Thursday, September 2, 2010

Yosemite National Park: Nature's Cathedral, Part 1

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 

It has been quite a while since my last posting but I have been accumulating a lot of blissful experiences traveling and exploring! I seek to embrace as much exploration as possible...there will definitely be a book of artwork and photography that comes from all of these travels!

I had the great pleasure of visiting Yosemite National Park last month. The park surpassed my expectations and let me tell you, they were high. I, like millions of people around the world, fell in love with the park while watching the Ken Burns special "National Parks: America's Best Idea" which aired last year. In fact, one park employee remarked that attendance in the park is expected to increase by 40% in 2010, due mainly to the Burns Special. Truly, Burns' photography painted a stunning wilderness tapestry with his series....he showed the park and the beauty of the High Sierra like nothing I had ever seen before. I remember goosebumps alternating with getting choked up by the beautiful cinematography.

My friend Jay from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia and I had been planning this hiking/camping trip for over a year. We would camp for a week in Yosemite and then fly up to Denali National Park in Alaska. Pretty much a National Park dream-come-true :) Initially we were skeptical about our campground being so far away from Yosemite Valley but came to relish the cooler temperatures with the 1,000 ft elevation gain it had compared to the valley floor. Hodgdon Campground was beautiful for its giant Mariposa pines and fresh air....but I did have some issues with noisy neighbours for most of the week. Proximity is close between campsites so hopefully there aren't many people who snore :) However the group of ornithologists camped on our other side made for perfect neighbours...they were quiet and respectful.

Looking down an adjacent valley en route to Yosemite Valley...sublime!

The majestic El Capitan took our breath away
En route to Curry Village we stopped and walked through this meadow
Despite temperatures that rose to swelterings level during the high point of the day we relished the cooler evenings and higher elevation of our camp. Yosemite Valley was bustling with lots of people yet rarely felt "crowded". Curry Village was charming and well-equipped with a great climbing/gear store, a souvenir shop, a great pizza place, a larger hall that served buffet style meals every day, a cafe and a quiet area where WiFi was sporadic. Perhaps the granite cliffs all around us thwarted a decent signal but our goal was not to stay connected but to get away and explore. Jay and I have a deep respect for John Muir and Ansel Adams...both of whom were deeply passionate about the park and we understand why now.

Jay sitting by the sign towards Vernal Fals
We caught a glimpse of the falls on our way up. It was a steep, slippery climb but great fun!
Our climb up Vernal Falls didn't take very long but it had a steady flow of traffic and, being a narrow trail in sections, there was some waiting involved. Everyone was happy and excited to be there, you could tell...and who wouldn't be? I enjoyed the Mist Trail...the park was so healthy and clean...we hardly saw one piece of litter the whole time at Yosemite.

Vernal Falls

We hiked up to the top of Vernal Falls, a popular, steep hike with 900 ft elevation in a short time. On our way back down I spotted some Amish people ascending up the trail. I thought that they looked beautiful and was fascinated. I looked away as they passed because I did not want them to think I was staring at them. I took a quick shot with my camera that I lined up quickly and candidly, having no idea what I would capture, if anything....
But there they were in the frame...
Vernal Falls was a great hike for our first day. We acquainted ourselves with the valley and rented bicycles in the afternoon that we rode out to Mirror Lake. Lots of people rent bikes for the day in the park as there is minimal car traffic and lots of paved areas and unpaved trails to travel on. The ride to Mirror Lake was mostly uphill but a low grade which we appreciated given the heat of the day. Mirror Lake is an area frequented by children and families who want to splash in the clear waters and admire the granite cliffs that surround the park. Part of the trail in the area was closed off recently due to a rockslide but just standing at the water's edge gave us a huge sense of peace. I waded into the water and would have spent the entire day there but there was so much left to doesn't have to push oneself to scale up craggy trails to find great joy. I'm sure Thoreau often found bliss contemplating a blade of grass or a flower. I believe it is not the distance that one travels but how you contemplate and feel about what you have seen that matters most.
Mirror is easy to see where it gets its name from..
Half Dome never seemed far away from is so vast you can see it from many miles away.
 Granite veins that seem to provide a life force to the valley and park.

The setting sun filtering through the trees at Hodgdon Meadow

We had read that the Tiger Lillies were blooming in Hodgdon Meadow so we found the trail and walked out in the evening was peaceful and quiet with the perfume of campfires wafting from the campground nearby. The lilt of laughter could be heard from far off...people relishing the place as well..for they, like we had the pleasure of embracing the magic of Yosemite for that week....

I am heading to France for two weeks for a painting commission but I will blog more about Yosemite and Alaska upon my return. Have a beautiful day and savour every moment...


Sunlight through the Tiger Lillies blooming in Hodgdon Meadow