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Trip Report: Moran Point, Water Works, Ribbon Falls Amphitheater (long)

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Trip Report: Moran Point, Water Works, Ribbon Falls Amphitheater (long)
October 30, 2011 02:49AM
Finally we got our second, and last, hiking trip to Yosemite this year. Three nights, two full days and two half-days (travel days).

Optional rant: Cue the sad violins. I had just gotten back from a trip that included biking on the former Western Maryland Railroad that is now a rail trail from Cumberland to Pittsburgh. This included a party afterwards with my old hiking, caving, and climbing buddies in Pittsburgh. They are a bit older than I am, with an average age of about 80. It was a chilling sight....a vision of my own future in a decade or so. Meanwhile, I had had only a couple of hiking days in Yosemite this year. A future where I am too old to bushwhack is haunting my sleep.

So I snagged three nights at the Lodge, and set out to tie up some loose ends, mostly stuff suggested by threads on this forum. The first travel day included a drive from San Jose, followed by the reverse bushwhack from Sentinel Dome to the Water Works, then a side trip to Moran Point, and on down the Four Mile Trail to Yosemite Lodge.

By 1:30 pm we were at Glacier Point, and setting out on the Pohono Trail towards the saddle between Sentinel Dome and the ridge going out to Sentinel Rock. The jump-off point from the trail is easy to find. Which is good, because heading down anywhere else in that neighborhood is over a cliff. After a couple of downward switchbacks on the Pohono Trail, you come to the saddle on the ridge to Sentinel Rock. Immediately at that point, on the right, is a nice flat overlook with a good view of the waterworks. Here it is:



The large circle is the water works, and the smaller one is the switchback on the Four Mile Trail immediately above Union Point.

(added 7/13/2012: gigapan has a great view of this area, which you can blow up a lot. http://gigapan.com/gigapans/45634/ )

Just beyond that flat overlook, towards Sentinel Rock, is a narrow opening to the amazing little wooded gully that takes you in under the cliffs. From there the valley fans out. You can just follow the game trails downward, taking every right hand option, until you get to the dry creek that leads down to the spring that feeds the pipes.

The spring was running full bore, and the creek below the spring had plenty of water in it. It's the same creek that you cross down below on the Four Mile Trail, just before you pass under Sentinel Rock.

The purpose of today's bushwhack was to check into Chick-on's statement that the pipes were all smashed up. (See link: water works) I thought that might have been in preparation to hauling that stuff out of there. Not so. That is, the pipes are smashed all right. In at least a half dozen places. But in every case this has been caused by falling rocks. And one washout. It looks like an entire season of rock falls has been at work here. So it is probable that no one is actively patching the pipes this year. One reason for the increasing number of pipe breaks is that in recent years the guys doing the repairs have not covered the pipes with dirt after making a repair splice:
Here you can see a spliced piece running right on the surface, near a spot where rocks had fallen to break the pipe. Needless to say, this is the sort of place where another rock is likely to come down again.

Erosion of the previous dirt cover is also exposing more of the old wooden and plastic pipes that had been previously buried. Here is a press-fit joint in the old wooden pipe that the Cavalry bought when they were in charge of the park:

But a look around at the pump house shows that everything there is still in fine shape, and they are quite ready to pump water again if anyone repairs the plastic pipe. The high pressure pipe heading up to Glacier Point also looks good. So I'm guessing that the new well at Glacier Point is working, and that the old water works exists only as a possible backup at this point in time. It's certainly not supplying any water right now. Of course, the water at Glacier Point is shut off for the winter anyway...the pipes have all been drained to prevent them from freezing and bursting.

Then we dashed off to Moran Point. Until the recent posts on the subject, I had had never noticed it on the map. (See link: Moran Point)

The route to Moran Point from the switchback below Union Point is easy, and relatively brush free. The old photos of Moran Point are pictures of the point, not pictures from the point. Here is one of those photos. Moran Point is the series of outcrops on the left, viewed from the saddle where they attach to the mountain.
You can actually climb the outcrops. Here is my nutty hiking buddy climbing the middle one.

But it's pointless to do so. The steps that Chick-on talks about go down around them on the left side, leading down to various lookouts. You have to go down to the third bump before you can get a view without young trees in the foreground. What you get is just the usual stuff, but from a slightly different perspective.

The back side of the first bump looks like a manatee.

There is some thigh-high brush right at the beginning of the old trail alongside the rocks at the point, but not so much down below.

