A long drive over a hot plain led to the winding steep road by the River Merced to El Portal - the gate to Yosemite valley. Following the racing rivers path we come to a bridge and a decision: to the Ahwanhee Hotel or the Glacier Point Road? We go towards Glacier Point. It is heavily wooded but the light filters beautifully through the trees.
Suddenly the valley opens up flat, then sheer white cliffs in front and all around us. The first view of El Capitan and Cathedral Rocks is stunning. We carry on up out of the valley stopping to look back in wonder before the tunnel on the Wawona road. The sun is starting to set and we can see Half Dome tinged with pinks and purples in the distance. We will later see the same view as a scene of drama when helicopters fight a potential forest fire.
The road winds and we take our junction to Yosemite West; past a snow plough giving an indication of the winter scene. We twist and turn down to our accommodation at Top of the Pines. This is dream-like - the deck faces the sunset as the birds, blue jays and hummingbirds, come to feed. Later the whir of the hummingbird wings is replaced by the cacophony of cicadas and the clatter of a flying squirrel after nuts. Not quiet, but we are close to the natural world - no bears though!
In the following days we explore and experience the sun filled valley, its rivers, bridges, reflections and cliffs. We climb to the tops of the white granite cliffs, by car and on foot.
Mirror lake has no reflections now but fascinated squirrels.
Glacier Point shows the scale of the area and the might of water in the falls. The drop to the floor of the valley is awesome - I could not have danced on that rock.
Vernal Falls well rewards the steep climb; it is well named by one of the first discovery party, the verdant greenery reflected in the rainbows at the fall.
Under Half Dome it is shady and oak glades give an autumnal feel.
We follow some deer near Sentinel Dome and sit a while to contemplate the splendour of the view.
Yosemite is visited by millions of people, yet there is an atmosphere of peace and even of isolation.
I envy the Ahwanhee Indians their life here.
Jane Grenfell 2000
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