October 8, 2020
Sentinel Dome and Taft Point Loop
Total distance walked: 5.10 miles
In October of 1909, President William Howard Taft—for whom Taft Point was named—visited Yosemite National Park. He and John Muir walked the Four Mile Trail (4.8 miles) beginning at Glacier Point and descending to the Valley over 3,000 feet below. In spite of his size, Taft was known to be strong and “robust.” Muir called him, “the merriest man.”
As the story goes, a horse was ready for President Taft to ride so he didn’t have to walk down the trail. But it wasn’t big enough to support his portly size of 320 pounds. Taft’s entourage rode their horses packed with his luggage down to the Valley. Muir and Taft outwalked the horses and arrived at the Valley first. By that time, Taft was drenched with sweat. His luggage, containing a change of clothing, was still somewhere on the trail hours away. No one could lend him dry clothing because of his size, so he went to bed. Of the walk, Taft wrote, “While I am tired from the open-air exercise, I feel greatly the better for it.” Fast-forward 111 years.
In October of 2020, my friend and I took a trip out to Taft Point on one of the haziest days I’ve seen. From the trailhead at Glacier Point Drive, we first approached the northeast side of Sentinel Dome.
We scrambled to the top of the dome where the normally amazing 360-degree view of the park was shrouded in smoke.
After a short break, we continued towards Taft Point walking through an old-growth forest.
Though the day was cool and grey, the air didn’t smell too strongly of smoke. We wended down the switchbacks then walked along the south rim intrigued by the geologic features of the area.
Two female sooty grouse greeted us near the Taft Point vicinity.
One of the features at Taft Point are the five fissures. They are cracks in the granite with straight drop-offs to the Valley floor 3,000 feet below. The fissures are very exposed and unmarked—just thinking about them makes my hands sweat.
Awed by the view, my friend stood at the old metal railing marking the official Taft Point. I cautiously approached the rails for a peek over the edge. After a short stay we finished the loop trail by heading east.
Down in the Valley well below Taft Point and far from the veil of smoke, my friend and I sat near the Merced River. After sharing a hazy day adventure in the high country, we delighted in the rare treat of a chocolate beer. We spied a mama black bear scavenging with her cubs bringing an exciting end to an already exhilarating day.