Another grand one-day excursion is to the Upper Yosemite Fall, the top of the highest of the Three Brothers, called Eagle Peak on the Geological Survey maps; the brow of El Capitan; the head of the Ribbon Fall; across the beautiful Ribbon Creek Basin; and back to the Valley by the Big Oak Flat wagon-road.
The trail leaves the Valley on the east side of the largest of the earthquake taluses immediately opposite the Sentinel Rock and as it passes within a few rods of the foot of the great fall, magnificent views are obtained as you approach it and pass through its spray, though when the snow is melting fast you will be well drenched. From the foot of the Fall the trail zigzags up a narrow cañon between the fall and a plain mural cliff that is burnished here and there by glacial action.
You should stop a while on a flat iron-fenced rock a little below the head of the fall beside the enthusiastic throng of starry comet-like waters to learn something of their strength, their marvelous variety of forms, and above all, their glorious music, gathered and composed from the snow-storms, hail-, rain- and wind-storms that have fallen on their glacier-sculptured, domey, ridgy basin. Refreshed and exhilarated, you follow your trail-way through silver fir and pine woods to Eagle Peak, where the most comprehensive of all the views to be had on the north-wall heights are displayed. After an hour or two of gazing, dreaming, studying the tremendous topography, etc., trace the rim of the Valley to the grand El Capitan ridge and go down to its brow, where you will gain everlasting impressions of Nature’s steadfastness and power combined with ineffable fineness of beauty.
Dragging yourself away, go to the head of the Ribbon Fall, thence across the beautiful Ribbon Creek Basin to the Big Oak Flat stage-road, and down its fine grades to the Valley, enjoying glorious Yosemite scenery all the way to the foot of El Capitan and your camp.
For a two-day trip I would go straight to Mount Hoffman, spend the night on the summit, next morning go down by May Lake to Tenaya Lake and return to the Valley by Cloud’s Rest and the Nevada and Vernal Falls. As on the foregoing excursion, you leave the Valley by the Yosemite Falls trail and follow it to the Tioga wagon-road, a short distance east of Porcupine Flat. From that point push straight up to the summit. Mount Hoffman is a mass of gray granite that rises almost in the center of the Yosemite Park, about eight or ten miles in a straight line from the Valley. Its southern slopes are low and easily climbed, and adorned here and there with castle-like crumbling piles and long jagged crests that look like artificial masonry; but on the north side it is abruptly precipitous and banked with lasting snow. Most of the broad summit is comparatively level and thick sown with crystals, quartz, mica, hornblende, feldspar, granite, zircon, tourmaline, etc., weathered out and strewn closely and loosely as if they had been sown broadcast. Their radiance is fairly dazzling in sunlight, almost hiding the multitude of small flowers that grow among them. At first sight only these radiant crystals are likely to be noticed, but looking closely you discover a multitude of very small gilias, phloxes, mimulus, etc., many of them with more petals than leaves. On the borders of little streams larger plants flourish—lupines, daisies, asters, goldenrods, hairbell, mountain columbine, potentilla, astragalus and a few gentians; with charming heathworts—bryanthus, cassiope, kalmia, vaccinium in boulder-fringing rings or bank covers. You saunter among the crystals and flowers as if you were walking among stars. From the summit nearly all the Yosemite Park is displayed like a map: forests, lakes, meadows, and snowy peaks. Northward lies Yosemite’s wide basin with its domes and small lakes, shining like larger crystals; eastward the rocky, meadowy Tuolumne region, bounded by its snowy peaks in glorious array; southward Yosemite and westward the vast forest. On no other Yosemite Park mountain are you more likely to linger. You will find it a magnificent sky camp. Clumps of dwarf pine and mountain hemlock will furnish resin roots and branches for fuel and light, and the rills, sparkling water. Thousands of the little plant people will gaze at your camp-fire with the crystals and stars, companions and guardians as you lie at rest in the heart of the vast serene night.
The most telling of all the wide Hoffman views is the basin of the Tuolumne with its meadows, forests and hundreds of smooth rock-waves that appear to be coming rolling on towards you like high heaving waves ready to break, and beyond these the great mountains. But best of all are the dawn and the sunrise. No mountain top could be better placed for this most glorious of mountain views—to watch and see the deepening colors of the dawn and the sunbeams streaming through the snowy High Sierra passes, awakening the lakes and crystals, the chilled plant people and winged people, and making everything shine and sing in pure glory.
With your heart aglow, spangling Lake Tenaya and Lake May will beckon you away for walks on their ice-burnished shores. Leave Tenaya at the west end, cross to the south side of the outlet, and gradually work your way up in an almost straight south direction to the summit of the divide between Tenaya Creek and the main upper Merced River or Nevada Creek and follow the divide to Clouds Rest. After a glorious view from the crest of this lofty granite wave you will find a trail on its western end that will lead you down past Nevada and Vernal Falls to the Valley in good time, provided you left your Hoffman sky camp early.