October 12, 2020
Valley Loop Trail to El Capitan
Total distance walked: 4.4 miles
Monday, Monday, so good to me. Monday mornin’, it was all I hoped it would be.
—The Mamas & The Papas
The COVID-19 pandemic changed the entrance operations of Yosemite National Park. From June through October 2020, a reservation was required for entrance. For $2 (with a National Parks pass) I purchased weekly passes. The park’s rule was, pick up the pass on the date listed on your ticket, or lose it. With that in mind, Chris and I went into Yosemite almost every Monday morning to pick up our entrance pass. Some Mondays we would bike ride through the Valley. Sometimes we picnicked by the beach or hiked in the high country. Occasionally we’d pick up the pass and turn right around and go home, only to go back later that week. Other Mondays I headed into the park alone.
On this particular Monday morning, El Capitan beckoned me forth on a dusty trail. El Capitan is one of the world’s largest chunks of unbroken granite. Sitting 3,593 feet above the Valley floor, it has always fascinated me. Its sheer size commands my attention.
It was a beautiful autumn day. Though Yosemite Valley doesn’t get the fall color shift like other locations, the oaks that lined the path were changing. The dogwood leaves were beginning to curl and would soon drop to the ground.
I got my first glimpse of the day of the famous rock that has been referred to as the Crown Jewel of American Rock Climbing. People come from all over the world to climb it. I just wanted to lay my hand on its cool granite base.
El Capitan was given its name in 1851 by the Mariposa Battalion. Long before that it was known as Tutokanula by the native Yosemite people, the Ahwahneechee. As the legend goes,
MANY, many moons ago, two little bear cubs slipped away from their mother and went swimming in the river that winds its way through the Valley of Ahwah-nee. When they had finished their swim they lay down on a rock to dry themselves in the sun. After a while they fell asleep, and as they slept the rock on which they lay began to grow, but they did not wake up, and the rock grew and grew, and lifted them up until they reached the sky. When the old mother bear missed her cubs she was frantic with grief, and all of the animals assembled at the base of the rock to try and rescue the little brothers and bring them down again to the Valley. One after another the animals tried, by springing up the face of the rock, to reach the little brothers, but even the mighty monarch of the forests, the grizzly bear, with all of his tremendous strength, and the cougar, with all of his leaping power, fell far short of the top. When all attempts had failed, and the animals had given up in despair, along came the little tu-tok-a-na, the measuring worm, the most humble of all the forest creatures, and started up the side of the rock. Inch by inch he drew himself up until he had passed the highest jump of the animals, up and up until he had passed from sight. He crawled day and night until at last he reached the top, and brought the little bear brothers down in safety to the Valley. And in honor of the little measuring worm the rock has ever since been known to the sons and daughters of Ah-wah-nee as Tu-tok-a-nu-la.
—The Lore and the Lure of the Yosemite, Herbert Earl Wilson 
My steps brought me ever closer to Tutokanula, but not close enough to touch it. Reluctantly, I turned away and headed home.
Beginning November 1st, the reservation system for entering Yosemite due to COVID-19 ended; meaning that once again, we can enter the park at leisure. At first, I disliked the idea of a reservation system, but in the end it worked well. It got us into the park more often than anticipated. Without it, I hope we will continue our Monday morning trips.