travel

Yosemite – Real Nature, Not the Disney Version

yosemitebigtreeIf you picture a visit to a national park as an exercise in Disneyland-style crowd control in the great outdoors, try going in late September. My husband, nephew and I recently did just that when visiting Yosemite National Park.  We were rewarded with no crowds to interfere with some of the most spectacular scenery we have ever seen.

Walls of grey and brown glacier-sculpted rock rise thousands of feet above the floor of Yosemite Valley. If you have no fear of heights, there are trails that will take you up the walls of the valley and across the top of Half Dome. Just looking through binoculars at those brave souls standing or sitting on the edge of Half Dome’s sheer cliff gave me vertigo. The lower slopes of the valley are painted dark green by densely packed conifers which continue down to rim meadows of golden dried grasses.  Although many of the waterfalls are dry after the summer months, the Merced River still flows across an upper plateau and cascades over a sheer cliff to form Bridal Veil Falls and then flows down to a crystal clear stream that runs across the valley floor. 

yosemitefallsIt is difficult to tear yourself away from Yosemite Valley’s views, but if you want to visit with living things that are thousands of years old, you must go to one of the giant sequoia groves. In Mariposa Grove you walk between trees of a scale that is hard to imagine.  These are the trees that once had their bases cut to provide tunnels for cars to drive through. Fortunately, this practice is now environmentally incorrect, but it took the life of one giant that was often seen in the postcards of the 50’s and 60’s. However, there are still many giants left to see today and fallen giants open up space for young sequoias that will be there for visitors a thousand years from now.

The wildlife near the traveled areas is both shy and bold.  The park has long since instituted a no feeding policy and secure garbage disposal is taken very seriously. The nitescenesquirrels don’t seem to have gotten the message. They would come right up to us and sit up in a beggar’s pose. We did not see any of the bears, coyotes, cougars or wolves that inhabit the park but late in the afternoon deer create traffic jams as they wander next to and onto the roads in the valley.

We only had two days to spend in the park, but would definitely go back to see more of the park and to revisit areas that we explored on our first trip. Park rangers recommend finding a quiet spot in the park and sitting there for an hour or two to really see and hear everything and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere. Winter is supposed to spectacular in the park and then it is empty except for a few hardy visitors. Snowshoes and Yosemite – I can already picture the possibilities.

Susan Harrison is an attorney by training, home remodeler by accident, and a writer by choice.

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