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Posts tagged ‘Yosemite National Park’

NATURE PHOTOGRAPHY DAY

“To walk in nature is to witness a thousand miracles.”  Mary Davis

Who knew?  June 15 has been designated by the North American Nature Photography Association as NATURE PHOTOGRAPHY DAY since 2009.  Did you know?  I didn’t.  Fortunately, even in my ignorance, I have been celebrating this holiday extensively throughout any given year anyway.

It is easy to take nature photographs.  One way to take nature photos is to go to incredible places—like Yosemite National Park or Monument Valley—and snap away at all you see.  However, you do not have to go anywhere special to enjoy Nature and capture its essence on film.  You can find the beauty, wonder and solace of Nature just about anywhere. Just take the time to notice what is around you.

Some of my favorite subjects are birds and trees and flowers. 

If you want to celebrate Nature Photography Day, just grab a camera and head outside. You can sit quietly for a bit in a garden, wander the sidewalks in your neighborhood or take a drive along a country road, even a highway once you are out of the city.  See what nature speaks to you.  Then capture the interaction by clicking the shutter.

Beware: Capturing the beauty and wonder of Nature in a photo can be habit-forming.

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QUOTES ABOUT NATURE

“We do not see Nature with our eyes, but with our understandings and our heart.”  William Hazlitt

“Adopt the pace of Nature; her secret is patience.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Sometimes I arrive just when God’s ready to have someone click the shutter.”   Ansel Adams

“Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.”  Kurt Vonnegut

“If you truly love Nature, you will find beauty everywhere.”  Vincent Van Gogh

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.”  John Muir

“Nature, Time and Patience are the three great physicians.”  H. G. Bohn

“Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat.”   Laura Ingalls Wilder

“At some point in life, the world’s beauty becomes enough.”   Toni Morrison

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.”   John Burroughs

“Once destroyed, Nature’s beauty cannot be repurchased at any price.”  Ansel Adams

“There’s something of the marvelous in all things nature.”  Aristole

“A morning glory at my window satisfies me more than the metaphysics of books.”   Walt Whitman

“Look deep into Nature, and then you will understand everything better.”   Albert Einstein

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”   Lao Tzu

“Just feel the magic in the air and the power in the breeze.  Feel the energy of the plants, the bushes, and the trees.  Let yourself be surrounded by nature at its best.  Calm yourself, focus, and let magic do the rest.”   Sally Walker

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

FINDING FALL COLORS

img_3129If I needed a reason to go on a Nature Trek to find some fall colors to rejuvenate my soul, I had one.  I am not teaching online this fall so did not need high speed secure access to the internet, which is not always feasible from hotel rooms.  And I would not have to be grading way too many essays, so could devote my time to the solitude and contemplation found in Nature.  So why not go on a road trip?  Besides, I had a new dash cam to play with, trying to capture some videos of the great roads I planned to travel.

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park

This little road trip took me on a loop from Bakersfield to Bishop to Reno to Redding to Fresno and then back to Bishop and home.  The Lassen Volcanic National Park that was on the route was closed already for winter travel, so I only saw about 10 miles of it—I will have to try visiting there again sometime.  I also was grounded for a day due to a steady all-day downpour.  The sky was all dark grey clouds and the mountain roads I would have been on were twisty and steep, so I opted not to press my luck.

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Tioga Pass, Yosemite

Tioga Pass, Yosemite

On the whole, the trip was a great success!  Most of what I saw were lots and lots of pine trees, given the elevations I was traveling.  But some splotches of fall colors stood out to brighten the drives.  I even traveled across the Tioga Pass in Yosemite again, even though I figured there would not be much fall color.  It offered some dramatic views that I will share in a later post.  The rain that punctuated several days of my trip did not diminish the glorious wonders of the drive either.  I like driving in the rain, especially when the rain is so needed in California to fight against the five-year drought.

