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Half Dome from the valley floor on Northside drive.

Half Dome from the Valley FloorView All Sizes

JOURNAL : May 16, 2009

Exploring Yosemite Valley

California > United States

Series Exploring Yosemite Valley

Everywhere you go in Yosemite Valley people run around with eyes bulging out, pointing cameras and craning heads upward. You and me and everyone else.

Some view this magnificent masterpiece as a divine creation. Others ponder chaotic geological forces carving and shifting the land over eons. Either way, Yosemite inspires an awe rarely so universal in effect.

Majestic Yosemite Falls is the highest waterfall in North America and the sixth highest in the world.

Upper Yosemite FallsView All Sizes

A Profound Presence

What is extraordinary in this valley is a matter of scale. Similar shapes and rock faces can occur in a tide pool. A trickle of water from a tidal surge is a tiny waterfall. Yosemite is a compact archetype of superlative quality. El Capitan and Half Dome awe with their imposing façades. Yosemite Falls is the highest waterfall in North America. All around us nature soars and dominates and we casually stroll through in a dreamlike state, finally free of rolls of film with limited exposures.

Big Creek around where it branches off from the South Fork Merced River.

Big Creek near Route 41View All Sizes

A Feeble Attempt...

Of course, photos simply do not capture the experience any better than a video of hang gliding from Glacier Point capturing the feeling of flying over all of this on a bright morning.

Hopefully this collage will tide one over until one actually arrives at the scene and experiences Yosemite for oneself... or to help recall that dreamlike state and the inspiring environs.

Where Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir met in 1903 to discuss the future of Yosemite National Park.

Where Roosevelt and Muir Met in 1903View All Sizes

Yosemite Valley and Bridalveil Fall from Big Oak Road. The Merced River trickles down the middle.

Yosemite Valley and Bridalveil FallView All Sizes

The classic shot of Yosemite valley that everyone takes as they first come in. A rite of passage as a tourist. On the right is Bridalveil Fall, on the left is El Capitan, and in the back is Half Dome and Clouds Rest.

Yosemite Valley in the MorningView All Sizes

This Particular Trip

Mom, Jay & Alyssa

Mom, Jay & Alyssa

We arrived early Sunday morning amidst the growing traffic of motorhomes and busses and met up with my mom and Jay for a hike up to bask in the refreshing spray of Lower Yosemite Falls.

The ferocious cascade of Lower Yosemite Falls showered the whole area with a dense mist that was refreshing on a hot day.

Lower Yosemite FallsView All Sizes

May is a good time to visit but it means campground choices are somewhat limited. Tioga Pass is still closed and other sites do not open until mid-June.

We opted to stay at Hodgdon Meadow and spend a day up at less-frequented Hetch Hetchy Valley. On the way back down we snaked up to Glacier Point to take in a bird's-eye view of the valley. That was a Tuesday and the park was noticeably less crowded.

Leaving Yosemite via Big Oak Rd. One of the tunnels is in the background.

Leaving YosemiteView All Sizes

Mom and Jay have visited during the winter and highly recommend it. A soft blanket of snow and a zillion less tourists make all the difference.

El Capitan watching over the rushing Merced River.

El Capitan towers over the Merced RiverView All Sizes

Scorched tree trunk near Merced River. Bridalveil Fall is in the background.

Scorched tree trunk near Merced RiverView All Sizes

El Capitan and the Merced River

The Merced is a persistent feature as it snakes through Yosemite. From Glacier Point you can see it plunging over Vernal and Nevada Falls in Little Yosemite Valley before entering the main Valley. All the waterfalls, streams and creeks feed into the Merced, which eventually chugs down into the Central Valley on its 145-mile journey.

The sheer granite façade of El Capitan dominates the western end of the valley. It’s a magnificent sight from the valley floor.

El CapitanView All Sizes

A doe grazing in Yosemite. She must’ve been acclimated to humans as she showed no fear at our presence.

A Doe GrazingView All Sizes

Dominating one end of the Valley is El Capitan. Standing like the prow of a ship 3,000 feet high, this massive chunk of glacier-carved granite is a rock climber's wet dream. In fact, during one of our visits we noticed someone camped out about halfway up! Yes, some ballsy climber had setup what appeared to be a small platform for sleeping and was presumably dozing peacefully over a quarter mile above the valley floor.

Carved Granite above the Meadows.

Carved Granite above the MeadowsView All Sizes

Yosemite Valley

The warm afternoon sun on Bridalveil Falls.

Afternoon Sun on Bridalveil FallsView All Sizes

My camper van, a 2006 Ford E250 van with a high-top. The motorcycle is a 2006 Honda CBR600RR.

My Camper Van & MotorcycleView All Sizes

Buzzing Bikes

Yosemite is a great place for a motorcycling — riding miles of winding roads through fragrant pine forests, or sidling up next to a refreshing river, or tooling up into the mountains in search of adventure. Nothing compares to that feeling of freedom.

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But as much as I love motorcycles, I hate the noise. Nothing ruins a peaceful day like the thick buzzing of an engine cutting through the land. It's not so bad when you're on the bike making the noise, but to hear it? Ugh. As electric motorcycles gain ground, hopefully we'll see more of these silent cycles, and hear less of their engines.

Nonetheless, I ended up riding all over Yosemite on my bike. First, through the main valley, then up to Hodgdon Meadow and then to Hetch Hetchy Valley. Finally, up Glacier Point Road to its scenic destination. A helluva lotta fun.

Kanoa & Windsong On the Valley Floor

On the Valley Floor

Yosemite Creek below Lower Yosemite Falls.

Yosemite Creek below Lower Yosemite FallsView All Sizes

Half Dome from the valley floor on Northside drive.

About this day

Exploring Yosemite Valley

May 16, 2009

California > United States

Tags   Driving · Hiking · Valleys · Mountains

Yosemite Series | All United States Locations

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