Monday, 18 June 2012
Standing 'small' among giants in Yosemite
Source = e-Travel Blackboard: Mark Harada
“None can escape its charms. Its natural beauty cleans and warms like a fire, and you will be willing to stay forever in one place like a tree.”
Entering Yosemite National Park, 200 miles (322 kms) east of San Francisco, it doesn’t take long to realize how appropriate the remarks of John Muir, the eminent Scottish-born, American environmentalist, writer, scientist and champion of Yosemite, were.
There’s something very special about Yosemite. With its towering peaks of granite, cascading waterfalls and streams, Giant Sequoia trees and biological diversity, few who ever visit the park, leave without being overwhelmed by its beauty.
The focal points for any first-time visit to Yosemite are the granite monoliths of El Capitan and Half Dome. Once considered impossible to scale, El Capitan is now a mecca for rock climbers, rising to 7,569 feet. But the spiritual centerpiece of the park is the toothed Half Dome, which stands majestically at 8,842 feet. (Want to climb it? The Half Dome Cables Route hike, which runs from the valley floor to the top of the dome in 8.2 miles (13 kms) has become a popular way to scale Yosemite’s most famous rock formation, attracting thousands of hikers every year.)
Tunnel View (on Highway 41) offers the classic ‘postcard’ view of El Capitan, Half Dome and Yosemite Valley, the main focal point for visitors to the park. As great as the vista from Tunnel View is though, better views (for those with enough time and energy) can be found from Inspiration Point Trail, a 2.6 mile (4.2 km) round-trip trek starting from near the tunnel.
Cut by Merced River, Yosemite Valley easily attracts the lion’s share of visitors to the park. Home to beautiful meadows, stately pines, glistening pools and cascading white water ribbons, it is easy to see why the majority of visitors while away their time within its seven square mile (18 km) border.
In Yosemite Valley, and arguably the biggest draw card for sightseers to the park, is Yosemite Falls. Dropping 2,245 feet in three tiers, Yosemite Falls are North America’s tallest. For those fortunate enough to make the 7.2 mile (11.6 km) hike to its summit a stunning panorama of the valley awaits. But for the majority of tourists, the views from the base of the falls prove spectacular enough.
Nearby Bridalveil Fall is another standout attraction of the National Park. Flowing all year round at a drop of 617 feet, Bridalveil’s waterfall will appear to be falling sideways when the wind blows briskly enough. For this reason, the Native Americans called the waterfall Pohono, meaning Spirit of the Puffing Wind.
Muir, who spent two years in a small cabin alongside Yosemite Creek (one of several sojourns he made to his beloved wild), once said Yosemite was big and rich enough for “a whole life of study and aesthetic enjoyment”. And he was right. Visiting Yosemite once, twice or even three times just isn't enough.
“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.”