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The first stretch of fall colors popped up along California Highway 395 outside of Bishop, California, as captured by my dash cam.  I’m having fun learning to make use of this new little toy.  Light and shadows really are evident in the video, but it captures the colors rushing past.

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I’ve visited Yosemite National Park in the fall before, so I knew there would be some impressive color to appreciate.  This time, the colors came through even on a rainy day.


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I’m not sure if this little video caught the leaves falling steadily from the trees as a breeze swept through the area, but it was a great little show.

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QUOTES ABOUT AUTUMN’S BEAUTY  & WONDER

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”    L. M. Montgomery

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”    Albert Camus

“Fall has always been my favorite season.  The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.”    Lauren DeStefano

“Spring passes and one remembers one’s innocence.   Summer passes and one remembers one’s exuberance.  Autumn passes and one remembers one’s reverence.  Winter passes and one remembers one’s perseverance.”   Yoko Ono

“Autumn is the hardest season.  The leave are all falling, and they’re falling like they’re falling in love with the ground.”   Andrea Gibson

“No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace as I have seen in one autumnal face.”   John Donne

“Autumn. . . the year’s last, loveliest smile.”   William Cullen Bryant

“I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house.”   Nathaniel Hawthorne

“Autumn carries more gold in its pocket than all the other seasons.”   Jim Bishop

“There is something incredibly nostalgic and significant about the autumnal cascade of autumn leaves.”   Joe L. Wheeler

“And I rose in rainy autumn and walked abroad in a shower of all my days. . . .”   Dylan Thomas

“Delicious autumn!  My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.”   George Eliot

“I saw old Autumn in the misty morn stand shadowless like silence, listening to silence.”   Thomas Hood

“Autumn burned brightly,  a running flame through the mountains, a torch flung to the trees.”   Faith Baldwin

“Autumn is the season of change.”   Taoist Proverb

WHERE DO YOU GO TO SEE THE BEAUTY OF AUTUMN ALL AROUND?

NATIONAL PARKS: BEST GIFT EVER!

Yellowstone National Park was the first national park, initially established in 1872.

Yellowstone National Park was the first national park, initially established in 1872.

logo jpgToday is the 100th birthday for the National Park Service.  It was President Woodrow Wilson who signed the mandate creating the agency on 25 August 1916.  Since then, its charge has remained the same: protect designated land for its beauty and wildlife as well as its historical significance for the enjoyment of future generations.  That goal expanded to include assuring public access to these protected areas.

That assurance of public access is what makes the National Parks the best gift ever.  Not only can visitors enter the areas, but they will find visitor centers, knowledgeable rangers and volunteers, established paths and scenic drives as well as parking and bathroom facilities.  Not all locations are 100% accessible, but most are upgrading their facilities and have at least some hiking options accessible for wheelchairs.  The access is not free, but the entrance fee is minimal, typically $30 for a car to have access for a week.* Annual and lifelong passes are options as well.

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Book heacoxWhen you unwrap this gift, you will find a wide variety of places to visit and enjoy.  To see the magnitude of what the national parks oversee, I went to National Geographic’s The National Parks: An Illustrated History (May 2015).  Through photos and essays, the book explains how the National Park Service “represents freedom, adventure, diversity, dedication, respect, and restraint.”  Here is the book’s opening overview, by the numbers:

84,000,000 acres of land

75,000 archaeological sites

18,000 miles of trails

247 endangered plants and animals

407 park properties including

78 national monuments

59 national parks

25 battlefields

10 seashores

27,000 historic and prehistoric structures

20,000 employees

246,000 volunteers

292,800,082 recreational visits in 2014

Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Falls

Not everyone is a fan of the national parks, however.  Some visitors even offer some less than stellar Yelp reviews.  According to a few of these reviews, the parks are too crowded, which can happen in the height of the season. The potential of too many other visitors is why I try to visit places in early spring, before summer crowds start showing up.  Other complaints, of course, are just downright silly and say more about the complainer than the national park in question:  too lonely, too expensive, lack of cell service, poor food, no adequate showers, not seeing enough wildlife, but also seeing rattlesnakes OMG.

