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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Yosemite!


I was twenty-one when I first entered Yosemite Valley, one of several co-eds, out to hike over the Spring break. We were young, fit and ready to hike up the steep Vernal and Nevada Falls trail into the back country where I saw my first black bears and if I recall correctly, I pretty much pissed meself when I saw one of the great bruins eating out of some unfortunate backpacker’s campfire stove. I was so scared I ran away backwards because it would have taken too much time to turn around and then run. I’m not kidding, I ran away backwards; nearly slammed myself silly into a Ponderosa Pine. Each day we hiked I felt stronger and stronger. By the end of the trips I was always feeling more fit than when we arrived. Oy - are those days over!
This week I am back in Yosemite with my childhood buddies Joann and Gene; eschewing the Vasque hiking boots for Berkenstocks and Nikes. We spent the day viewing the great Yosemite Valley via the valley’s touring bus system. My so-called hikes did not take me more than 500 feet from the comfort of my Honda. Yeah, my high country trekking days are just a fleeting memory.
Happily, Yosemite is accommodating to old farts as well as young ones. I am happy to proclaim the Valley remains a land of perfection and beauty of the ‘point your camera and you get a frame-able Kodak moment shot, Yosemite is the place. Honestly – you can’t take bad pictures there. I sincerely believe anyone can be anywhere in Yosemite, turn, point their camera at an upward angle and get what I think would do for a National Geographic Cover Shot. See? Just look up and there's a shot.
Day one we started our tour with Mariposa Grove. We played the soundtrack of the PBS special on the Civil War and shortly afterwards found out it was Abraham Lincoln who put aside the Mariposa Grove and the Yosemite Valley lands for California to protect – long before California was even a state. Later it was John Muir & Teddy Roosevelt that took the lands back and made Yosemite a National Park so we can still admire the beauty of the place. Here are Joann and Gene posing with an eensie, weensie - as Sequoias go - tree.

We drove through the granite tunnels (with Jo happily honking the horn) and took in views of El Capitan from above, and then from below on the Yosemite Valley floor. We watched the late summer waters cascading, wind blown down Bridal Veil Falls. Gene recalled when he was a kid seeing the burning logs tossed off the falls after sundown to thrill the spectators below. That must have been awesome.


We parked and took the Yosemite tour bus for a little trek that took us to the Awanee Hotel and the main visitor’s center where we toured a Miwok Village.




Outside the Visitor Center (see it at the base of the mountain in the picture above?) first a mule deer buck, and then a doe and her spotted fawn wandered so close I had to back up to get a photograph of the fawn.


I’ll be the first to tell you the animals at Yosemite, are not as diverse in species as those at Yellowstone - which I admit, still owns my heart – but the Yosemite critters seem to just romp out of the forest at every turn to pose for my camera.


Late in the day as we headed back to where we were staying at the Apple Creek Inn at Fish Camp, we passed a golf course near the grand old Wawona Hotel. There we spotted a mule deer buck. I barked out instructions for Joann to stay in the car, least the buck run off. Seconds later I was leaning over a wooden fence taking picture after picture of the buck who showed no shyness what-so-ever. I sheepishly told Joann she could ignore my instructions and get out the car. That buck posed like a pro and we spotted a second buck nearby, one with his impressive antlers still in velvet. This photo, astoundingly enough, was taken with my 55mm lens.
The bucks were so bold and so unafraid of people; the only photo hazard was avoiding photographing the golfers in the background. This buck's impressive antlers are still in velvet.

It was a lovely day in Yosemite. Not hot, not cold, just right. How could I have stayed away from Yosemite for so long?