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25 Days to WSER: A Panoramically Sentinel Glacier

Having skipped the climb up to Glacier Point the previous day I decided that I would head up for what is considered as one of the best views in Yosemite National Park. I had spoken to a ranger who enjoys running around the park the previous evening and he had suggested that he preferred to climb up via the Panorama Trail and descend via the Four-Mile Trail so I decided that I would follow his advice.

I took the shuttle bus out to the Happy Isles trailhead, and started my day by ascending the very same trail that I had descended to finish my previous day: the John Muir Trail. It was a serious climb but the grades on the switchbacks meant that it was possible to run a lot of it. I reached the top of the Nevada Falls for the second day in a row, and turned onto the Panorama Trail for my climb up to Glacier Point. The trail crosses over the top of Illouette Falls before providing a view of the falls as they drop into the canyon below.

Yosemite NP - Illouette Falls
Yosemite NP – Illouette Falls

After leaving the falls I was ascending some switchbacks when I heard sounds in the brush alongside the trail, and looked around to spot a wolf heading in my direction parallel to the trail about 15 feet (5 metres) below me. It looked at me and I waved my hands above my head to look bigger, but it continued past me without much consideration. I watched it continue on while I set off once again along the trail. Not far ahead I bumped into a couple, and started the “Did you see that?” conversation only to hear the accent and realise that they were fellow Australians.

I continued on once again, turned at another switchback and started heading back in the direction in which I had seen the wolf. I started to see more people on the trail and advised them to keep alert. I then saw the wolf climb up onto the trail and start heading away from me along the trail. But then it spotted some people heading directly towards it, so it reversed direction and headed towards me instead. It was trying its best to avoid people but had stumbled upon a very busy section of trail. It diverted down off the trail before reaching me and that was the last time I spotted it. I continued to advise people as I went along, and when I reached a ranger-lead group he advised that it was a coyote rather than a wolf, since no wolves exist in the park. I was quite surprised since I had always thought of coyotes as being smaller than this sample, having a more copper-coloured coat, and having less fur on the face. But I did do some research afterwards (thanks to Google) and found that coyotes can have a more red-tinged coat with sleeker fur (obviously more suited to the drier terrain of states such as Arizona), but can also have a grey coat with more fur (obviously more suited to the mountainous terrain of the Sierra-Nevada Mountains).

Before reaching Glacier Point I reached the trail turnoff that would take me up to Sentinel Dome, which is 1400 feet (400 metres) higher and provides 360 degree views. I took the turnoff, climbed up for 1.5 miles (2.4 km) and admired the views. On the descent I surprised a guy possibly in his 50’s on his mobile phone, who obviously considered himself a fast walker, so he mentioned to the person on the other side of the connection that he was being overtaken by a runner. I retraced my way back to the same turnoff as previously and then continued to Glacier Point. Having worked hard to make my way up there it was a bit disconcerting to see the huge carpark that allows a very short walk to the viewpoint.

Yosemite NP - Glacier Point View
Yosemite NP – Glacier Point View

After admiring the gorgeous views I made my way to the top of the Four-Mile Trail for my descent back to the valley floor. It was a brilliant switchback descent and I had a great time as I headed down. I spotted a snake on my descent, which I had a ranger later identify for me as a King Snake. I tracked my progress based on elevation rather than mileage and eventually reached the trailhead at the valley floor. I then had only a short run to the other side of the valley to reach my campsite.

Yosemite NP - King Snake on Four-Mile Trail
Yosemite NP – King Snake on Four-Mile Trail

I had decided that rather than fitting in any long runs during my week in Yosemite I would instead plan to run consistently around 20 miles (32 km) on each day. This run had worked out perfectly at 21 miles (33.8 km). You can check out the details at MovesCount.com here.

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