Nov 10, 2014

U.S Chronicles - The Splendor that is Yosemite !

And today we go back to my travelogues on the United States to talk about a place that is very very close to my nature loving heart.

Ever since I planned my U.S trip I knew I wanted to go to Yosemite National Park. I had read a lot about it, heard a lot about it and right from its bear infested wilderness and imposing rocks, to its grassy meadows I wanted to see it all! 

But things were not going as I wanted. I couldn’t get reservations, I couldn’t figure out transportation and since the park is huge I was not sure which area I should see in the limited time I had. Just as I was at my wits end, I happened to mention all this to Shachi Thakkar, a very dear friend and fellow travel enthusiast. And like a genie she stepped in, soothed my stressed nerves, took things in her own hands and offered to take me to Yosemite. 

Before we started out from her home in Folsom she asked me if I would prefer to take the freeway or the slightly longer but more scenic rural roads. Naturally I chose the scenic route and what a fantastic drive it turned out to be. Endless stretches of land with long stalks of grass baked brown in the sun, massive farm buildings scattered here and there, horses grazing placidly in pastures. It somehow gave me a feeling of endless space. Even the smallish towns we passed on our way seemed remote and the houses placed really far apart.

We could sense the fall in temperature as we neared Yosemite.Yosemite is known for its wide diversity in vegetation and I could clearly see the change in vegetation every few miles. We were driving through alpine country now and the horizon was dotted with asymmetrical, jagged cliffs.

The biggest advantage of going with a person who not only loves Yosemite but knows it like her own backyard is that you end up getting a local’s perspective of it rather than a tourist’s. Shachi showed me a side of Yosemite that I would have never got to see otherwise. 

 We entered the park from the lesser used Tioga pass and our first stop was Olmstead point. We decided to step off the road and do our own bit of hiking. The trees thinned out after a while till all we could see was granite rocks and cliffs. 
As compared to the more placid and green Yosemite Valley that we would see later, this was hard, unyielding rock. It was all brute strength. It was here that I had my first look of the famed Half Dome. Even from the distance it looked mighty and imposing and very powerful. Like some age old chieftain watching over the park.

The Half Dome as seen from Olmsted Point

 Our next stop was lake Tenaya. Tenaya was totally different from the sheer brutality of the cliffs we had just seen. Ringed by a pine forest, Lake Tenaya was so beautiful, so pristine, so serene that all I wanted to do was sit there and gaze at the splendor around me. The water was crystal clear and a rich dark blue, as if it had pulled in even the blue of the sky reflected in it. 

In a span of few hours I had seen sheer granite cliffs. Walked over hard unyielding ground where not even the sturdiest of trees could take root and followed it up with Lake Tenaya, that was a peaceful sanctuary of crystal clear water and alpine trees and greenery. 

But nothing had prepared me for Tuolumne meadows.

The picturesque Tuolumne meadows is surrounded by a lush pine forest and the ever present cliffs guard it like sentinels. Brownish- green grass, knee high at places waved gently in the wind with a river of crystal clear water meandering through it all. Trees grew here and there, as if to break the monotony of the meadow and I could glimpse the early wildflowers peeping through the grass. We were a month or so early for the wildflowers but I could imagine how utterly beautiful the meadows would be with the wildflowers in bloom.

We drove on. The drive through Yosemite that day was one of the most mesmerizing I have ever taken because never in one place I had seen such diversity of nature. From roaring waterfalls to pristine lakes to scenic meadows and gigantic granite cliffs, Yosemite has it all.

The mighty Bulk of El Capitan looms over us. 

We ended our day with a spectacular sunset over the Half Dome.

I was delighted to see our campsite. According to me this was exactly how a camp should be. Tents, bonfires and even communal baths. What I found a total childish delight in was that we also had to put all our food, trash and even toiletries in ‘Bear Lockers'. These were huge lockers made of metal and this was to prevent the bears from breaking into the tents or vandalizing the cars if they smell food.

This really got my hopes up. I was sure there would be bears roaming about at night and was very hopeful about spotting a few. Exhausted,we fell into our sleeping bags and feel asleep instantly. In my half dream state I thought I did hear fire crackers being fired to scare away the bears to my disappointment none came near our tent.

We did a bit of hiking the next day. Actually ‘bit of hiking’ was how Shachi the super fit adventure enthusiast had put it. But honestly it had me huffing and puffing up an arduous uphill stretch, while Shachi strolled through the same stretchas if it was a plain road !

But the view from the top of the trail was so worth it.

The trip to Yosemite was long yearned for.The two meager days that I spent therer were totally insufficient to take in its grandeur and have just left me thirsting to come back again and again for more.

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