More specifically, someone felt Yellowstone National Park smelled too much like sulfur, which—of course—is a bi-product of the thermal features that make the place unique.  And one person advises to be careful when visiting that big hole in the ground, the Grand Canyon, because it is a long fall to the bottom: “Do not hover about the Canyon whilst drunk.  You will fall over the edge and you will die.”  I think my favorite comment was posted about South Dakota’s Badlands National Park:  “Waste of time.  Thank god I was drunk in the backseat for the majority of the trip.” 

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

YSNP bison sitting

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IMG_2769I have had the good fortune of visiting many but not enough national parks as I wander on my nature treks, typically in the spring each year.  My most recent visits were to Yellowstone National Park, where I was able to see bison up close and personal, and Saguaro National Park, where I finally saw saguaro cacti in bloom. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the nation, with nearly 10.1 million recreational visits in 2014.   The Golden Gate National Recreation Area was the most visited property with 15 million visitors in 2014.  Utah offers many parks from which to choose, including Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, and Zion National Parks.

Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park

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Winter at the Grand Canyon

Winter at the Grand Canyon

Two of my favorite destinations are Yosemite National Park and the Grand Canyon.  They feel the same to me in their majestic and beautiful vistas that encourage quiet contemplation and spiritual connections.  But they are different in mood, I suppose.  The grays and blues of Yosemite are cool and calm, punctuated by the power of waterfalls.  The red and brown hues of the Grand Canyon are warm and soothing, inviting one to sit and enjoy the view of the often muddy Colorado River far below. If you sit quietly at either location, you are apt to see some wildlife as well.

Spring at Yosemite

Spring at Yosemite

Squirrel Enjoying the View

Squirrel Enjoying the View

Running Off with Lots of Nuts! Grand Canyon

Running Off with Lots of Nuts! Grand Canyon

Yosemite Cloud's Rest, Hazy Day

Yosemite Cloud’s Rest, Hazy Day

Yosemite Falls

Upper Yosemite Falls

Book shiveWhen you visit, wherever you visit, I am certain you will be delighted.  There are three great books that provide magnificent photos and details about the national parks and monuments.  The books themselves became my souvenirs this year to mark the National Parks’ 100th Birthday.

Here are the book titles—they do make great gifts:

The National Parks: An American Legacy (2105) with photographs by Ian Shive.

The National Parks: America’s Best Idea An Illustrated History (2009) by Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns.

Book Burns

National Geographic’s The National Parks: An Illustrated History 100 Years of American Splendor (2015) by Kim Heacox (mentioned above).

Of course, it is the visit to any of the parks that is the real gift.  I encourage you to accept the present and get out there visiting a park or monument near you soon!  It will be a gift that keeps on giving!

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE NATIONAL PARK? 

WHAT PARK ARE YOU HOPING TO VISIT NEXT?

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*For price comparisons:  Entry fees to Disneyland are $110 per adult per day; San Diego Zoo, $50 per adult per day, and Los Angeles Zoo, $20 per adult per day.  National Parks are certainly a great value!

U.S. Scenic Highway 395: Gateway to Yosemite’s Tioga Pass (Part 4)

Yosemite National Park.  It is such a vast natural wonderland. It is one of my favorite places.  Typically when I visit, I stay in the popular Yosemite Valley area, driving in through Wawona.  I bet most tourists do the same thing.  I’ve written about some of my past visits several times, once as a general overview and again about a more recent fall visit.

IMG_7903Last week, a friend and I wandered through Yosemite again, enjoying its wonders.  This time, however, we entered from the east via the Tioga Pass. This is the highest pass through the Sierras, reaching an elevation of 9,945 feet.   I had driven this pass before, years ago, but its magnificent vistas and wondrous geology had faded from memory.  If you have not already, consider using this eastern entrance close to Lee Vining, CA, off Interstate 395.

