I am standing on Glacier Point on top of an abyss that stretches out before me like the opened mouth of the universe itself.
The distances to and between Half Dome, El Capitan, and Yosemite and Nevada Falls are staggering, yet they are all visible from my perch here at 7200 feet. The tableau I am witnessing is a scene of enormous creative destruction on a scale and scope that man can only dream of. Huge 13,000 foot mountains were folded, heated, and uplifted through the very crust of the earth, then scooped and carved like massive slabs of ice cream by glaciers nearly a mile thick before rivers found their way through cracks in the living granite to form waterfalls of epic proportions. Trees the size of heavy-lift rockets were born 500 years before Christ to make a home for the black bears, wolverines, and elk that roam the three quarters of a million acres in the park. The numbers are staggering, but the scenery is breathtaking, especially from here, which must be God’s throne, because when you can see it all spread out before you on a clear and sunny day under a blue sky full of cumulus clouds, you think you’ve seen heaven on earth.
And the drive up the mountain to get here was a real joy as well, providing lots of twisties and a steep gradient to boot, and you can attack them with gleeful abandon, because they aren’t patrolled and there isn’t much traffic. If you are in Yosemite and you miss this drive and vista, you didn’t see the park.
We arose this morning after a sleep in our cabin/tent, which is basically a campaign tent on a wood platform, and it is quite a comfortable way to enjoy nature, especially this time of the year when the weather is so pleasant. The beds are supplied with fresh linens and you are also provided with towels to take to the (communal) clean shower and restroom facilities. There is a chair, some shelves, and even a safe! Highly recommended, $88.
After our drive up to Glacier Point, we head for Mariposa Grove on the southwest side of the property. The parking lot is full so we must head for an overflow lot and take the shuttle in, losing about 40 minutes round trip in the process. We take the short hike to see some of these giants, the largest trees in the world. We aren’t disappointed. First a few stats: Sequoias are as old as 3500 years, grow to over 300 feet tall, and are up to 100 feet in diameter. But up close, they are majestic wonders, the silent sentinels of the forest, and they are indeed huge and impressive. As you walk among them, the ground is soft from a 2000 year-old carpet of needles, and you feel like you’re in Nature’s Cathedral, because the dense branches twenty stories over your head are like flying buttresses, and the sun peeking through the thick canopy of branches is like stained glass.
My favorite tree is the Giant Grizzly. Its trunk is bare for about 100 feet, then huge bulging limbs like the biceps of a bodybuilder branch out from its thick base, and you soon lose sight of the top limbs, though when you step back a little it looks like its been topped, maybe by high winds, I don’t know. It’s the prizefighter of the trees, grizzled and old, but not bent by age, and still as strong as iron.
I hate to say it, but I like the California tree as well, even though they cut a hole in it. That’s right, the National Pinhead Service went through a period when they thought the best way to promote eco-tourism was to damage the environment, and what better way to do that than to take a chainsaw to the trunk of an ancient tree? They even made a hole so big in one tree, now (of course) dead, big enough to drive a car through, and I think we did that with my Dad back in 1968. So Jonathan and I pose in the hole that was made, and I can’t help but think that this is some kind of generational rite of passage, but maybe that’s really what this whole vacation is about after all.
We leave the Park around one and head southwest toward Ventura, passing over the Diablo range on the way. We check into the Rex Motel, a 50’s era down and outer with a nice Indian proprietor, and the room is comfortably shabby, but definitely not chic, but its clean and the price is right at $65. My only complaint is the door lock is sticky, but you literally have your own parallel parking space right at your room, so its easy to load and unload. Jonathan’s initial excitement at the flat screen TV is muted when he realizes that the brand logo, which looks like Sony from a distance, is actually Coby, and it works only when it wants to. Oh, well. $65. Still a deal.
Tomorrow we head on a cruise to the Channel Islands off the coast of Santa Barbara. Hope you join us!