Yosemite’s magic, that stays with you forever, is it’s sudden and monumental welcome. It’s like an over-zealous relative who hasn’t seen you in a while. Big hugs, cheek pinching, comments about how much you’ve grown, and a torrent of gushing that fills you with warmth.
You know it’s coming but you never fully anticipate the effect.
Yosemite’s approach is by way of tunnels cut through shear rock. These prevent the first time visitor from accurately anticipating the true moment of entry. Out you burst to a vista of incredible beauty and scenic splendor. Instantly you are captivated; there is nothing you can do about it. Relax, draw a deep breath, and release a sigh of satisfaction.
The Yosemite Valley is just a small portion of the park however given the time of year it
was all that was open. Imagine the reaction of those explorers who first came
across it. It must have certainly been quite a hallelujah moment.
Half Dome sits high at the far end of the valley flanked on either side by waterfalls. The floor is carpeted with a canopy of redwood trees. The Merced River, crystal clear and enticing, meanders through the valley center. A brush stroke of mother nature.
The granite rock of El Capitan rises straight up from the tree tops and escapes into the clouds. An iconic vista and deservedly so. If you are a rock climber the successful ascent of El Capitan is a glorious moment of pride, satisfaction, and accomplishment. A definite feather in the cap.
The road that skirts the valley is hidden from above making the view available today
much like the view that has always availed itself. Following the road as it tracks alongside the river never fails to provide opportunities at which to marvel.
The granite monoliths of El Capitan and Cathedral Rock tower overhead as you make
your way through the valley. I felt minuscule in comparison.
Yosemite on that first day was stunning and I was awestruck.
On day two the valley had recast herself and donned a brand new outfit. The night had brought a blanketing of snow and Yosemite flexed its beauty in a whole new way.
Our entrance today was from the south; climbing to a height of 6100 feet. The
weather at this altitude became dark and foreboding. Snow had fallen heavier here and we were concerned that tire chains would be necessary. Our hope was that the descent would bring with it a reprieve.
Traveling through the southern tunnel and out onto the valley floor brought with it a sky of blue. So deep and rich was this blue that cars had stopped all along the road to capture it on film.
Yosemite was dusted with pure white snow and capped by a perfectly contrasting sky of
We were driving the equivalent of a Smart car. Perhaps not the wisest choice for a road trip to the mountains at winters tail end but it’s what we had. The wheels were the size of bagels.
Watching the weather became important because even as we basked in the glory around us we knew that Yosemite had a micro-weather system that was fickle and could change drastically from hour to hour.
We parked our Tonka toy and set out on foot; following the river.
This is where the true magic of Yosemite takes over. There was no track. It was us, the river, the trees, the reeds, and the solitude. Surrounded by slate rock that soars to heights above 3000 feet.
You grasp just how insignificant you are in the whole scheme of things.
The weather did indeed alter its course and by 3:30pm we were high-tailing it out of the valley; looking to escape over the ridge like the family Von Trapp before being locked in by an unfriendly sky.
By this time the snow had melted, clouds loomed large, and “Chains Required” signs began to appear at the start of our escape route. By the time we got to 6100 feet it was once again white. As we passed by the summit we saw a man make a snowball the size of a football throw it as his daughter; she was only about five years old.
It landed right on the side of her head and dropped her to her knees. We gasped. She giggled with the resilience of a child who believes no-one saw, and began preparing her retaliation.
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