Monday, May 9, 2011


We abandoned our overlooked and often-despised Florida scrub last week for one of our nationally beloved icons. We travelled 2,500 miles and over 6,050 feet in elevation just getting to our destination. We left 90 degrees, humidity, bears, and coral snakes in favor of 60 degrees, snow, Steller’s jays, and, hopefully, more bears.

Black-tailed deer in front of Lower Yosemite Falls
(not sure how the hoards of people were framed out of the shot)

I had been reading John Muir leading up to our vacation in Yosemite. I always had a soft spot in my heart for Muir in part because he was a UW alumnus. My dreams and expectations swirled with outzel, the elusive cassiope, peppery Douglas squirrels, giant trees, bears thieving sheep at night, and, of course, the dramatic clouds with their emotional cargos.

The world John Muir described seems as distant as another planet.
Sheep no longer graze in pristine meadows.
The Hetch Hetchy valley was flooded.
It no longer seems prudent to step out onto an overhanging ledge above Yosemite Falls.
Sometimes cars drive past blasting loud music.
Sometimes it seems every vista, every moment, is crowded with visitors.
Sometimes one struggles to find a seat anywhere, bench, log, or stone.
It was, by far, the hardest National Park we’ve visited to find vegetarian meals.

Bridal Veil Falls
(from the full parking lot)

Despite these challenges, if one suspends disbelief, it is easy to imagine how Muir, a traveler hiking alone for hundreds of miles through the chaparral and foothills, would find spiritual enlightenment in the valley.  We discovered a magical moment surrounded by hundreds of spring azure butterflies attracted to a seep. Dusk in a sequoia grove, all tourists long gone, as the birdsong came to life in the ancient branches. A quiet nap in a meadow while watching the shadow of the falls play against the sheer granite. The rivers plummet from impossible heights, ephemeral yet unstoppable.  Their distance from the valley floor lends them a supernatural appearance as the water seems to descend in slow motion. 

The world has changed. Yes. Generation by generation, it slipped away into something oily, scarred, overpopulated, and paved.  One day, the resources we saved in our park system will be too tempting to deny.  Yet, there is increasing inertia for restoring the Hetch Hetchy valley.  Yet, in the middle of the traffic and bustle of Yosemite valley, a quietness is exposed.

We can extinguish the wilderness, yet the universal truth of wildness is inextinguishable. 

Half Dome from Sentinel Bridge
(three feet from traffic, buses)

All photographs in this post are copyrighted by Melissa T Photography

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