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Monday, June 13, 2016, I took a little hike of Yosemite National Park's scenic Panorama Trail, along with my brother, Michael Rench, and my brother-in-law, Greg Wilson.  We were fortunate to have Margaret Rench, my sister-in-law do the driving duties, as she drove us to Glacier Point, to drop us off, so we could hike to Yosemite Valley via the Panorama Trail, and the John Muir Trail.  Such a great hike!

Photo:  My sister-in-law, Margaret Rench, dropped my brother, Michael Rench, my brother-in-law, Greg Wilson, and myself off at Glacier Point.  The idea was that she would meet us at Curry Village, after we completed our hike.  We were glad to have Margaret drive us, as with her driving, we didn't have to deal with a shuttle bus, and her driving, and her company is much more "user friendly" to us.

We began hiking the Panorama Trail at about 1015 on Monday morning, June 13, 2016.  After making the short climb from Glacier Point, over the ridge, and switchbacking downhill toward Illouette Falls, we were rewarded with this breathtaking view of the Merced River, as it flows over Nevada and Vernal Falls.  We're looking into today's future, as we'll be visiting both falls during the course of our hike.  That's Half Dome, as seen from a very different perspective, in the upper, center, of the photo.

Photo:  Greg and Michael pause at a junction, as we head down the trail, to cross Illouette Creek, just before the falls plunge over the granite cliff, into the Merced River.

Photo:  The typical Yosemite back country sign, that shows the way to our destination of Yosemite Valley.  The mileage reads 6.9, but after today's hike was over, we hiked 11.0 miles, exactly, of most hard, back country hike. These metal signs have been around forever, as I remember these signs as a little kid in the early 1960's, when I first began hiking Yosemite trails.

Photo:  About a quarter mile before you reach the bridge, which crosses Illouette Creek, you reach the point where you can watch the creek plunge nearly 380 feet over the granite, which is Illouette Falls.  Illouette Falls is one of Yosemite's major water falls - it flows all year - but is not nearly as famous as it's siblings, as you have to hike to see it up-close-and-personal, with the exception of a distant view from Washburn Point.  The view, and the roar of the cascading water is amazing!  By the way, I didn't get any closer than the photo shows, as if you slip from the granite, it's a long fall into the canyon below.

Photo:  Michael and Greg snap photos of the cascades of Illouette Creek.  We didn't get any closer to the water than this photo shows, as we really wanted to come from this hike to our wives.

Photo:  View of upper Yosemite Valley, as seen from Panorama Point.  After hiking this scenic trail, I can see how it got it's name, as it's kind of a "wrap-around" experience of upper Yosemite Valley, as seen from various heights, and many different angles.

Photo:  Hi Mom!  Hi Dad!  Greg photos me at Panorama Point, with beautiful Half Dome in the background.

Photo:  After crossing Illouette Creek safely on a foot bridge, the trail begins a steady climb of about 2-1/2 miles until you reach Nevada Falls.  Michael and I take a break, as Greg snaps our photo, with Half Dome in the background.  Thanks, Greg Wilson, for allowing me to use your photo in this article.

Photo:  As we were hiking the trail, I paused to snap some wildflowers of the Mountain Pride variety, as they cling to the edge of the cliff.  Thank goodness for my telephoto lens, as these flowers were clinging to a cliff, with a drop of at least 500 feet.

Photo:  We're a couple of miles from Nevada Falls, but at this distance, you could hear the roar of the water.

Photo:  Greg and Michael slog it up the trail.  Actually, the climb from Illouette Creek to Nevada Falls isn't too bad, it's just a long 2-1/2 miles, but the breathtaking scenery makes the climb worthwhile.

Photo:  We make Nevada Falls a little after one in the afternoon, ate lunch, and decided which trail to take back to Yosemite Valley.  After a bit of debate, we decided to start of the trail to Half Dome, but opt for the cutoff to the John Muir Trail, rather than backtrack .2 miles from where we ate lunch, in order to hike to the valley, via the John Muir trail.  We came to this decision, as we wanted to see some extra scenery, and we didn't want to get wet, on the way back to Happy Isles, via the Mist Trail.

We crossed the foot bridge at Nevada Falls, checked out the scenery at the top of the falls, and headed down the trail, on the north side of the Merced River canyon.  When I say down, I mean DOWN, as the trail is a series of rough, steep stairs, made from granite boulders.  As in the sidewalks in downtown Tijuana, Mexico, each stair is different, so you have to THINK with each step you take, and place each of your feet in the proper place, with each step you take, down each stair.  You have about a mile of this before you hit the meadow just above Vernal Falls.  This trail is rough, steep - 45 degree angles or better - slippery, and narrow.  One false move, and you could be off the cliff, and into the river, hundreds of feet below.  On this June Monday, we had to contend with another problem:  Traffic. As in fellow hikers, some ascending, some descending, and it seemed like everyone had their own ajacent, and adhered to their own timetable.

Photo:  After hiking down the crazy stair steps from Nevada Falls, we found a junction that led us back to the John Muir trail, which is a longer, but easier hike to our destination of Curry Village, than the shorter, slippery, and WET mist trail.  But the kicker was that he had to regain most of the altitude that we'd lost during our descent from Nevada Falls, via the difficult stair step trail, so we had to climb up an other mile of stair steps, in order to rejoin the John Muir trail.  By the time we reached the John Muir trail, and this fine view of Vernal Falls, we were stiff, sore, and totally tired.  The good news was that we had only about four miles of trail left in order to reach Curry Village, and it was all down hill.

Photo:  Down the trail, we were rewarded with a beautiful view of Nevada Falls.

Photo:  We we really up there a few hours ago?  Illouette Falls, as viewed from the John Muir trail, about a half mile east of Happy Isles.  Yes were there, and many more places over the course of our 11-mile, 7+ hour hike.  We gained and lost about 4000 feet of elevation, but it was a fun and a rewarding hike.

As an aside, when we reached Happy Isles, the shuttle bus didn't seem to appear, and other riders kept showing up, so we elected to hike the extra mile to Curry Village, where Margaret, the friendly car, and the store - with lots of cold beer - awaited us.

Photo:  This is the way to end the hike:  A burger, beer, and lots of fries at Happy Burger Diner, in Mariposa.

Yes, after the 11-mile hike - we measured it on our GPS - we were tired, sore, and full of enthusiasm!  We look forward to another hike in beautiful Yosemite National Park.

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