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Yosemite National Park | Death Valley National Park | Sequoia National Park | Kings Canyon National Park
Mono Lake, CA | Bodie, CA | Nevada Deserts | California | San Francisco
Yosemite National Park is often called America's Treasure. Its no wonder why millions of people from all around the world make it a point to visit this special place each year. The shear size and strength of the huge granite cliffs surrounding Yosemite Valley makes you feel miniscule and the enormous beauty around the whole park makes its hard for someone not to feel connected to the Creator.
I had the wonderful privilege to stay in Yosemite Valley for three nights during our Western Road Trip, giving us much time to explore during the days. After driving in through the high parts of Yosemite via Tioga Pass the day before, we spent the entire day Tuesday exploring everything we could in the Valley. While we were still amazed at everything we saw for the first time, we were a little disappointed the iconic Yosemite Falls and Bridalveil Falls were not active during our stay since they flow mainly through snow melt. That just means that I'm going to have to plan another trip back, which I very well intend to do!
As you know from my last blog post, we slept in little white tents/cabins in Yosemite Valley - which was called Camp Curry Village. Here's the view from our camp first thing in the morning when I woke up, with the forest and granite cliffs towering over us.
Gates of the Valley
One of the iconic Ansel Adams views of Yosemite is often missed. On the one way road that loops through the Valley, the last pull off stop before you exit the valley is worth the stop! Named "Gates of the Valley", this valley view has El Capitan (the world's largest granite monolith) and Bridalveil Falls (this waterfall wasn't flowing while we were there) towering over the Merced River.
I wanted to make sure I saw all of the iconic views that I could, so this was the first on my list for our day in the Valley. Robbie and I drove out to this location right before the sun came up. Check out some of the amazing views along the river at Gates of the Valley.
Below: Robbie took this picture of me with his phone as I was photographing Gates of the Valley!
After Gates of the Valley, we drove around the Valley loop and stopped by the Yosemite Chapel. This was another location I was looking forward to photographing during my visit to Yosemite. It was a perfect time too because the crowds weren't up yet since it was right after sunrise.
This was a very peaceful scene with the beautiful small chapel nestled beside the meadow and below the towering granite cliffs. No one was around so it was a nice morning to soak in the seen and really have some quite alone time with God as I took pictures of the gorgeous chapel. As I was taking pictures of the chapel, I walked further out into the meadow to get a good shot. The pictures of the pond reflections is the scene directly behind me as I was taking pictures of the chapel. Just goes to show that you're constantly surrounded by beauty in Yosemite Valley!
Below: Morning pictures from El Capitan Bridge
Hiking to Mirror Lake (or no lake)
After a good morning of checking out these beautiful locations for sunrise, we had a good breakfast in one of the cafeterias in Curry Village before we hit the trail. When we were planning our trip, we pretty much knew we wouldn't see Yosemite Falls or Bridalveil Falls since everything is dried up this time of year. However, I was still hoping we would be able to see Mirror Lake in Yosemite Valley.
So we set off on our 2 mile round trip hike outside of our Curry Village campground to hike to Mirror Lake. Mirror Lake sits right below the famous Half Dome and is named for its awesome reflections the water makes of the granite cliffs surrounding it. But, we soon found out that Mirror Lake too was...all dried up. There was still a small creek and some water left that I used to get some decent reflections. All in all, with or without the water, these places are still gorgeous and amazing to see in person!
More Scenes Along the Valley Floor
We spent most of the day exploring everything we could in Yosemite Valley. We even visited Ansel Adams' Gallery and the Yosemite National Park Visitor Center in the valley. Inside the Visitor Center we watched an inspiring video called "The Spirit of the Valley" which told of Yosemite's history. I could easily go back to Yosemite just to learn more about all of its history, stories and spend time in the stores. But since we had only little amount of time with so much to do, we made sure we packed as much sightseeing in as we could!
Our itinerary for our full day in Yosemite Valley ended with us driving up to Glacier Point (which is an overlook point more than 3,000 feet above our campsite). Glacier Point is one of the most famous views in Yosemite National Park, which overlooks the valley, as you see all of the major granite mountains such as Half Dome and El Capitan. Its from this location you can really tell how a glacier once carved out the valley a long, long time ago!
We had one stop/hike to do first, before we made our way up to Glacier Point - one of the most scariest drop off/overlooks I have ever seen! Taft Point is definitely not for those who are afraid of heights. The hike to Taft Point was a 2 mile round trip which takes you to the very edge of the granite cliff that overlooks the valley. You'll have to check out the coyote we saw while driving up to the trail head and also the warning signs posted for Mountain Lions on the trail! After seeing the coyote and this sign, we were on HIGH alert...not to mention we were hiking to a point that has a 3,000 foot shear drop off.
There is one part of Taft Point that has a guard rail that most people only walk to. But along the whole side of the cliff are vertical gashes and drop offs in the rock called fissure. Check out two of my pictures of the "fissures" with the rocks wedged between the rock cliffs. Keep in mind, these are HUGE drop offs and HUGE rock formations in the fissures. Its one of those things you have to see in person to really believe!
Below: The Fissures - huge vertical gashes in the rock cliff:
Below: Check out the rocks wedged between this fissure. To give you perspective of how BIG this gash is, you can see Robbie on the rock to the left...but check out Chris in the distance to the left of the tree!
WARNING: Taft Point - not for the squeamish of heights!
Below: This next one is a picture of me! No worries, notice I'm beside the guard railing.
To finish out our awesome day exploring Yosemite Valley, we spent the rest of the evening on top of Glacier Point watching the sunset and star gazing at night! As I mentioned earlier, Yosemite has the great power to make you feel so small compared to the enormous mountains and trees surrounding you. But this Tuesday night was definitely an experience I'll always remember as I stood on top of Glacier Point with about 6 or 7 other photographers as we photographed a sunset in one of the most amazing locations of Yosemite. There had to be at least 50 people behind me on the main observation area of the overlook, but only the real photographers with tripods (or who looked like they knew what they were doing) were down on the rock cliffs trying to capture the moment. I had some really great conversations with the photographers I was surrounded by. It really was as if all of us, including the people behind us, were watching God's show and we were there to photograph it.
The sunlight gradually lifted from the valley making shadows along the granite cliffs. Then Half Dome was as if it was being filled with red paint as the sunlight lifted up on the huge rock face. Once Half Dome was in the shadows, most of the observers left...but only a few stayed behind to really watch the show begin! Some wonderful low evening light was making the features in the valley pop while the purple sky above just added to the touch. THEN the stars came out, the main attraction. I did my best to capture the amazing view of the Milky Way with Yosemite Valley beneath, but it was just one of those things you had to be there to see for yourself to really capture the grandeur. We stayed on top of Glacier Point until about 10 PM. It was hard to leave that amazing moment.
I want to leave you with a popular song that I'm sure you might have heard many of times before. But it truly sums up how indescribable and awesome God is. Enjoy this song as you view the last pictures from our second day in Yosemite.
Thanks for reading Day 4 of my Western Road Trip adventure. Check out the first days of my trip if you haven't already. Stay tuned for my next blog post as I take you on our amazing 9 mile hike from Glacier Point all the way down to the valley!