“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”
– John Muir
Yosemite has my heart. There’s still so much left for me to see, and so many places to go, but I know, for the rest of my life, it will be one of the places I will always be drawn to. What a shame then, that I only spent a day in this fantastic place.
I’ll backtrack a bit and mention how this even came about, because it was in doubt. For those reading who are unaware, I am in California in the first place because I will be collecting data for my thesis in Death Valley National Park (imposing name eh?). My plan was to spend some extra time in this beautiful state so I could see as much of it as possible, while also investing some time with my wonderful family here.
For the longest time I’ve been fascinated by images of Yosemite and descriptions of its monolithic domes and towering trees. It captivated me and I felt perpetually drawn to it.
Ever since I was a child, I was awestruck by what I had heard about California, more so with regards to its natural landscapes. I’ll be honest, I enjoy visiting Los Angeles, but this state’s big appeal for me is its natural beauty. I remember being young and reading about giant redwoods and grand sequoias, with majestic peaks towering above beautiful meadows. It all just seemed so surreal.
One simply has to view an image of Yosemite Valley or Hetch Hetchy Valley (before its damming) to see what I mean. Even at a young age I knew I wanted to see such sights with my own eyes. Hearing about it and seeing images simply would not suffice.
So here I am, in Anaheim Hills, California, working away at some last minute preparation for my research expedition when a thought comes to mind. I’ve been to Vegas, I’ve seen LA’s beach cities and I’ve done most of the touristy things, so why not do something I really want to do? Yosemite was the first thought that came to mind. Initially, I was supposed to go with my awesome cousin Hannah (thanks for everything btw!) but a little set back meant that she was no longer able to go. I was a bit discouraged but thought well hey, I can drive, I can rent a car, I have money, I have time. There’s NOTHING stopping me. It’s funny how things work out. I was supposed to be in Death Valley but the expedition got set back a few days, meaning I had more than enough time to go on a cross state road trip.
The thought captivated me. I will not lie, the thought of exploring unfamiliar territory by myself was slightly unnerving, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me. It was either follow through with a long term dream of mine (yes seeing Yosemite and Big Sur had been a dream of mine) OR sit around in Anaheim all day doing much of nothing. The former it was.
And so I rented a car and off I went into that infamous LA traffic. Two hours, two freaking hours to drive fifty kilometres. I was to set out to Yosemite that Saturday, but that two hour drive set me back and I figured it was much smarter to get some good rest and set out in the morning, so as not to drive in the dark through unfamiliar lands.
I set out at 7:30 am. Traffic cooperated and I soon found myself driving through high mountain passes, until I reached a large downhill slope that took me to Bakersfield. The inland and middle valley portions of California drove me crazy. So much so that I dreaded taking the same route back to Anaheim. It just seemed so strange to me. At times I felt like I was in Ontario, what with all the farmland and crops. What wasn’t familiar to me was the air and the smog. The visilibty was not the greatest and it was a very uneventful drive. The area itself felt very fake and the furthest from natural scenery that you could get. It just dragged on and on.
Eventually, I passed Fresno and arrived in a little town called Coarsegold. I legitimately felt like I was in the old wild west. Everything was dry and yellow and I would not have been surprised if some tumbleweed blew past me at any point.
If ever I stopped for gas or provisions, my Blue Jays cap (featuring the maple leaf) drew me some pretty funny looks. Especially in the small towns. It was the sort of look you’d get from someone not particularly fond of your presence. Whatever. It is what it is.
As I passed Coarsegold, the landscape began to change. Up these hilly passes I went, and the elevation began to change drastically. The trees began to rise and rise and soon I was in the midst of a grand old forest. Upon reaching a clearing in the trees, I looked to the right and noticed just how high up I was. I was as elated as a kid on the last day of school. The deeper into the woods I drove, and the closer I got to Yosemite, the happier I became. It may sound odd, but it felt familiar, so much so that I likened it to home, to Canada. I never feel that way when I’m in Los Angeles. If anything it’s the opposite – LA’s fun to visit but I could never live there.
Yosemite felt like home. An odd feeling for someone venturing there for the first time. But then again not that odd if you think about it. I very much feel at home when in nature, especially in dense forests and mountains. Throughout the day I was slightly congested and felt like I was warding off a mild cold. I kid you not, as I was making my way through these groves full of giant trees, the congestion was clearing up. The air was spectacular. I felt much happier and more like myself than I ever have while in LA. The rest of that drive took me through winding mountain roads with awe inspiring vistas to my sides. For as much as I wanted to look, I couldn’t, making me wish there was at least someone there with me to share the views.
Once I cleared the parks boundaries it got even more difficult to drive. Higher and higher I went, and the views were insane. It was a beautiful day too and the sun was shining high above, with no clouds in sight. At one point a wasp made its way in and ultimately lost a battle. Having never been stung, I was freaking out and was lucky to find a turn out in which I stopped. Fortunately, no damage was done.
Eventually I reached the tunnel to the valley and I had my Gopro strapped to my chest, as I wanted to capture the moment I glimpsed the famous tunnel view. My jaw literally dropped the moment I laid my eyes on El Capitan and Half Dome. I will never forget that moment.
The only downside was how touristy this particular area was – something you never see in photos of course. After taking an obligatory picture of the view and of course some selfies, I made my way down to the valley. I couldn’t stop smiling, I was euphoric.
Once there, I made several stops. I explored the meadows, taking in the sights and marvelling at the giant trees that stood before me. It was very humbling. The only other time I felt so small was when I was in the Canadian Rockies.
For as much as I enjoyed being alone, I couldn’t help but wish that my brothers or friends were with me, so that they too could see what I was so fortunate to be seeing. They truly are sights that everyone should witness at least once in their lifetime.
Spending time in the valley made all those John Muir quotes much more relatable. I could finally see what the grand appeal of this place was. If only time wasn’t a factor.
Ultimately, I checked out Bridalveil Fall and did a mini scramble up the fall, nothing significant, but still tons of fun, despite the ridiculously slippery rocks.
As I walked through the woods back to the car, I felt nothing but joy. Tired, hungry and headache-y from a long day of driving, but all I felt was happiness the whole time I was there.
This same day I decide to hike to Taft Point, but I’ll save that and my trip to Big Sur in my next few posts.
Tomorrow I’m off to Death Valley for research and yet another adventure.
Thanks for reading!