The International Writers Magazine: Travel in the USA
Yosemite National Park
National Park - a majestic expanse of mountains, valleys and meadowlands
on the west slope of California Sierra Nevada - is one of the
most beautiful and popular holiday destinations of America.
Did I see you cringe
on hearing the word "popular"? I wouldnt blame you,
we are all wary of crowded tourist spots. But, believe me, the Yosemite
National Park is so breathtakingly scenic that you can easily forgive
it for being a crowd-puller.
The crowd at Yosemite is an odd mixture. There are the writers, painters
and photographers seeking inspiration from nature. There are the scientists
and explorers seeking the truth. There are the intrepid rock-climbers
seeking adventure in the granite walls of the Half-Dome. There are the
nature and wildlife lovers seeking beauty and solitude in their long
hikes in the backcountry. And there are people like us, a little bit
of this and a little bit of that, but primarily seeking to browse as
much of the Park as possible in a short span of time.
The history of Yosemite is interesting. Native Indians had lived in
the Yosemite region for thousands of years. In 1849, with the discovery
of gold in the Sierra foothills, the miners started arriving in the
region in droves. This led to bitter conflicts, and also reckless plundering
of the environment. Several conservationists then appealed to the US
Government to protect Yosemite, and President Abraham Lincoln signed
a bill granting Yosemite Valley to the State of California, as a public
trust. This was in 1864. Much later, in October 1890, the Yosemite National
Park was created.
The Park has several entrances. We drive into the Park through its southern
gates. Our first stop is at the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. A
quick lesson on botany here for the readers. The giant sequoia trees
are said to be the largest living things in the world and of the many
sequoias in the Mariposa Grove, one the Giant Grizzly- is estimated
to be around 2,700 years old!
It is mid-March, springtime in the rest of California. But the Mariposa
Grove is a white fairyland covered with snow. We plough through the
snow and crane our necks to see the giant sequoias thrusting their heads
into the very heavens.
Our guidebook raves wild on the Yosemite Valley - its mighty rocks and
its two great falls, the Yosemite Falls and the Bridalveil Fall. As
we drive away from the Mariposa Grove towards the Yosemite Valley, the
snowy landscape gives way to a blinding blue sky and white Dogwood flowers.
The road is delightfully winding and, suddenly - almost like magic -
the Merced River appears to our left. This is the river that bisects
the Yosemite Valley.
The lush green riverbank is an ideal place for camping. Sitting inside
a tent or if you are fond of exploring ways American - a RV, you
can listen to the gurgle of the river. And upon stepping out, you see
the river itself, rushing past in a mad hurry, and the wooded hills
rolling away from the other bank to the horizon. Rafting on Merced is
another popular way to experience Yosemites beauty.
We park our car at the roadside and walk down to the river, in complete
awe of the scenery. For a long, long time we stand at the riverbank,
watching the water in its endless dance. Finally it is time to scramble
back into the car. Driving along the river and then through a dimly
lit tunnel - the Wayonna tunnel we reach the Tunnel View point.
From here one gets a panoramic view of the Yosemite valley - the rocks
looming large, and the Bridalveil Fall tumbling down to the valley floor
in a thick, smoky strand.
We gape at the granite faces of the El Capitan, the Half Dome and the
Cathedral Rock, and at the black-crested blue bird that preens itself
away from the branch of a pine tree.
Once done with contemplating the grand and the small at the Tunnel View
Point, it is time to head for the Yosemite village. The Yosemite Village
has got a visitors centre, a souvenir shop, a museum, a photo
gallery, auditoriums and a restaurant. Ever the unblushing tourists,
we splurge on a host of posters, magnets and key chains at the souvenir
shop; and then make a beeline for sandwiches and coffee latte at the
Meanwhile, the afternoon sun casts a soporific effect on the valley.
The rocks glow softly in the sun, the meadows sleep peacefully in their
giant shadows, and a trembling little rainbow springs up in the milky
white water of the Bridalveil Fall. For the romantic and the recluse,
this is the perfect time to indulge in hiking.
There are many trails in Yosemite, long and short. We pick up the Mirror
Lake trail, a 1-mile road that wanders through the woods and finally
reaches the Mirror Lake an emerald-green pool slowly turning
to a meadow by geological forces. The signboards along the trail ask
us to keep our eyes out for the mountain lion and the bear. We do, but
unfortunately or fortunately, the denizens of the forest do not show
Bicycle rentals too are available in Yosemite. Paved bike roads offer
cyclists sweeping views of the valley. And if you have the spirit for
adventure, saddle up and experience Yosemite from the back of a mule
or a horse. In fact, half a day is all you need to ride to the Vernal
Falls Bridge area that offers great views of two smaller falls of the
valley the Vernal Fall and the Nevada Fall.
For the photographically inclined, a visit to the Ansel Adams Gallery
in the Yosemite Village is a must. One of the greatest landscape-photographers
ever, Ansel Adams drew the worlds attention to Yosemite through
his dramatic photos. A visit to the gallery leaves us with a strange
longing to live all the glorious moments captured in the photographers
But, for doing that a weekend is not enough. One has to keep coming
back to Yosemite in different times of the year. It is a Park for all
seasons. Winter here is a cloak of snow, a grand time on skis and skates.
Spring is the waterfalls thundering with winter snow melt. Summer is
the Tuolumne Meadows, the high country of the Sierras, bursting with
wildflowers. Fall is the gold and red autumn leaves.
As we drive out of the Park, we cast many a wistful glance back and
make quick mental notes to be back again in late summer. The vision
of a wildflower-washed Tuolumne Meadows helps us brace ourselves for
the crazily busy week ahead.
© Tithiparna Sengupta September 2005
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