Yosemite: A place of matchless beauty

Camille Bounds

It is recorded in the great book that God made the world in six days. What wasn’t recorded was that during one of those days, God might have wondered where he was going to spend his R and R on the seventh day. It was then that he must have decided to create Yosemite.
Surrounded by inspirational beauty
Inspirational beauty surrounds the visitor with giant trees, spectacular waterfalls, wildflowers and lofty precipices with names that ring throughout the world beckoning rock and mountain climbers with the greatest of challenges. El Captain, Half Dome, Royal Arches, Cathedral Rock, Clouds Rest and Three Brothers draw climbers to test their expertise and nerve.
More than 30 waterfalls, each with a personality of its own, cascade over sheer cliffs creating a changing masterpiece of power and unmatched beauty.
Upper Yosemite Falls – at 1,430 feet high – was compared by John Muir (author and preservationist) to a throng of comets. (Consider that Niagara Falls is only 164 feet high.) Ribbon Falls is 1,612 feet high and Bridalveil Falls drops 620 feet into an alcove from a hanging valley. The wind often blows the tumbling water into a flimsy mist that gives it the appearance of its name.

A man of vision
One of the first recorded travel agents was a man named James Mason Hutchings. His claim to fame about 1885, was to organize the first tourist group to see the wonderful sights of Yosemite  (the Indian name for grizzly bear). More than 4 million people a year visit this amazingly glorious place of nature.
Spectacular Views
Yosemite covers 1,200 acres with 360 miles of primary roads and 750 miles of trails. Its landscape ranges from 2,000 feet to more than 13,000 feet above sea level and features alpine wilderness, groves of giant sequoias and Yosemite Valley.
Yosemite Valley – which accounts for only seven of the parks 1,189 square miles – is the world’s best known glacier-carved canyon, and is known for its thundering waterfalls, towering cliffs, rounded domes and massive monoliths, rising to heights of 3,500 feet. Its most spectacular attraction is Yosemite Falls, which has a total drop of 2,325 feet.
For an overall view of the High Sierra, Glacier Point is your best bet. It can be reached by a paved road that leaves Highway 44 at Chinqapin, passing through a pine and fir forest.
To view some of the most rugged and glorious scenery in the Sierra, take the Tioga Pass Road, Highway 120, which crosses Tuolumne Meadows at 8,600 feet, the largest pine meadow in the Sierra. Tioga Pass crosses the Sierra crest at 9,945 feet, making it the highest automobile pass in California. Here, two contrasting vistas can be seen: to the west are peaks and meadows; to the east, high desert.
The oldest of all sequoias
Thirty miles south of Yosemite, in the southern end of the park, is the largest of three sequoia preserves. Called the Mariposa Grove, visitors can ride through the forest in trams or use the trails for hiking. The groves most famous resident is 2,700-year-old Grizzly Giant, thought to be the oldest of all the sequoias. It stands 210 feet tall, with a base diameter of 30.7 feet and a girth of 96.5 feet. This magnificent wonder is in the company of other giant sequoias that make the area a unique part of this planet.
Where to stay
Yosemite Valley
• The historic Anwahnee Hotel offers luxury, elegance and comfort with rooms done with an Indian motif.
• Yosemite Lodge, near the base of Yosemite Falls, offers 226 deluxe and 19 standard rooms. The lodge is within walking distance to Yosemite Falls.
• Curry Village has cabins with or without baths. There are also canvas tent cabins available, which are as close to camping as you can get without lugging your own sleeping bag and tent.
• Housekeeping Camp is located along the Merced River. The units sleep six and are equipped with outdoor pit grills for cooking.
Southern Yosemite
• Wawona Hotel is one of California’s oldest mountain resort hotels. It offers European-styled rooms with and without private bath.
High Country
• White Wolf Lodge and the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge are only available in summer with canvas tent cabins and central dining areas. Sensational scenery is the draw here. Early advance reservations are absolutely necessary. They are made through the Yosemite Park Concession Services at 1-888-802-3648.
When to go
June, July, August and September are the most crowded months especially in the valley area. If you can go off peak (before Memorial Day and after the first of October), you may find it cooler and the rates a little lower. All the grandeur is still there without the crowds.
An easier way to get around
Recently, the Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System (YARTS) began running regional transit buses. Through this service, YARTS offers a choice to those traveling in the region who would rather ride a bus from outlying communities into Yosemite Valley and Park. Call YARTS at 1-877-989-2787 for information.

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