The next two days were spent on more ambitious projects, including finding the point where Hill made his famous painting of the valley, and retracing the old horse trail that preceded the Old Big Oak Flat Road. I'll post about them when I get a bit of time. On our departure day, we went up to see the Ribbon Falls Amphitheater. The recent postings about it had really whetted my appetite. (see link: Ribbon Falls Amphitheater) I must say that the descriptions were inadequate. The thing is wonderful. It also makes for a perfect half day hike: We started up at 9:30, and were back at the car at noon.

My only comment about the climbers' trail going up is that it is better than I expected. Not many tree branches, not much talus, just steep dirt and rocks. With some Fall leaves underfoot. It was suggested in the forum that you go to the end of the climber's trail and bushwhack over to the falls, but this is totally unnecessary. The lower part of the trail stays within shouting distance of the creek. Shortly after passing the 5000 foot level, the climbers trail makes a sharp horizontal left turn. A fainter use trail goes up and slightly right until it comes out of the trees exactly at the entrance to the amphitheater. This was the easiest hike we had seen all week. But it is quite steep, so don't try it on a very hot day.

The amphitheater looks more like Zion Park than Yosemite. The waterfall was flowing, but the majority of the water evaporated on the way down, and the flow wasn't strong enough to make it shoot out from the wall and become a free fall. This warm and misty spot had numerous flowers, even on Halloween weekend. In addition to Indian Paintbrush, I saw what I consider to be Western Purple Flower, Western White Flower, Western Yellow Flower, Western Pink Flower, Western Pale Blue Flower, and so on...

The use trail comes out by those two tall evergreens:














Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 07/13/2012 05:40PM by wherever.
Re: Trip Report: Moran Point, Water Works, Ribbon Falls Amphitheater (long)
October 30, 2011 04:53AM
Nice to hear about the amphitheater,it is exceptional even for the valley.In the 70's the water works were not working.The pump house was gutted and the tank was topless and missing one or more side panels.There was water running thru the tank making it a good place to cool off on a hot day.There was a pool large enough to sit in.I'm wondering why they repaired it.
Re: Trip Report: Moran Point, Water Works, Ribbon Falls Amphitheater (long)
October 30, 2011 08:10AM
Quote
grant1
Nice to hear about the amphitheater,it is exceptional even for the valley.In the 70's the water works were not working.The pump house was gutted and the tank was topless and missing one or more side panels.There was water running thru the tank making it a good place to cool off on a hot day.There was a pool large enough to sit in.I'm wondering why they repaired it.

Well, it was fully refurbished later. I remember seeing the chassis of an old pump sitting outside the pump house, with its cylinder head removed. That would have been a decade or more ago. That piece of junk is gone now. At that time the pump house was fixed and locked up and the system was working. The old power pole had been replaced with a modern one that has the transformers on top. The old pole is still there, showing power taps that came down without transformers. Scary. The new one, as you can see, has the transformer outputs run in an armored cable down the side of the pole in approved modern fashion.




So, what was going on? My guess is that it went derelict when the Glacier Point Hotel burned down. Then, after you saw it in ruins, they built the fancy new concession building at Glacier Point and the marvelous modern bathroom building. Plus, they built a very large water tank up there that also would be of use in a fire. These wanted water and power, so they fixed up the power line to the point and fixed up the water system.

Then came the ridiculous lawsuit. See link: lawsuit

Now we have the nice modern bathrooms at the Glacier Point parking lot permanently closed, and there are newly built outhouses nearby.
Closed modern bathrooms:

New outhouse:




Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/03/2011 01:08PM by wherever.
Re: Trip Report: Moran Point, Water Works, Ribbon Falls Amphitheater (long)
October 30, 2011 08:34AM
Thanks for the update on the water works.
avatar Re: Trip Report: Moran Point, Water Works, Ribbon Falls Amphitheater (long)
October 30, 2011 08:16PM
Awesome.

Here's another one on Moran Pt.:
http://yosemitenews.info/forum/read.php?3,38632

IMO it's worth it to go ALL the way out. Did the same thing climbing up the bunny ears and other knobs.
Agree ... totally unnec. Just go around on the left all the way. Great view... something you
don't see from other parts o the trail.



Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Trip Report: Moran Point, Water Works, Ribbon Falls Amphitheater (long)
November 01, 2011 08:26AM
Thanx for the report, pics and detailed descriptions! The amphitheater is on my to do list smiling smiley
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