinel Dome trail.
views of the
dome, about a thousand feet higher than the start of
the trail, and apparently too steep for climbing, so a bit daunting
for Carolyn, who was making her first visit of any kind. Wes had
hiked the trail a few times, and I knew that we would work our way
around to the east side and find easier going. Similar views
presented themselves as we hiked, and even fairly close on the south
side, the dome still looked very challenging.
were prepared for cool weather, much of the trail is in the sun, and
we were very comfortable with jeans and short sleeve shirts, despite
the elevation. The trail goes up fairly gradually, and there are no
really difficult spots till you get to the dome itself. From here,
there is no official marked trail, but Wes guided us up in a zig zag
technique that made the climb reasonably comfortable.
we reached the rock we started seeing the upper part of Half Dome,
as well as other Yosemite landmarks, including Cloud's Rest, Mt.
Clark, and Mt. Starr-King. This led to a friendly competition
between Dick and Wes over what we were seeing. Before we started our
way around the dome, to the northwest we could see the rounded top
and a small part of the sheer cliff of El
Capitan, one of the more notable features on the north side of
Yosemite Valley. Wes was fairly certain that we were actually
looking at cliffs farther down the Merced Canyon, so Dick tried to
lure him into a lunch bet, but Wes was wise enough, and uncertain
enough to avoid this trap. Once we got around to the northeastern
side of the rock, Wes admitted that the feature we were looking at
was definitely El
As we made
our way up the dome, the views kept getting better and better,
ultimately giving us a 360 degree look at Yosemite's high country.
We could also see the place where Yosemite
Falls should be - the cliff is stained and the path of both the
upper and lower falls are clearly visible. But there is no
the stream is completely dry. Nevada Fall on the Merced River was
just a trickle, although there was enough water to maintain a
sluggish flow of water through the river bed in the valley.
the view and took pictures, spending about 20 minutes on top. Near
the very top of the dome is a gnarled Jeffrey
pine, now dead, that
was living until about 1977. A website that seems to be mostly
accurate says: "On
top of Sentinel Dome is one of the world's most famous dead trees, the
fallen Jeffrey Pine. The tree appeared in the 1940 Ansel Adams photo
and became a star. The tree died in 1977 and finally fell over in
2003." This much photographed landmark
was famous for its low, twisted stature, despite obviously being
probably one or two hundred years old.
We made it
down the rock and back to the car without mishap, recording a total
hiking time of about two hours. Wes had brought along an extra set
of hiking poles, and Carolyn tried these for the first time,
deciding that they helped enough that it would be a good investment
to get her own.
drove the short distance to Glacier Point, where we had a similar
view of the high peaks, but from a slightly lower elevation, about
7,000 feet. You can also walk out to the edge of the cliff and look
down into Yosemite Valley, with some views almost straight down. We
took our ice chests out toward the point, found a place where we
could sit and eat lunch while gazing at Half Dome and other peaks.
We have all
been to Glacier Point, dozens of times in my case, but none of us
ever tire of this magnificent view. I've taken so many photos there
that it is difficult to find a new angle, but this was the first
time I had been there with my current camera, which has a panorama
setting, so I was able to get some views that were new for me.
we went, but especially on the trail, Wes had a greeting for
everyone we met, always asking where they were from. Most of the
people we talked to were from outside the U.S., including Scotland,
England, Austria and Israel.
After we had
enjoyed the area for a while after lunch, we stared our return
journey, arriving back in Fresno about 5:30, nine hours after we
Estel, October 2014