The trip has begun, with the time at home passing all too quickly it was time to board a plane and off I went again. The flights so far really haven’t been that bad, or maybe I'm just getting more used to them. After twenty-four hours of travel I arrived in LA and caught up with my cousin Adam, great to have family all over the world to catch up with. I had only been there a day or so when an opportunity popped up that got me thinking though. Kelly, Adam’s sister, was flying in the day I flew out and they were heading up to Yosemite National Park for a few days. For a long time I've wanted to check out some of the natural beauty here in the states and this was an opportunity far too good to pass up. Still had the issue on board Kuhela to deal with though but after a quick call to the marina to see where things were at I was convinced that they had the problem under control and really I would only be delayed for three days in getting back on board. I’m getting pretty good at changing flights on this trip and with a simple phone call it was on, next stop Yosemite.
We picked up Kelly, packed the car and headed north late that night with a five hour drive up to a little town just outside the park. By that point I was pretty unsure of what time zone, what country or what state I was in and lay down in the back seat and drifted in and out of consciousness for the entire drive. Jet lag had finally caught up with me. We arrived in the early hours of the morning and got some sleep before getting up and out in the morning to find some breakfast and pick up a few things to head into the park. First place we stopped into for a coffee and a chat brought up a few interesting things that had been on my mind and wasn’t too sure about, the cold, and bears. I really had no idea about either and though a bearskin coat would be warm, being inside a bear wasn’t something I was too keen on, fortunately I was able to find a second hand jacket in one of the shops in town and we headed into the park.
There have been a few places that have blown me away with their natural beauty and their ability to awe with their sheer size, colors and feel. This was definitely one of them. Passing the rangers station and coming around the bend to look up at sheer cliff faces rising hundreds of meters vertically from the river bed at their feet. The reds, yellows and browns of leaves holding on for as long as possible, before falling to the creeks and rivers below. Waterfalls in the distance, almost falling in slow motion, giving an added sense of movement and grandeur to top off the whole scene. The crisp cold air blowing in our faces as we craned our necks and tried to take in the scene before us. There are not enough adjectives in my vocabulary to properly describe what lay before us really. Breathtaking in the true literal sense only scratches the surface. The first day was spent trying to take it all in, getting out bearings and finding out what to concentrate on seeing, it would take years to explore this park fully.
The next morning we woke early in the little room we rented just outside the park, with a river running just outside the back door, perfect sounds to sleep to. We headed into the park just on sunrise and went to take in the classic view from the lookout. What an amazing sight. Looking down the valley, mist rolling through the forest below, the morning light painting El Capitan, the largest natural monolith in the world at 3000ft above the valley floor, and across from that the imposing presence of half dome rising to nearly 5000ft and the snow capped mountains beyond. It was a scene that I could almost not believe possible. The way the light accents all the different colors through the granite, the fall colors of the forest splashed in patches here and there, the crisp clean sky above, just the immenseness of it all. it is truly one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. Adam was filming it all and I was trying to capture what I could see on camera but making sure to step away from that at times to just sit and watch and admire what was in front of me. It was such an amazing way to start the day, and the rest would prove just as impressive.
We headed from there down to the village, got some coffee and quick breakfast and made our way out to the start of the trail up to a couple water falls we had been recommended to go see. Soon we were walking uphill in the crisp mountain air, surrounded by towering mountains and the variety of colors and scents, this place is so raw and beautiful that it is all but impossible to walk more than a few meters before stopping again to take in the view. It was a steady walk uphill and was great to be out and getting the heart rate up again. Following the river uphill we first came upon Vernal Falls, tumbling over the lip on the cliff high above and thundering down onto the rocks below. What better place could you want to stop for lunch? It’s a steady procession of steps that takes you onwards and upwards right up to the top of the falls and looking back over the edge to the small dots of people below. There, atop the cliff is emerald pool, who’s name gives some indication to its beauty. Still further up the path lead and we continued on, steadily climbing steps and gaining altitude, passing the cascading waters of Nevada falls and skirting the side of liberty cap, up the path which bring you to the top of this amazing feature 600ft above the base of the falls. If looking over Vernal falls gave you vertigo, looking over the edge of Nevada falls made you weak in the knees, an walking out on the little rock that juts out into the nothingness, even now thinking back, makes my stomach turn. With the sun starting to dip below the opposite side of the valley though it was time to turn around and head back down, happy, content, amazed, and tired.
We all slept well that night, but again it was an early start to catch the amazing morning light and we were out on the road not long after the sun made its appearance. Further couth of the park is the Mariposa grove, home of the giant sequoias. These amazing trees and something I have always wanted to see, there’s something so humbling about being in the presence of something that is far, far older than you, has seen so much and stands so tall and wise. Walking through the park one of the first trees you come to has a limb that is 2 meters in diameter and is estimated to be 1800 years old, imagine the things it has seen. Walking through these amazing giants and listening to the silence of that place was something amazingly special. There is just so much natural beauty in this place, which we only really got to scratch the surface of, its easy to see how John Muir, one of the early advocates for this magnificent natural park, claimed that “no temple made with human hands can compare to Yosemite”
I am so glad I had the chance to experience this amazing place, and to do it with family. Having little things like this pop up, opportunities to have things I wished for fall into place so perfectly, are the little hints and pointers I use to show me I am on the right path. One day I will have to come and explore this place more extensively, but as far as an intro goes, i would have to rate this in the top three places I have ever visited. Adam got some great footage as well and should be putting up a video sometimes soon, hopefully through that and my photography you can get some small glimpse of the magnificence of this place. What an amazing start to the trip, thanks so much to Adam and Kelly for the time together. Next stop Panama, and back to Kuhela.