Yosemite National Park
The drive to Yosemite National Park is on an unassuming single lane highway that curves along the Sierra Nevada foothills. It’s an understated introduction to the region, meandering along river valleys and climbing up pine-covered hillsides. Traveling there is beautiful in its own right but it pales in comparison to the destination. Ten minutes after passing through the entrance gate the road curves around the last bend, the tree line fades back, the valley walls open up and you find yourself in one of the most spectacular valleys nature has created.
Once the old stomping ground of glaciers, the main valley of Yosemite National Park (map) was created when climate change forced the glaciers to recede. Unlike a v-shaped valley carved out by river flow, like the Grand Canyon, the Yosemite valley is flat due to its glacial past. Souring up from this valley floor are sheer rock walls, like the famous sites of El Capitan and the often photographed Half Dome.
The park was a favorite of the photographer Ansel Adams, who produced stunning photographs of the region. They’re brilliant, yes, but they don’t come close to the first time you see that valley in person. To say that it blew me away would be putting it mildly. Standing in that valley made me long to be a world-class photographer so I could capture the park’s grandeur, or an artist, so I could depict the way the sunlight shines off the massive granite walls.
Artistic inspirations aside, it’s also a place that makes you want to jump out of your car and enjoy the landscape. Everywhere you look people are being active. Hiking trails crisscross the valley. Bicycle teams fly along the valley road, passing the gawking, camera-happy visitors. Nature enthusiasts are walking in groups, eager to find the next botanical gem. This is nature at its finest: a magical combination of awe-inspiring views and thrilling appeal for the adventurer in all of us.
About this week’s guest writer
Jaime Engstrom is currently on a 18 month career break with her husband, Martin. Once an accountant and travel dreamer, she’s now fulfilling her travel dreams and busy plotting how to begin the next trip.
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