Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park, about the size of Rhode Island (1,169 square miles) with peaks higher than 12,000 feet above sea level, is situated east of San Francisco and is in the center of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, a 400 mile long mountain range that borders California and Nevada .

The park is visited by millions of people, and the number one destination is the 7 square mile Yosemite Valley, with its camp grounds, hotels and more importantly, breathtaking waterfalls and majestic granite formations, including Half Dome and El Capitan.

The Valley floor is still over 3,500 feet above sea level, and the drive up is on a long and very steep and twisting roads, which creates a dramatic and theatrical entrance into this seismic powerhouse.

The first thing you see is Half Dome.

Half Dome is one of the most visible and represented images of Yosemite National Park. It is over 8,000 feet high and is one of the last sunlit spots each evening.

Wendy and I stayed at the most populous lodging, Curry Village, with furnished tents.

Above our heads is Glacier Point, many thousands of feet above with staircase falls gently cascading down. There is a swimming pool and when you float in the pool you can look at Half Dome, Yosemite Falls and Glacier Point... I have never floated and dreamed in a more beautiful spot in my life.

The size and majesty of everything is hard to believe, even when you are among it.

Here is Wendy standing in the trees along the walking path to the mighty sequoias in the much less visited Tuolumne Grove, whereas the Mariposa Grove has over 500 sequoias, the Tuolumne Grove has only 25, but the peace and quiet are well worth the walk. Tuolumne Grove can be found near the western entrance to Yosemite on route 120.

Route 140 closed a few days prior to our visit in early June due to a rockslide that is many hundreds of feet high and wide and is expected to take months and months to clear away. The seismic changes continue.

One of the fun events to do is to take a full moon ride. Our first night there we hopped onto the night ride and were able to see climbers' lamps high above on El Capitan, hanging out for the night. It can take a person 5 to 8 days to climb El Capitan... that's right, 5 to 8 days!

This is not El Capitan, it is near Yosemite Falls and the second photo, below is a pull back, a greater view of the towering cliffs.

Can you see the climber in this photo? From the center of the photo, along the bottom of the photo, go up until you are a couple of centimeters above the last leaf of the tree on the right side of the photo, that's how small a person is compared to these monoliths!

As we returned from our night ride, which included a lovely stop at Inspiration Point to have a cup of hot cocoa and to hear the howling of the wolves, Curry Village was awash in a soft glow of lit tents and a full moon.

Surrounding Curry Village are the mountains pronounced by the light of the full moon with the constant sound of smashing waterfalls in the distance.

Yosemite Falls is probably the most photographed falls in Yosemite and runs year-round. In late May and early June, the falls are at their majestic best.

Yosemite Falls actually falls in three parts. Upper Yosemite falls is greater than 1,400 feet long, with the middle being 675 feet long and the Lower Yosemite Falls is another 320 feet, making Yosemite Falls over 2,400 feet long.

Across the street from Curry Village is a grassy field full of deer in the evenings. They seem quite content being surrounded by such beauty.

The deer are used to seeing people and we were even able to drive right up to one having a meal on a young tree, right near the Curry Village entrance. These two were with other deer one late evening, seeming to get ready for a night's sleep in the soft grass.

One of the loveliest spots is Inspiration Point. As you can see, the views are stunning. This is where we went during the full moon night ride.

The park and its grounds are left to grow naturally. There is no landscaping or human design, it is all left as nature intended.

This lovely tree trunk was right near the Ansel Adams Gallery and I thought the light and color of the bark were just a lovely combination.

One of the nicest and most interesting rides, which is worth it, is to Glacier Point, as you can see in the photo below.

The two falls on the right are Nevada and Vernal Falls. There is a hike to these two amazing falls. The climb is amazing and somewhat thrilling, especially for those like me who are afraid of heights. Also you MUST, MUST, MUST wear a rain jacket. It was in the 90's in the valley and I was shaking and hyperventillating from the cold sprays from the falls. The climb is very steep and the trail can be tricky on the feet and the fall will be your last, so be hydrated and eat your salts (bring chips or sunflower seeds and nuts to keep you alert and strong). It is worth the trek and you will not be disappointed, just take your time and enjoy the sights all along the hike, truly amazing!

What I tell anyone is if you come to San Francisco, the 3 1/2 hour drive to Yosemite is a necessity. It should be put at the top of all travelers' lists.

I can't wait to go back!

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