IMG_7918Highway 120 over the Tioga Pass follows a route that is not new.  The Indians in the area crossed the pass routinely for thousands of years, and then wagons started making the trek in the 1800s.  Eventually, the road was developed into an unpaved winding treacherous road that was used for decades, even though it took forever and was hell on tires.  In 1961, the National Park Service completed the major highway across the pass, greatly increasing traffic into Yosemite National Park from this entrance.

The day before our journey, it was rainy.  In fact, there were thunderstorms and downpours in Bishop, CA, where we stayed overnight.  The morning was dry, but still cloudy and grey with a 20% chance of thunderstorms in Yosemite itself.  We were hopeful—that we might get to experience one of those quick thunderstorms, but no such luck.  We did not get rained on.  We did see gorgeous scenery, some wildflowers and a couple animals throughout the day as we traveled the roughly 75 miles from the Tioga Pass into Yosemite Valley.

IMG_7894As we started the drive up over the Tioga Pass, the majestic grey mountains were dominant.  There was a relatively small body of water to the south hugging the road.

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IMG_7924Later, when we stopped at another overlook, we realized we were in the alpine zone (9,500 to 13,000 feet).  It was easy to see the tree line, above which trees would not grow, on the rugged terrain high overhead.  The Pika is a little animal well suited to this terrain, and one came out to investigate—when he was not running hither and yon across the little meadow.

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IMG_7930Mount Dana (13,057 feet) and Mount Gibson (8,412 feet) are two of the highest—and perhaps most unique—peaks in Yosemite.  Unlike the granite monoliths throughout the park, these two peaks are the aftermath of volcanic activity and the metamorphic rock that spewed forth through a long-ago eruption and then were later exposed through erosion.  When not covered in snow, they are more brownish in color that the rest of Yosemite’s grey peaks.

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IMG_7941The Cathedral Mountain Range, an offshoot of the Sierra Nevada, is due south of Toulumne Meadows.  These peaks were formed by glaciers.  However, the tops of the range were above the level of the highest glaciation, so they remain un-eroded and thus have more spires than other peaks in Yosemite.

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IMG_7937The area in the foreground of the Cathedral Range, as recently as the 1960s, was a wet meadow.  But the meadow is slowly drying out, giving rise to conditions that better support the growth of trees.  There are no definitive answers yet as to why this is happening, but most scientists agree it is a reaction to global warming.

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IMG_7971As we traveled west, the road ran along sheer walls of rocks that were punctuated with trees and other plants that just put down roots and hung on.

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IMG_8006Tenaya Lake is situated between Toulumne Meadows and Yosemite Valley.  Its surface sits at an elevation of 8,150 feet.  Even in 2015—the fourth year of a drought—the lake is impressive.  The lake’s basin was formed by the same glacier activity that formed Half Dome in the Yosemite Valley.  The Mariposa Brigade that entered the area in 1851 to relocate local Indians onto reservations named the lake Tenaya, after a local chief.  Chief Tenaya protested, saying the lake already had a name:  Pie-we-ack, meaning “Lake of the Shining Rocks.”

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IMG_8017IMG_8015Olmsted Point is an overlook that offers an impressive vista, showcasing remnants of the powerful geological forces that shaped this landscape.  It was 80 to 100 million years ago that deep pools of magma crystalized into the massive granite blocks evident today.  The most recent glacier passed through this area about 20,000 years ago, polishing the granite with a smooth surface.  Whether they fell or were left behind by the passing glacier, huge granite boulders dot the landscape, looking as if some giant toddler dropped a bag of marbles.

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From Olmsted Point the North Side of Half Dome is VIsible

From Olmsted Point the North Side of Half Dome is Visible

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IMG_8052Our next mini-excursion was to drive the 1.7-mile narrow bumpy road out to the parking area for the May Lake Trail.  With the recent rains in the areas over the last several days, the landscape was luscious, green, wet.  The only thing not appreciated was the mosquitos enjoying the small pockets of standing water!

