Friday, April 5, 2019


Visiting America’s BEST idea

Only the calendar suggested that spring had come to Yosemite. Winter was not quite finished. Vigorous intermittent cloud bursts were rolling through, shrouding the panorama across from our Yosemite West rental creating a cat-and-mouse display of tumbling cataracts on the canyon wall opposite.  The term shower curtain suddenly had a new meaning.        

Descending some 2800 feet to the valley floor, the waterfalls run gloriously full.  El Cap stands like a granite gate keeper, only one with its head in the clouds. 

Mirror Lake, a two-mile walk from parking, both mirrors and mutes Half Dome.

I find myself thinking of Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir and their embrace of the subtle beauties of a magnificent place during inclement weather.  The softness under foot.  The aroma of dampened pine and fir.  The symphony of falling water.  

The near perfect blackness of a cloud-blanketed night.  Annoyances to the contemporary traveler were simply elements of an environmental tapestry these early twentieth century futurists felt worth preserving.

The following dawn: Overnight, spring had bullied that late-winter storm over the Sierra and out across Nevada.  

The air is crisp, the mountains and domes glazed in fresh snow and the forest floor washed clean.
A hooded Junco pecks at the duff until a Stellars Jay swoops in to claim some sort of grub.  The crok-crok of a distant Raven breaks the silence while a Cooper’s Hawk turns cartwheels on the sub-floor of heaven.

Our road to the valley floor (California’s State Route 41) is a patchwork of lush forest and year upon year of burn scar. Fire fighting in the wilderness of the national park, unlike that of the national forests, is a practice of letting nature take its course.  As we pass from one fire zone to another, we can see the succession of life: sprouting grasses, and brave fledgling sprigs of scrub, oak and pine.  It is the rebirth of the forest as God probably intended and as John Muir probably concurred.

Gazing up from Yosemite Valley, Bridal Veil, Yosemite and so many other many nameless cascades leap over cliffs, their falls looking like silver ribbons on a package that, when opened two or three weeks from now, would yield the priceless gift of a wildflower burst in the valley floor. 

At the foot of one tumbling rill, mist dampens my cap and clothes and offers the mid-day sun a palate with which rainbows are painted against a deep azure canvas.

The day would be spent chasing those rainbows and vistas, peering up at the cliffs and down through the crystalline waters of the Merced.

To Muir’s pleasure – or perhaps his chagrin – the paths are now paved and choked, in places, with visitors.  

Visitors from around the world whose voices and dialects provide another tapestry for me to consider: a reminder that our National Parks, starting with Yosemite, may well represent America’s best idea.


More photos

Muir’s musing.

Morning view from Hwy 41’s Tunnel View.

Unnamed and temporary.

Valley floor awaits spring.

Tenaya Creek crossing.

David Brower’s admonition.

Winter returns.

Our trip to Yosemite was awe-inspiring and too brief.  But evident, after a rather rugged winter and visits to both Yosemite and the Carrizo Plain, is that our National Park system is woefully underfunded.  Signage is down.  Roads and pathways deteriorating.  Meadow restoration, in some places, on hold.  Clean-up after neglectful visits has gone from daunting to undoable.

In a nation that can afford massive budgetary increases to an unaudited military and huge tax decreases to the uber-wealthiest among us, support for our National Parks must not be an afterthought.  These palaces of history, science and beauty must not become available only to the well-to-do. 

Somewhere in our nation is a young John Muir.  He (or she) - no matter the socio-economic caste - must not be denied the opportunity to experience and be inspired as Muir was.  Our parks must be affordable and available to all or they can no longer be referred to as "America's best idea."

© 2019 
Church of the Open Road Press

1 comment:

  1. I think John Muir would probably be crying to see the condition of our State Parks under the current administration. If only some of that military budget could be re-allocated to protect our natural beauty and wonders. Sigh.

    A beautiful trip report.