September 19, 2013
Yosemite Valley Trail
Total distance: 2.5 miles
A gentle breeze blew high in the treetops as I began the last hike of summer 2013. I was going to walk over the Old Big Oak Flat Road (OBOFR) also known as the Rockslides Trail. It’s a hidden trail not found in the usual Yosemite guide books or on most maps. From the trail there are spectacular views of Bridalveil Fall, El Capitan, Half Dome and the valley below.
OBOFR is historic, which was the main reason I wanted to hike it. It was the second road to reach Yosemite Valley, completed in 1874. The old wagon road was a toll road to start, the average rate to cross being fifty cents per passenger. Finding it, however, was an adventure in itself.
Before leaving, I checked the Internet. One blog gave photos and landmarks such as: go beyond the “wood lot” with a picture of a big pile of cut wood. Another guide said, “a large number of logs are piled up near a small parking area”. Both said to find road marker V9. I found marker V9 but did not find the aforementioned logs or wood lot.
Beyond V9 in the woods was a walking trail. I headed west on the shaded path for a short distance until reaching Northside Drive and the Pohono Bridge—the wrong direction.
At Northside Drive, I turned around and walked back beyond my starting point and continued walking for over a mile. I saw large piles of berry-filled bear scat on the trail. Weaving my way through the forest I could hear the trees creek and see the cars on Northside Drive. As I approached the granite monolith, El Capitan, I kept my eyes peeled for the unmarked trail up to OBOFR.
The late summer sun peeked through the forest green pines. The lanky pines towered over stalky dogwoods adorned with bright green leaves. Below the dogwoods on the forest floor grew leafy green ferns. I was surrounded by many shades of green.
Having no luck in finding the old road, I sat on a boulder and checked the National Geographic map of Yosemite Valley. It showed the Rockslides but no trail. In retrospect, I should have brought the NPS/Yosemite Conservancy map. Looking at it at home, I saw the unmarked road as a slight, white horizontal line. The unmarked path up to the road was not far from where I stopped on the trail. OBOFR looks on the NPS map, just as it looks when you stand back and view the rock slides from a distance.
A pleasant walk through the forest was a nice way to end summer. I’ll try to find the Old Big Oak Flat Road another time.