Even though I grew up in California, I never truly appreciated how close I lived to one of the greatest national parks in the world.
Yosemite was a short 2 hour drive from where I grew up, but I recall only going three times before I graduated high school. Since then, I’ve probably more than doubled my visits, even after moving further (to Davis: 3 hour drive) and further away (to Santa Barbara: 6 hour drive).
Kierstin and I started dating the summer before I transferred from Modesto Junior College to University of California, Davis. We took our first trip to Yosemite together just before I started school. We drove the tortuous route up highway 120 and enjoyed a picnic lunch near the verdant meadows outside Yosemite Village. Then, we hiked up to Vernal Falls, an easy jaunt uphill ending at Emerald Pool overlooking the falls. It was a mid-September weekday so the falls were not cascading incredibly, but there were relatively few other visitors so we relaxed by Emerald Pool and searched for granite formations that looked like faces before hiking back down and heading home. Yosemite has undoubtedly inspired great literary minds who still failed to capture its astonishing beauty, so I’ll avoid excessive wordiness and allow a few pictures to sum up our first adventure there.
We have taken a few more trips to Yosemite since then – with her family, with my family, with friends. We trekked Vernal Falls again, climbed North Dome, and ice-skated in Curry Village. On one trip, we took my cousin, Kristen, who was visiting from South Carolina. She had only been to Yosemite once when she was much younger and didn’t really remember it. We hiked the same trail up Vernal Falls, which hopefully allowed her to get a glimpse of our appreciation for the national park.
On another trip, it seemed as if Kierstin’s entire family had joined us –cousins, aunts, and uncles and even some of their friends formed our large group that set out to hike North Dome. Some struggled along the winding trail, even going so far as to exhaustedly renounce any future visits to Yosemite and all outdoor activities, but we were rewarded by a spectacular view of Half Dome, Clouds Rest, and all of Yosemite Valley. On the way back, a few of us detoured at Indian Rock. It’s another half mile uphill just after climbing a steep granite face, but I revel in novel opportunities such as this. You never know if you might get another chance or not. Indian Rock is Yosemite’s only natural arch and forms 15 feet above the rocks that support it. It’s probably only 6 feet wide and 2 feet thick at the center. You stand nervously in the middle, peer over the edge, and wonder if it will crumble under your feet.
We took my nephew, Ethan, on our most recent trip – just a couple weeks ago. It was Ethan’s first trip to Yosemite (and Simba’s too!). I have never been to Yosemite in the winter and, even though snow this year has been scant, pristine white powder lined the edges of nearly-frozen creeks and created an incredible winter landscape. In Curry Village, Ethan went ice-skating for the first time, barely staying on his feet to complete one leisurely lap around the rink while grasping tightly to the wall, Kierstin, or me. You can see Half Dome in all its majesty from the ice rink in Curry Village, and it was a memorable experience. Here are some more assorted pictures from my most recent trips to Yosemite.
Of course, the zenith of Yosemite and the pinnacle achievement for any Yosemite aficionado is to scale the astounding precipice that is Half Dome. I have yet to realize this feat (Kierstin did it once, but she’ll have to do it again with me) but vow to do so and look forward to attempting it someday. There are endless possibilities for future experiences in Yosemite, such as multiple-day backpacking trips to sites only accessible by such journeys, camping in Yosemite Valley (I did this in middle school with a friend and his family, and it’s one of my most cherished childhood memories), and scale every possible major peak. Comment below on your favorite Yosemite experience or must-see views in Yosemite.