When I visited it in the summer of 1964, I thought Yosemite National Park was the most beautiful place in America. As we wound our way up the valley of the Merced River to the park, I wondered if that memory, like the memory of the family milkshake, got richer and better every year that passed.
It’s not a milkshake. Yosemite is certainly the most beautiful park I have seen and perhaps the most beautiful place I have ever been. It is especially so early in the spring when the rivers are full, the waterfalls are beautiful, and the crowds are lighter.
However, on even these first few days of May, we were unable to book two nights in one of the park’s lodges. Later in the month and through June, every night was already booked. We are told that in summer there are long lines of tourist busses coming from San Francisco. If you visit, come early. If you want to stay in the park, make your reservations early.
Mother Nature, the sculptor, continues to carve down the mountains. A massive landslide closed highway 140 and forced the highway department to construct two temporary bridges across the river and a one-way detour. Fortunately, we did not have a long wait.
There are three entrances to the park: 120 across the mountains was still closed but also comes from the northwest; 140 along the Merced comes from the west and 41 from the south. All meet near the entrance to the valley with the famous shear rock face of El Capitan and Bridalveil Fall nearby.
Snows melting high in the Sierras create many waterfalls along the valley. Some are high and thin, some are short and massive, and some seem relatively thin only because they are so high or far away.
We walked back to Bridalveil Fall. No one told us to take a raincoat and hat. That morning in the breeze, it could have been called Bridal Shower Fall. We did get wet, but soon dried in the cool dry air of the park. The next day, we visited again when the wind blowing the water was not quite as strong.
There are wonderful campgrounds that we might have used in previous years and many trails into the backcountry. We did walk all of the “easy” trails to Bridalveil, Yosemite Fall, Mirror Lake and in the Mariposa Grove.
The Mariposa Grove was part of our second day’s adventures coming in on 41 from the South. This grove of old Sequoia trees was the first protected area in the country and just the beginning of the effort to protect Yosemite; it was created by President Lincoln in 1864.
Further along 41, one can take the drive to Washburn Point and Glacier Point high above the valley. For those of us who can’t
hike the back trails, it gives a wonderful view of the Yosemite Valley, Half Dome from the side, and the valley, streams and falls above Bridalveil including Nevada Fall and Vernal Fall. As we drove the road, deer checked out our car, but a blasé coyote just ignored us.