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SEARCHING FOR SPRING, PART 10: Yosemite National Park

I love Yosemite National Park. 

“The most striking and sublime features on the grandest scale, is the Yosemite.”   John Muir

“A perfect day would be to get into the car, drive out to Yosemite and go camping.”  Michael Steger

“It is all very beautiful and magical here (Yosemite), a quality which cannot be described.”  Ansel Adams

Since it is such a great place, I was not surprised to learn that there were 5.2 million visitors to the park in 2016.  I was surprised when I visited Yosemite near the end of May—but before Memorial Day—that all those people were there ahead of me on the main roads and taking up every single parking space.  Well, okay not all of them.  But at least about half!

Basically, it was crowded.

However, I was still able to find the dogwood blossoms that were the ostensible reason for my visit this spring.  (But does one really need a reason to visit Yosemite National Park?)  There were other flowers as well and lots of water!  Despite the crowds, it was a glorious trip.

“In every walk with Nature, one receives far more than he seeks.”   John Muir

As I entered Yosemite near the Wawona Inn, I was greeted by fields of lupine.  This hardy purple bloom kept me company throughout most of the drive throughout the park.

Dogwood Trees lined the roads, allowing wonderful glimpses of the blossoms floating among the leaves.

A drive through the park is always full of gorgeous vistas and delightful surprises.  On this trip, some spring blossoms and wonderful ferns popped up here and there along the roadsides. Of course, they were not so easy to photograph.  But the vistas were as peaceful and engaging as usual.   

The Merced River was wonderful, mercurial.  It still offered some peaceful pools that compel visitors to sit on its banks and appreciate life and nature.  But on this visit, the Merced also rushed past, even overflowing its banks periodically during the last several weeks given all the rain and snow melt this year.  I loved hearing the Merced rush by!

“Down through the middle of the Valley flows the crystal Merced, River of Mercy, peacefully quiet, reflecting lilies and trees and the onlooking rocks; things frail and fleeting and types of endurance meeting here and blending in countless forms, as if into this one mountain mansion Nature had gathered her choicest treasures, to draw her lovers into close and confiding communion with her.”   John Muir

The numerous waterfalls, of course, are also magnificently full this year.  What a delightful spring treat!

Upper Yosemite Falls (1430 feet):

Bridalveil Falls (617 feet):

If you have not visited Yosemite National Park, do so.

You will not be disappointed.

Please, consider speaking out and doing what you can to make sure all our national parks stay protected not just for us all to enjoy but because of their cultural and historical significance.  They are indeed precious.

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“The parks do not belong to one state or to one section.  They have become democratized.  The Yosemite, the Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon are national properties in which every citizen has a vested interest; they belong as much to the man of Massachusetts, of Michigan, of Florida, as they do to the people of California, of Wyoming, and of Arizona.”  Stephen Tyng Mather, 1st National Parks Service Director

“Maybe you weren’t born with a silver spoon in your mouth, but like every American, you carry a deed to 635 million acres of public lands.  That’s right.  Even if you don’t own a house or the latest computer on the market, you own Yosemite, Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and many other natural treasures.”  John Garamendi

“I can’t help thinking that if the American West were discovered today, the most glorious bits would be sold off to the highest bidder.  Yosemite might be nothing but weekend homes for internet tycoons.”   Nicholas Kristof

Oh, Yosemite in the Fall!

It has been over three years since I have taken a trek out into Nature.  That is way too long!

Therefore, this autumn I was determined to get away, seeking the colors of fall.  But when I first made this decision, it was too early in the season—the colors were not yet emerging.  I thought about heading up to Bishop at some point, so I could find fall colors as well as take a side trip to Mono Lake.  But I did not want to drive 7-8 hours just to get there before I could start wandering around. Then I got busy, and all of a sudden it was the end of October and finding fall colors was still on my list.  But this past week opened up as light in terms of work load, and I could actually take a couple days off.

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”  John Muir

That’s when it dawned on me:  I could head to a place about 220 miles northeast of me.  After all, I had been there before in the fall and saw some the yellows and oranges of the season. But then hesitations set in.  I was not thrilled to see that the park’s website says the area “is not known for spectacular fall colors.” Other reasons not to take the trip kept coming to mind as well:  I could only get away for a couple of days. It was raining the night before I was going to leave with more rain predicted the next day.  In fact, several of the roads into and through the park were closed because of snow, and the need for chains—that I do not have—were a distinct possibility. Even if the weather were great, some of the roads were under construction. And the website said the park’s various waterfalls boasted no more than a trickle of water.

I thought about not going.

But every time I thought about canceling, I just had to remember that I was heading to Yosemite National Park. YOSEMITE!

phone tunnel view sunny

Cold, rain, limited access—none of that mattered.  It would be great to get back to Yosemite even for a day.  And the trip was stupendous:  I did not get rained on.  The road construction delays were minimal.  The dense clouds of the first day were replaced by sunshine the next morning.  It was cold, but who cares?

100_0984I wandered among the trees and found fall colors.  Although there100_0943 were no vibrant reds or oranges, the yellows, golds, browns, and corals were in abundance.  As I wandered through the trees, I heard the chittering of the birds and watched the bushy-tailed squirrels racing over the branches.  I watched a peregrine falcon soar over head and a mule deer wander along the road at dusk.  At one point, a raven stopped to chat, patiently waiting on a fence post.  At other times, I sat beside the Merced River, enjoying the silence and the solitude.


100_1062The road to the Mariposa Grove opened the second day, but the road to Glacier Point stayed closed due to snow.  The impressive granite walls of Yosemite Valley were accessible both days:  Half Dome, El Capitan, Sentinel Rock, and the Cloud’s Rest View.  The groves of pine, fir and sequoias were punctuated with the subdued colors of fall at every turn.  I could ask for nothing better.  As John Muir says, “This grand show is eternal.”

Here are some of the photos I captured as I wandered through Yosemite National Park in October 2013: 


“The mountains are calling and I must go.”  John Muir



“I never saw a discontented tree. They grip the ground as though they liked it, and though fast rooted they travel about as far as we do.”  John Muir







“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”  John Muir



leaves again



“The farther one gets into the wilderness, the greater is the attraction of its lonely freedom.”  Theodore Roosevelt




President Lincoln preserved the Mariposa Grove in 1864 at the same time Yosemite Valley was protected.  Later, Theodore Roosevelt apparently agreed with the action:  “A grove of giant redwood or sequoias should be kept just as we keep a beautiful cathedral.”





“No matter how sophisticated you may be, a large granite mountain cannot be denied—it speaks in silence to the very core of your being.”  Ansel Adams

“It is by far the grandest of all the special temples of Nature I was ever permitted to enter.”  John Muir

(What a difference a day makes!)

Tuesday Afternoon

Tuesday Afternoon

Wednesday Morning

Wednesday Morning

“Yosemite Valley, to me, is always a sunrise, a glitter of green and golden wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space.”  Ansel Adams



“There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness, that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy, and its charms.”  Theodore Roosevelt


 When Muir arrived in San Francisco in 1868, a carpenter he met in the city asked him where he wanted to go.  Muir’s response:  “Anywhere that is wild.”  Muir started walking east, out of the city.  Makes sense to me!

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NOTE:  I shared a fuller look at Yosemite in an earlier post that was fresh pressed in May 2011.  If you have not been to Yosemite yet, place the visit on your bucket list!  If you have been, what memories can you share? Or is there another national park you can recommend we all visit?  Another one of my favorites is the Grand Canyon.  Maybe I will get back there in the summer!

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