I’ve been going to Yosemite National Park my whole life. Its massive granite formations, such as El Capitan, can be found in central California. My parents first brought me to Upper Pines campground when I was a mere 4-weeks old. They were married in the chapel there, even. So, it only made sense that when my firstborn, Harrison, came into the world, I would bring him camping in Yosemite at 4-weeks old too. It’s been a family tradition for generations. My grandparents, when my parents were young, could go to Yosemite whenever they pleased. No reservations needed. I’m sure I’m not the only one that wishes it were still the same as it was in recent history.
Today, the park is largely treated like Disneyland. Visitors frequently climb over barriers constructed to protect them and swim in watering holes over popular waterfalls, such as Vernal and Nevada falls. They tend to find out that, in reality, nature is much stronger than their thoughts of invincibility of self, carrying them down the falls with the water. People often get too close to wildlife as well, acting as if the deer before them is an animatronic from a new Bambi Disney ride. They then find themselves on the other end of some sharp antlers.
There’s a reason, however, that people come to Yosemite and it’s for a very similar reason as it is for the popular amusement park. It’s magical. Whether you come in Spring, Summer, Fall or Winter, it will always take your breath away. There’s nothing like waking up in the valley to an 8,844 foot Half Dome towering above you when you start making your morning coffee.
The Most Magical Place on Earth
Yosemite’s magic isn’t only found in the naturalistic beauty of the park, it’s also found in the community and structure put in place by the National Park system. You’ll meet some of the happiest and most genuine staff. For a lot of them, it’s really an honor and a joy to be serving under the iconic names of The Ahwahnee, Degnan’s Deli, Yosemite Village, and Curry Village. These names and places bring back warm memories for me, personally. From the simplistic small backcountry feel of the campgrounds and Curry Village, to the grandeur of The Ahwahnee (The best lodging out of all the hotels). The National Park system has been able to create a place diverse enough to accommodate a multitude of people at their own comfort level, while keeping the park as natural as possible.
It’s also very well structured. With 12+ miles of paved bike paths, it allows visitors to travel all over the valley floor by bike or on foot. The free shuttle system, which travels to all the popular valley destinations, is one of the best of any National Park I’ve been to. With the addition of the tours, you can see all the park’s popular tourist hot spots in a single weekend, without waiting in lines. Maybe you’d like to take a float down the Merced river or go ice skating in the winter. Or maybe hike North America’s largest waterfall, Yosemite Falls – which towers 2,425 feet above the valley floor. Perhaps, you’d simply rather watch the wildlife graze in the meadows. Mountain climbing your thing? I believe there’s a few rocks for that. Whatever your body allows you to do, you’re sure to find something you can enjoy in Yosemite.
An Artist’s Canvas
Yosemite also offers artists amazing opportunities all times of the year, often with dynamic weather. From the dogwood blooms of spring to the desolate snow-covered valley in the winter, there is always a gorgeous canvas with which to start. With 25+ waterfalls, 400+ species of vertebrates, and 120+ hiking trails with over 1,000 sq. miles of exploration. You combine that with 20 mountains over 10,000 ft., and 2,000+ lakes (most at the base of granite peaks) and there are endless amounts of opportunities for great art. It’s hard to create bad art when your subject is Yosemite, even if it’s high noon. Where else can you find such a compressed set of gorgeous locations for your artistry?
It’s insane to think that some 5 million people visit Yosemite National Park every year. I always encounter amazing staff, well-maintained trails and natural habitats, and very few people when hiking the backcountry. Somehow, the park has always been preserved, even with that amount of people visiting it every year. It makes me thankful that the National Parks were established so long ago to preserve these great lands for generations to come.