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IMG_8156On the main road again, heading to Yosemite Valley, we saw lots of wildflowers. Unfortunately, opportunities to photograph those flowers did not surface. We captured a couple shots of a small red flower nestled among the rocks, but we are not sure of its name.

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The wildflowers we could name included lupine, wallflowers, snow plants, and dogwood.  The following photos are from earlier trips.

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wall flower

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IMG_8165A sad note on the drive were the many brown and brittle trees along the road.  We speculate that either the drought or perhaps some blight have attacked the trees.  There did not seem to be evidence of fire in these locales.

The closer we came to the popular seven-mile Yosemite Valley, the more the most iconic images of Yosemite came into view:

Half Dome is the granite dome on the eastern edge of Yosemite Valley that rises 4,737 feet above the valley floor.

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El Capitan is the 3,000 foot granite monolith at the north end of Yosemite Valley.

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The Mighty Merced River is a 145-mile river than runs a steep and swift route through the southern portion of Yosemite Valley.

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Bridalveil Fall is one of the most prominent falls in Yosemite Valley; it measures 617 feet in height and flows year-round.

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The Road Through One of Several Tunnels, Like Driving Through a Mountain

The Road Through One of Several Tunnels, Like Driving Through a Mountain

IMG_8185There was even a small waterfall along the road, enhanced—it seems—by the overnight rain.  Many visitors stopped to gawk and snap photos.

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Tunnel View on an Earlier Visit

Tunnel View on an Earlier Visit

Before exiting via the South Gate—heading to Highway 41, Fresno and eventually back to Bakersfield—we enjoyed my favorite view of the valley: Tunnel View.  I can still recall my first trip to Yosemite, coming out of the tunnel and seeing the panoramic sweep from El Capitan to Cloud’s Rest, Half Dome and Bridalveil Fall.  First constructed in 1993, the tunnel was renovated in 2008, mainly to improve drainage and add accessible parking and better pedestrian flow.  The actual tunnel and view were not changed, leaving the majestic view that as many as 6,000 people a day enjoy during the height of the tourist season.  Blue skies create a more dramatic view, but even the muted gray tones of this gloomy day were impressive.

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Tunnel View: El Capitan, Cloud's Rest, Half Dome & Bridalveil Fall

Tunnel View: El Capitan, Cloud’s Rest, Half Dome & Bridalveil Fall

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IMG_8122Thanks go to my friend Raquel, who joined me on this Yosemite trip.  We shared my camera, but she took the photos that required hiking any distance from the car.  She plans to wait for another day to hike the 10 miles from the May Lake Trail to Yosemite Valley!

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A Few John Muir Quotes from His First Visit in Yosemite

“I have crossed the Range of Light, surely the brightest and best of all the Lord has built; and rejoicing in its glory, I gladly, gratefully, hopefully pray I may see it again.” 

“Everything seems consciously peaceful, thoughtful, faithfully waiting God’s will.”

“But now I’ll have to go, for there is nothing to spare in the way of provisions.  I’ll surely be back, however, surely I’ll be back. No other place has ever so overwhelmingly attracted me as this hospitable, Godful wilderness.”

“The basin of this famous Yosemite stream is extremely rocky—seems fairly to be paved with domes like a street with big cobblestones. I wonder if I shall ever be allowed to explore it.  It draws me so strongly. I would make any sacrifice to try and read its lessons.  I thank God for this glimpse of it.  The charms of these mountains are beyond all common reason, unexplainable and mysterious as life itself.” 

A FEW LAST VIEWS FROM THE TIOGA PASS

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Traveling “That Ribbon of Highway”

Traveling “That Ribbon of Highway” (Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge:  This Land Is My Land, 2 Verses)

Coral Reef National Park 259I have always liked Woody Guthrie’s ballad “This Land Is Your Land” that he wrote in 1940.  I was aware of the song from the 1960s when Peter, Paul & Mary sang it.  It moved me in great part because of the intimacy of the lyrics.  The beauty of this great country is truly yours, mine, ours, there for all to appreciate.  Even as a kid, I was aware that not everyone took the time to admire all the beauty around us. But it is always there.

