West Coast (Part 3): Yosemite et al.


After we left Crater Lake our next photo destination was the Mecca of all National Parks, Yosemite. Our road trip took us down the coast of Oregon, into California, through Redwood National Forest and into San Francisco before we turned our sights on Yosemite. This was our true destination and the whole reason we were out west. Chad had never been to Yosemite and it was finally time for him to make the pilgrimage to the place immortalized by John Muir. Along the way I learned that I am really bad at shooting giant trees and that beer tastes good.

Now is when we get to the free lesson part of the post. When you determine to travel somewhere, do a little research about that place before you pick the time to go. For us the timing was somewhat predetermined but never-the-less if either Chad or I had done some research we probably would NOT have chosen the first week in August to visit Yosemite. For one, the crowds are insane. When you read John Muir's descriptions of the valley and the natural cathedral that he came to love and revere you feel a certain way. When you arrive there in the middle of summer and see it filled to the brim with tourists in their cars, rarely venturing more that a quarter of a mile from a paved path, you have a different sort of reaction. This is the modern story of the National Parks though and I think John would be happy to know that Americans use them and revere them in their own way. Another reason not to visit in August is that one of the most iconic sights in the park, Yosemite Falls, isn't flowing. If we had read anything at all we probably would have known that. We would have also been a lot less surprised when we grabbed our cameras and tripods and hit the trail the night we got there, just to wind up at the base of the non-existent falls. Whoops!

Fortunately for us there are a few other undeniably iconic features of Yosemite. After getting skunked at Yosemite Falls we decided to head to a place where we would be able to take in a number of those features all at once. Tunnel View. From here you can see El Capitan, Bridal Veil Falls (when it is light out and there is water), the Three Brothers and off in the distance, Half Dome. We arrived at night with the stars shining and the moon about to set so we set up our tripods and got to work

Tunnel View, Yosemite National Park

Tunnel View, Yosemite National Park

Tunnel View, Yosemite National Park

That night we found a place to park the car and catch a few hours of sleep before waking up and taking in a closer look at El Capitan for sunrise.

El Capitan and the Merced River, Yosemite

El Capitan and the Merced River, Yosemite

El Capitan and the Merced River, Yosemite

For the rest of that day we did some exploring of the park trying to find some corner that wasn't filled to capacity with people. We drove up out of the valley to the Tuolumne Meadows area which is a bit less traveled and from there we took a hike to Cathedral Lakes. This was a nice, albeit semi-strenuous way to see a part of the park that most people don't even consider.

Lower Cathedral Lake, Yosemite