Oct 29, 2007
Last night I returned from my first visit to Yosemite. I went up with Cristin and a group of Googlers, ate dinner in the dark atop Glacier Point, spent the night in a tent on the valley floor, and then hiked Sentinel Dome. Cristin took this amazing photo (and several others) from the valley of the mountain formation that I think was called "Three Brothers". The entire trip was memorable, but I'll write a little more detail about Sentinel Dome, as it is a little less of the "been there done that" story.
Yosemite's Sentinel Dome is the second highest point in the main Yosemite Valley (Update: I had said the park, but this is untrue as an astute reader pointed out), other than Half Dome. While Half Dome gets hundreds of visitors daily, we hiked the far easier trail to Sentinel Dome and saw maybe a half dozen people on the trail total. It is definitely not a popular spot despite the fact that it has a 360 degree view of the valley, and a short 2 mile (one way) hike from the parking lot. It is considered by some to be the best place in the continental US to see the night stars. It is also from here that Ansel Adams took one his most famous photograph of the Sentinel Dome Jeffrey Pine. It has since become one of the most photographed trees in the country.
The left image is Ansel Adams' photo, the right image was one taken in 2002. In the intervening years, there was a severe drought. Visitors to Sentinel Dome hauled buckets of water to the dome to water the tree, to no avail. The right picture is the tree after the drought. Some time in August 2003, the tree fell over in the wind. The image above of myself and Pedro is what it looks like today, just a log really. Sad, in fact there is some pocketknife carving on the side you can't see in the image. Still, it is quite a sight on top of the bare granite that is Sentinel Dome.
I have to wonder why this trail isn't more popular. It seems like one of Yosemite's rare secrets.