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We took a few days off midweek to swing on over to Yosemite. I came here a dozen years ago on a cross country driving trip and remembered it as being one of my favorite parts of that whole journey. It was spectacular then as it is now, and this time we spent a couple days in the valley.

Ansel Adams, eat your heart out

Somehow, a few days before we went, I was able to reserve one of the last couple remaining campsites in the main valley floor. Our campsite was beautiful, walled with towering granite monoliths on all sides. The sun rose each morning just behind Half Dome as the valley started stirring while directly across the way, you could see Upper Yosemite Falls crashing down the cliff face. Some fifty yards away was one of the rushing streams or rivers flowing by the campground which emanated from one of the numerous waterfalls. I find something strangely brave and compelling in that river, which managed to tumble thousands of feet from above only to remain intact as it continued its journey unscathed, cutting through the valley floor just outside our tent.

If all the signs and warning were to be believed, this place was also riddled with bears with a fondness for waterfalls and people food. You’re under strict orders to keep anything resembling food or anything sweet smelling in a “bear locker,” a sheet metal box with a handle that was too hard for bears, and sometimes me, to figure out. We neither saw nor were molested by any bears, which was a bit of a disappointment for me but a big relief to my wife who adhered to the rules so much so that she wouldn’t even wear cherry-scented Carmex at night.

It was a relaxing couple of days, spent exploring the valley floor and walking different trails up to the granite walls, rivers, lakes, and waterfalls. This place is so big that pictures just don’t do it justice, a fact which sums up just about any place we took pictures on this trip so far. We didn’t do any huge hikes this time because frankly, we were a little worn out from this breakneck pace we’ve been setting, trying to squeeze in as much of the high profile touristy places as possible. But that was ok. The valley floor has miles of bike and walking trails so it’s easy to go at a slow, leisurely pace without missing anything. Next time, though, I want to do the day long Half Dome hike. It’s closed right now because there’s still too much snowpack in places.

The only disappointment for me was that the road to Glacier Point was still closed due to snow. We made that drive on my previous trip all those years ago and it’s one you definitely don’t want to miss. The main part of Yosemite consists of a valley or canyon floor surrounded by walls of granite, some three thousand feet up from the base. Glacier Point is a popular spot to which you can hike or drive, which provides an outcropping of rock straight up from the valley floor. It’s dizzying and nauseatingly beautiful, but we couldn’t do it this time around because, while we’re almost to June, there is still enough snow packed on the ground that the drive is impossible.

We toured the Mariposa Grove Giant Sequoia forest on the southern edge of Yosemite, where you have a grove of absolutely huge sequoia trees. There is fire damage all over this place, which I later learned was part of a prescribed fire regimen meant to keep the forest a little more regular. I remember hearing about how these types of trees require fire to open up their cones to proliferate, but never thought much about it. It’s not entirely true, as there are also some insects and squirrels or something which help open the cones so the seeds can germinate, but it seems the fire also helps the younger lads by opening up some of the canopy to allow more sunlight to filter through. I’d like to find out more about these trees. Those are interesting adaptations.

I’d sure like to come out here again and to do a few real hikes up into the mountains, and to be able to go up to Glacier Point to act like I’m falling off for some more fun pictures. The great part about it is that we’re only four hours away from this paradise.

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