Travel and Write: Yosemite National Park
Nestled in an accessible location close to major hotspot travel destinations like Lake Tahoe and San Francisco, Yosemite National Park hails itself as a multi-use, evergreen destination for avid hikers, backpackers, campers, rock-climbers, nature-lovers and explorers on the west coast. As an avid hiker-explorer, I went deep into Yosemite Valley on a 5-day excursion through Tioga Road, Tuolumne Meadows, Half Dome Village and Yosemite Valley.
We began northbound on the Tahoe-Yosemite Loop through Mono Lake near the entrance of Yosemite.
On our way through the granite valley, we stopped at the famous Whoa Nellie Deli at the Tioga Mobile Gas Station just before the Yosemite Park Entrance and gobbled down their Grilled Veggie Sandwich — with
portobello mushrooms, eggplant, zucchini, squash and mozzarella — before catching the last of France and Belgium dueling for a chance to compete in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Final (Vive France!). We then descended 2 hours into the Valley by way of Nevada via the Tioga Pass Entrance, the only eastern entrance of Yosemite’s five scenic routes.
We continued our route along the edge of Tenaya Canyon near Tenaya Lake. The crystal clear water gleamed against the sun as the snowmelt continued to cascade down the waterfalls, through the valleys, right to the tips of our feet. We continued through Yosemite National Park and stopped where the mass granite of the Sierra Nevadas emerges in a beautiful array of wonder at Olmsted Point. We hadn’t made it more than 4 miles in to the wondrous glacial landscape with, still, 50 miles to go — our mouths full of the magical sight of Half Dome and its 8800 ft peak,
As we whizzed pass the tall incense cedar and pine trees, the essence of what we were doing became a blur — we were no longer travelers in the blush of green; we weren’t tourists along Tioga Pass, we were simply human beings in our given home.
We scaled the mass of rock to descend deep into Yosemite Valley, where the famous Nevada Falls at Half Dome Village reside. Once relieved of our almost 9000 ft. ascent, we happened upon a clearing, just big enough to house some 200 campers, and some million shining stars.
Each day we made a meticulous nest of boxes, toiletries, paper towels and nonperishables shoved into rusted metal bear-bins. Our guide had reasoned with us prior that no bears had been sighted in Yosemite for about three years… until about 5 minutes before our arrival.
At night, we heard the loud growl of a hungry bear and we were glad that our unnecessary packing hadn’t been crafted in vain (we spotted a baby bear during our trip but we knew not to disturb him, lest mother bear come and do what mothers do best).
Each day bore a dry heat that permeated into a moist night; we traveled each day to some body of water — Tenaya Lake, the local river, Vernal Falls or Yosemite Falls — to combat the stifling July heat, and at night we gathered by the campfire with our beers and our wines and our Jack Daniels, and laughed under the stars until the night overwhelmed the merriment of togetherness and lulled us all to sleep.
But alas, we were not alone.
As we slept, the crawling critters awoke to what became a feast of fatty thighs, oily foreheads and uncovered arms. A closed tent and bug spray were no match for the mighty jumping spiders of Yosemite National Park.
But it was worth it to be bitten by the valley. It was worth it to sleep under the night and wake to the granite giant each day. It was worth it to leave the monolith, technology, for a moment and escape into the prized evergreen.
It was all worth it – the packing and unpacking and packing again. The socks over the pants, the toothpaste in the bushes, the sandy towels, the nonstop zipping and unzipping of the tent. The walking and walking and getting lost…
Because for just a moment, if only for five days, I was lost — and I had found life again.