Monday, June 6, 2016


Standing in this spot, I’m realizing had I’d been here 15 years ago I’d be dead…swept away to a watery doom. Yet, today, it’s dry with brown, dormant grass and a placid, harmless looking river gurgling through the meadow.
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Could there really have been that much water here, turning this great valley into a giant fishbowl?  Apparently so, according to the sign with a simple horizontal line several feet above my head.  This line marks the peak of the floodwaters back in 1997 that filled the floor of Yosemite Valley that very, very wet year.
Apart from pondering my imminent doom, we start off on the trail that winds along the bottom of the valley, here and there wandering over to the Merced River. It’s a smooth trail, either paved or built as a boardwalk, suitable for wheelchairs, bikes, and strollers.

From our parking spot at the chapel, we’re treated to expansive views of the tallest waterfall in North America.

Yosemite falls travels almost half a mile straight down to the valley floor before winding up in the Merced River.

The stark granite cliffs that let the falls plunge are perhaps the park’s most famous feature. They surround you here…envelop you…and overwhelm you, especially if it’s your first time here.

Carved by frozen glaciers a million years ago, the U-shaped valley is one of the world’s iconic sites. The shear faces not only inspire vertigo but serve as sudden drop-offs for upper level creeks and streams. Yosemite valley is home to at least 8 major waterfalls. The already mentioned Yosemite Falls and Bridalveil Falls the easiest for a casual visitor to see.

We’re here on a mild winter day which means the meadows are a dormant brown while the 60 degree, sunny weather has us wearing short sleeves. Since it’s winter, the high country road up to Glacier Point is off-limits to us being closed for the season at Badger Pass ski area. The slopes at Badger Pass are also closed this winter day for lack of coverage.
After winter, a drive up to the point is a must where you can not only get some of the best views of the park but you can walk right up to a several thousand foot precipice and gaze straight down to the valley below. Not to worry, there’s a sturdy stone fence to keep you up on top…for the more adventurous, a nearby hike to Taft Point can give you those same views without anything in your way. Truly an adventure for the brave.

Continuing on we get to Swinging Bridge, which no longer swings, and offers a wheelchair friendly route across the river to the other side of the valley. The middle of the bridge affords more spectacular views of the giant falls.

The clear pools of the Merced under the bridge offer a spot to view the large, wild trout in the water below.
After our hike along the valley floor, along the river, and through the forests, we decide to take a break from the park and head outside to a spot our innkeepers told us about.

Just off of highway 140, on Triangle Road towards Mariposa, we find Butterfly Creek Winery down a steep, one lane road. With the winery in a barn and the barrel house nearby, we find the owner and a couple of workers relaxing after a hard day of pruning…along with about a half-dozen dogs wandering around.

The pups are friendly and one dachshund named Jake immediately jumps in our car when we open the door.
“That’s Jake, he thinks anytime a car door opens it’s his cue to go for a ride,” winemaker Bob Gerken tells us. Jake’s a cute and friendly guy and he accompanies us into the tasting room.

Bob enthusiastically pours us a tasting tour of the winery and I buy a case of his best.  It’s a friendly, laid-back, and unpretentious winery…my favorite kind.

Back in Yosemite, we head to the village to take in a drink at The Ahwahnee, one of the classic National Park lodges of America. The interior is vast and brooding once you get off of the small entrance lobby. You can see why Stanley Kubrick used the interiors as inspiration when he filmed “The Shining.”

Out back, the lawn melts into the park while kids splash…even on this winter day…in the outdoor pool.  5,000 tons of granite were used in the construction of this building. It was made to last.
We have one more stop to make on this day to the park.
Just beyond Bridalveil Falls is a tunnel that marks the transition from the valley to the high country. We pull into the parking lot for the famous Tunnel View. It’s here that we finally get above the trees and take in a view of the entire valley.

It is awe-inspiring and breathtaking…even if everybody in the park had the same idea at the same time.

Copyright 2012 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved.


  1. This has made me realize I need to spend more time in Yosemite! It is truly beautiful. I think Yellowstone is my favorite National Park though.

  2. Love the photos of Yosemite. Shamefully, I've yet to visit even after all these years in California. One of the most beautiful places we have here and as a lover of the outdoors, I can't wait to go!

  3. Jeremy, only an hour east of Merced and 5 hours from L.A. Everything in the report is easily done in a day. There's a whole lot more if you can spend a couple of days.

  4. Debbie, Yellowstone would be my second favorite because everything is so spread apart. I love it there but it takes a lot of driving to see. Yosemite's biggest sites are all in the same, compact area making it easier to visit. Both are equally beautiful.

  5. I love Yosemite! If there was only one place I could spend the rest of my life, it'd be here! Can't wait to be back!

  6. Breathtaking pictures! There something special about being up in the mountains that removes any stress and makes you feel great. I just want to live there everytime I visit.

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