As Yosemite reveals itself, the Meander begins

I left the city in a mad rush. The dash from Fresno’s airport to Fresno’s REI was frantic. I needed more food, more fuel, and warm socks before heading to Yosemite. And I hoped to get there before dark.

The Meander officially began on May 9, but it was vastly different than I’d expected. It was busy. Too much company and commotion. Too much Griswold-ing. I divided 18 days between tourist time with Jamie and my dad in San Diego, then fun time with Keena’s family in Burbank, then three go-go-go days with Jamie driving the Pacific Coast Highway through Big Sur. These were positive experiences, but whew …

Mt. Watkins reflects in Mirror Lake.

Mt. Watkins reflects in Mirror Lake.

Finally, with 60 miles of open road between me and three nights alone at Yosemite, it was time for the Meander to begin. Except, it didn’t. I was ready for my cathartic moment. I tried to prime the pump with the Into the Wild soundtrack. Nope. With sun setting, I played the second side of Darkside of the Moon. Still nothing.

And then, as Roger Waters let out his last long “mooooooooooooon”, I rounded a corner and the sign for Yosemite National Park appeared. Finally, I started to cry. Soon, I was preparing for bed at Wawona Campground about an hour south of the famous Yosemite Valley.

That night I dreamt that access to the valley itself had been barred. The entry point immortalized by countless Hudson River School landscapes and Instagram selfies was closed. All I could see was ferris wheels, roller coasters, and other commercial recreation in the distance. Wally World was closed. I was crushed.

Day One

I woke up to the light tapping of rain on my tent. I stepped out of my tent into a pine forest and learned my first lesson of Yosemite. Never separate from your camera. A deer stood less than 15 feet away. Welcome to Yosemite!

My first item of business was a stop at the campground reservation office. To my surprise, I was able to extend my stay to a fourth night and relocate to the coveted valley floor the following morning. Not wanting to spoil the surprise of the valley before moving, I honey-badgered coffee from the nearby lodge and headed to the scenic south rim of the valley en route to Glacier Point.

4,000+ feet of Yosemite Falls.

4,000+ feet of Yosemite Falls.

The hour drive toward Glacier Point meanders through thick forest as it ascends 3,500 feet from Wawona. It was under 50 degrees and the whole place smelled like a Christmas tree lot. I stopped for a short stroll to a meadow where I hoped to see more wildlife. I watched trout (?) swimming in the stream for a while before heading to a five-mile loop hike that passed scenic overlooks Taft Point and Sentinel Dome.

Ignite Phoenix presenter Indiia Wilmott said, “I hate the phrase ‘Words can’t describe.’ Of course they can. They’re words. That’s what they do.” So, I’ll avoid hyperbole and accept that words can indeed describe Yosemite. However, I will not accept that words can do it justice.

After two miles at 7,500 feet, I was a tad short of breath. When I made the final ascent at Taft Point, the rest of my breath was literally taken away. I shed multiple tears and cracked a wide smile as I stared across the valley floor 3,500 feet below me to Yosemite Falls.

I’d never seen anything like it. Not even close. The water doesn’t cascade. It free falls 1,400 feet. It doesn’t form a smooth ribbon. It’s blown, spread, and turned into mist by the wind before collecting in a basin.

Half Dome from Glacier Point.

Half Dome from Glacier Point.

I was mesmerized. Imagine my surprise when a few hundred yards later, I discovered that I only saw the upper falls. Beneath the basin, the water falls further – 2,425 feet in total – before collecting and cutting through the valley floor below.

I spent the rest of the day similarly amazed by the setting. From Sentinel Dome and Glacier Point, I saw the back half of the valley. More waterfalls. More granite formations. Snow-capped mountains.

Day Two

The next morning, I packed up my tent, honey badgered another cup of coffee, and embarked on the hour drive to my new campground in Yosemite Valley.

Just before I entered, I was offered a brief glimpse of the valley and then shoved into a mile-long tunnel. When I emerged above ground again, I was treated to an unreal view – and a sudden turn into Valley View overlook.

The valley opened before me. A light mist shrouded the valley floor, adding a surreal quality to the scene. On each flank, granite cliffs El Capitan and Sentinel Rock protected the entrance like the Argonath river statues in Lord of the Rings. Bridalveil Fall dove 620 feet to the floor. Half Dome peaked out from behind the guardians. In the distance, the snow-capped peaks of the high sierra were partially covered in clouds.

The entrance to Yosemite Valley.

The entrance to Yosemite Valley.

As I parked, I instinctively looked away. Why? I have no idea. It was incredible. I shed another tear or two. John Muir said, “It is by far the grandest of all the special temples of nature I was ever permitted to enter.” I won’t argue his point.

I determined that my next stop would be the reservation office, where my stay was surprisingly extended for a fifth night. A Friday, no less.

With three guaranteed nights on the valley floor, I suddenly had all the time I could possibly need. That’s when time stopped. There were no more points of interest to get to. There were no more sights to see. The play-by-play blended together into an infinite series of tress and trails and rivers and mountains.

The Meander had finally begun.

Comments

  1. Mark Attico says:

    Matt – glad to hear the trip is going so well and you’re getting so much out of it.

  2. jamie v says:

    This is beautiful. Words may never do these spectacular natural wonders justice, but the emotion you describe feeling in these settings is phenomenal. That is what I love about nature.

    • Matt Meanders says:

      Thank you for such a classy, well-written comment. Makes me happy to know you enjoy The Blog.

  3. The meander started when you stopped.

  4. It’s a magical place, even when it’s crowded. Enjoy.

  5. I’m SO glad you went to Taft Point and not just Glacier Point! I had the same reaction at Taft; I was the only one there leaning over that tiny rusted railing , amazed by the scene below. Shed a tear myself, man 🙂

    • Matt Meanders says:

      Hi Wayne! Thanks for stopping by. Do we know each other from the Twitterz? I don’t recognize your avatar, but I’m happy to connect with fellow nature-lovers.

  6. Al Dawson says:

    Matt,
    You do capture the very soul and heart of Yosemite in your words and emotions. Well said!

  7. Excellent, what a weblog it is! This blog provides helpful information to us, keep
    it up.

Speak Your Mind

*