Yosemite National Park

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“… Break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” – John Muir

My spirit is clean. Boy, is it ever. Yosemite bathed me in waterfall mist beneath glacier carved summits, and dried me in sunshine and wild air. I can’t stop thinking about the valleys. The trees. The mountains. The way people from all over the world gushed in many languages about the natural beauty of this park.yosemite national parkVisitors flock to Yosemite’s deep valleys and high round domes with the devotion normally reserved for pilgrimages of faith. But in a way, coming to Yosemite is just that. It’s a journey into a cathedral of canyon walls.

Even before white settlers flocked here to bask in the glory of Yosemite Valley, this place was a Holy Land to this country and her people. Surrounded by trees, steep cliffs of granite… People are reverent here. It’s a place to connect with nature; to be in the earth and not just on it.

Beneath the massive monoliths we feel truly small, and that is huge.

The park, in whole, is enormous. It covers 1,169 square miles (about the size of Rhode Island) and boasts 214 miles of paved roads, with a staggering 800 miles of trails on top of that.

While Jesse and I drove nearly all 214 miles of paved road on this map (minus the route to Hetch Hetchy) we hiked maybe 15 miles of trail, barely any of the 800. Since most of the park is wilderness only accessible by hiking trails, to really experience Yosemite, you must hike.

As for us, we were thrilled to stretch our legs after two days in the car. On our way across the Tioga Highway, we stopped near Tuolumne Meadows to hike to Dog Lake and Lembert Dome.

Lembert Dome is a walk in the park compared to climbing Half Dome (which we plan to do in the fall), but it was an exhilarating first trek into Yosemite’s wilderness. As we climbed the bare granite at the top, we could see forests and mountains in all directions, over Tuolumne Meadows and the famed Yosemite Valley in the distance.

Once in the Valley itself, after driving the most gorgeous curving roadway into the deep walls, and staring in disbelief at the impossibly tall granite walls of El Capitan, Half Dome, among the other monoliths, we walked the pathways over bridges and rivers, to Yosemite Falls.

And then, our most ambitious hike on this trip, was the climb up the Mist Trail to Vernal and Nevada Falls. We made this one a loop, going up the riverside Mist Trail, to the top of Vernal Fall first…

Continuing on to the top of Nevada Fall…

Then onto the John Muir Trail to head back to the bottom of the valley.

After this exhausting day of sauntering through the woods, we camped at the Upper Pines Campground, and watched the sun set on Half Dome.

Then, before our morning departure to head to Sequoia National Park, the next stop on our road trip, we stopped at Glacier Point for incredible views of Yosemite Valley from above.

And with that, we were on our way south out of Yosemite. As we left, and in the days after, I kept thinking again and again about the monumental place we had just visited. The size of its trees, its incredulous cliffs, the misty spit of waterfalls and gushing rivers… but mostly how there is still so much left to explore.

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