Yosemite National Park is one of the most well-known US national park internationally. The number of visitors surpassed 5 million in 2016, ranking it as the third most visited national park behind Great Smokey Mountains (11.31 million) and the Grand Canyon (5.79 million). The full list can be found via this link. Surprisingly Yellowstone didn’t crack the top 5.
Designated a World Heritage Site in 1984, Yosemite was central to the establishment of the national park system, with President Lincoln signing the Yosemite Grant Act in 1864. This was the first act providing federal protection of America’s wild lands. Today, Yosemite covers an area of 747,956 acres with 95% of it deemed to be wilderness..
The name “Yosemite” (meaning “killer” in Miwok) originally referred to the name of a renegade tribe which was driven out of the area by the Mariposa Battalion in 1851.
The morning began with a 30 minute hike up Sentinel Dome. The view which greeted me could easily be categorized as the best one I’ve ever seen in relation to the difficulty of the trail of which the hardest part consisted of a 100 ft walk up the granite top of the dome at a near 30 degree incline.
Starting atop of what felt like the world, the dome provided a breathtaking 360 degree vantage point that stretched out into the distance. Every direction you looked, there was a recognizable landmark — Cathedral Rocks, El Capitan, Yosemite Fall, Half Dome, Vernal Fall — the list goes on. You were so interconnected and immersed with the surroundings that the only danger was accidentally taking a step too far…
But you didn’t need to worry much as a great big turtle silently kept watch.
I spent so much time upon that dome, captivated by the sheer magnitude and immensity of granite landscape before my eyes. I was convinced this was going to be highlight of the day.
Little could I have imagined that up further ahead on Glacier Point Road, there were more sights in store that would overwhelm my sense and remind me just how small we humans are against the powers of nature. For peering over the ledge of Glacier Point some 3,214 ft above Half Dome Village, one is witness to the entire Yosemite Valley. Traces of mankind – lodgings, roads, cars – all become barely discernible specks as your gaze traces the snaking Merced River from its starting point in the Sierra Nevada mountains down to eventually the San Joaquin River.
As a reminder also that we share this planet with other animals, scampering in and oout of the throngs of people and picking up nibbles of food found on sidewalks was the western grey squirrel.
After having my feasted on my fill of the birds-eye view from above, I drove down into Yosemite Valley to experience looking up at all the granite formations from below. Not surprisingly, they becoming looming monuments, blanketing the land in the shade of their shadows. The two-tiered Upper and Lower Yosemite Fall provided the backdrop for one last photo-op before I bid farewell to this land of giants and headed back to San Francisco, my viewpoint enlarged and my horizons widened by the last three days. It was truly a journey worth taking.