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Coral Reef National Park 288As an adult, I travel by car as often as possible because it allows me a closer connection to the myriad of landscapes across the country.  I like the sense of freedom and solitude such drives give me.  Since the roads—paved or not—stretch from coast to coast across all terrains, I can visit most anywhere.  I prefer country roads over city streets, because there I am more apt to see nature, get the feel for the open road, and glimpse the vast panoramas of land and sky.

ribbon of highway

Here—with a little creative editing—is my favorite verse from the Guthrie’s song.

“As I was [traveling] that ribbon of highway

I saw above me the endless skyway. . . .

While all around me a voice was sounding

This land was made for you and me.”

The photos are from some of my recent travels, demonstrating the freedom, beauty and diversity of American highways.  I live in California and am often drawn to the Southwest for some adventures as well.  What are your favorite places to be out on the open road, on “that ribbon of highway”?

CALIFORNIA HIGHWAYS

Yosemite National Park

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Sequoia National Park

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Kings Canyon National Park

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Eastern Sierra

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Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

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See Canyon, Near Avila Beach

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Big Sur Hills & Coastline

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SOME MIDWESTERN HIGHWAYS

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MO & KS drive to Dodge City 004

Drive to KC in rain 004

BOSQUE DE APACHE, NEW MEXICO, HIGHWAYS

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SAUGARO NATIONAL PARK, ARIZONA, HIGHWAYS

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Saugaro NP Rincon & West 227

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COLORADO HIGHWAYS

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CO national mon 2 & River Park 127

Pam Day 2 & Garden of the Gods 048

UTAH HIGHWAYS

Coral Reef National Park

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Coral Reef National Park 123

Canyonlands National Park, Needles

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Canyonlands Needles & I 70 217

Canyonlands Needles & I 70 293

Zion & Kolob Canyons National Park

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Zion & Kolob Canyons 120

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A LITTLE SIDE NOTE

As an adult, while I truly love the great beauty and diversity of this land of ours, I am equally aware of our country’s problems.  Guthrie was aware of the discrepancies in society as well, motivating a satirical if not cynical view to “This Land Is Your Land.”  He wrote the famed lyrics, in part, as a political protest.  Bruce Springsteen performed the song live in the 1980s, acknowledging the harsh realities evident in society that some say question the validity of the lyrics.  But through all the problems, the beauty and potential of America still shine through.  As Springsteen says in his opening comments, it’s “about one of the most beautiful songs ever written about America.” 

Spring Delight! A Visit to the Western Sierra Nevada

This post is dedicated to my dad, Raymond Ross.  I have visited Yosemite and Sequoia with him in the past, and he would have loved to have gone on this trip with me.  He has been on my mind a lot this weekend.  This is the first Father’s Day since he died.  I miss him greatly.  You are with me, Dad, whenever I take Nature Pictures! Happy Father’s Day!

A SPRING VISIT TO THE WESTERN SIERRA NEVADA MOUNTAINS

100_0987Yosemite National Park is one of my favorite nature destinations.  I have traveled there many times over the years, and I am always overwhelmed by its natural wonders. Given its proximity, I also visited Sequoia National Park in the past for short little excursions.  If asked back then of my impression of Sequoia National Park, I would have said, “Tree, Big Trees.”  And that impression is certainly correct.  Giant Sequoias are the star attraction of that national park. However, my visit to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks in May 2014 emphasized for me that these parks offer much more than big trees, no matter how impressive those trees are.

Map from National Park Brochure

Map from National Park Brochure

A LITTLE HISTORY

Sequoia National Park was created on 25 September 1890, making it the second oldest national park in the country, second to Yellowstone.  At that time, preserving areas for their scenic and recreational value was not a popular idea. Instead, Sequoia National Park was preserved to save the big trees from logging.  As John Muir noted when confronted with the idea of logging the Giant Sequoias, “[We] may as well sell the rain clouds and [allow] the snow and the rivers to be cut up and carried away, if that were possible.”  A week later General Grant National Park was named, eventually merging with Kings Canyon National Park when it was established in 1940.  Since 1943, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks have been jointly managed.

Map of Sequoia & Kings Canyon in Park Newspaper

Map of Sequoia & Kings Canyon in Park Newspaper

THE BIG TREES

The Giant Sequoias are impressive trees!  In fact, they are labeled the Earth’s largest living tree by sheer volume of wood.  As the Parks’ brochure explains, “At least one tree species lives longer, one has a greater diameter, three grow taller, but none is larger.”  Grant Grove and Cedar Grove are in Kings Canyon while Giant Forest is in Sequoia.  However, there are about 75 groves of these giant trees on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada, the only place where these trees grow naturally.

General Sherman in National Park Brochure

General Sherman in National Park Brochure

The oldest tree in the parks is the General Grant, estimated at 3,000 years old.  But it’s the second largest tree, measuring 267-feet-tall and nearly 29 feet wide at the base.  The largest tree in these parks is the 275-foot tall General Sherman Tree in the Giant Forest.  The details describing the General Sherman are also staggering:

  • The trunk weighs an estimated 1,385 tons
  • The trunk circumference at the ground is nearly 103 feet
  • Its largest branch is almost 7 feet in diameter
  • The tree is estimated to be 2,200 years old
  • Every year, this tree grows enough new wood to produce a 60-foot-tall tree of usual size

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Although the General Grant and General Sherman are the most well-known trees in the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, all the giants sequoias are breath-taking and inspiring, worthy of being the cornerstone of these national parks. The Dogwood Blossoms popping up in the forest were also delightful!

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THE CANYON AND THE HIGH SIERRAS

100_1352100_1394A friend and I visited Sequoia National Park in March 2014, experiencing the trees through the last stages of winter.  And they are impressive in the snow!  But we were equally impressed with the trees when we returned in May 2014. This spring trip took us back to Sequoia National Park but also into Kings Canyon National Park.  In the spring, it is impossible not to notice the steep canyon cut by the majestic Kings River. Highway 180 runs along the river down to the very bottom of the canyon.  At vista points, most of the impressive peaks of the Sierra Nevada can be seen in the distance.  My Whitney, however, the highest peak (14,505 feet) in the contiguous United States can only be seen from the western slopes from remote back country, accessible only on foot or horseback.  [NOTE: We did not go hiking or back-packing!]

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Stock Photo

Stock Photo

Black Bear National Park Newspaper

Black Bear National Park Newspaper

As we moved from forest to foothills, we found several wonderful meadows that would have been perfect for a bear sighting, but not one Black Bear cooperated.  By the end of the day, we really thought we were seeing some off in the distance.  We even saw a couple Marmots, but their lumbering gait helped them escape having a photo taken.   Fortunately, a few deer were cooperative. As we continued driving, the High Sierra Vistas were breath-taking, even if the sky was a bit cloudy.

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THE FOOTHILLS

IMG_3282Driving through the foothills of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks in the spring is delightful because of all the flowers!  This part of the visit is what was missing from our winter sojourn.  I especially loved the Yucca in bloom almost everywhere we looked—no wonder they are commonly called The Lord’s Candlestick.  Other flowers also punctuated the roadsides.  We watched a hawk soar for several minutes on the thermals and some quail scurry across the road in the late afternoon.  Occasional birds and lizards came into view, but mostly we were able to listen to birds chirping in the undergrowth.

It was a glorious day!

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OH, YES, IT WAS A GLORIOUS TRIP TO EXPERIENCE MUCH MORE THAN JUST BIG TREES!

 

 

 

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