Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Yosemite - My impressions

If I were to rate a place that I visited during my short stay in the West Coast US then Yosemite would be second on my list, after Death Valley. The sheer diversity of the landscape is so enriching that I bet even the most conservative photographer would come back with a high number of excellent images.

Yosemite was the next one in our plan, after Death Valley, during our stay in Sunnyvale. Having been driven to Death Valley and having been spoiled by the tremendous photo opportunity that Death Valley presented, the expectation from Yosemite was no less. Apart from its grand vistas and beautiful waterfalls it had another unique attraction to us - the Giant Sequoia, largest tree specie on earth. Since Sahana and me are big time tree lovers, seeing this huge mammoth was high on our wish-list. Areas around Mariposa Grove inside the Yosemite National Park have many of these giant trees.

The time that we planned to visit Yosemite was in the third weekend of December 2014. By that time it has already snowed in some parts of the region. The route to Glacier Point, one of the most famous and iconic spots in the Park, was closed. Same was the case with Mariposa Grove. At least that's what their website was telling the previous day of our visit. This made our hopes of seeing Giant Sequoia bleak and needless to say that we were little disappointed.

Our plan was to reach Yosemite Valley by noon and spending some time in the valley and exploring the photographic opportunity at various points. The next day morning was planned at Tunnel View, another famous spot, and then based on the previous day's experience deciding what to do next.

As per the plan we reached Yosemite Valley by noon. We filled petrol (Gas, as it is called in US) to our vehicle in the last point at El Portal, before entering the National Park. The drive along the Merced River was pleasant and enjoyable. As we entered Yosemite Valley we were stunned by the sheer beauty of the place. One side you have huge mammoth-like mountain - El Capitan, and the other side you have series of rocky peaks and to add to the whole view you have huge water falls on either side of the valley. The beauty and the joy was much more than what we had expected!

After spending some time in the first meadow in the valley we went straight to Visitor Center. Visitor Centers are the best places to get accurate information in all the US National Parks. The staff there are normally very well informed and they help you to make your experience better and pleasant. The staff at the Visitor Center told us that due to no snowfall in past few days Mariposa Grove was opened for visitors on the very same day morning. That was a welcome surprise for us and we decided to head straight to Mariposa Grove and then coming back to Tunnel View by sunset.

Mariposa Grove didn't disappoint us at all. We both were bowled over by the sheer size of the Giant Sequoia trees. We walked along one of the smaller trails to see the largest Giant Sequoia in Yosemite - Giant Grizzly! We also saw various other types of pines like Sugar Pine, which has the longest cones of any coniferous trees. The information boards all across the pathways are excellent sources of information about the tree and the region.

Satisfied with the experience of seeing the largest tree specie on earth, we head back to Tunnel View. By the time we reached Tunnel View the sun had already set. We were not disappointed as we planned for visiting the same place again the next day morning. Hence we headed straight to the place where we had booked our stay - Curry Village. It is an excellent place if you are looking for a budget accommodation, where you are given a nice tent with an optional heater facility. Completely tired by the activities during the day we just wanted to rest our heads against the pillow. The next day morning was waiting.

Tunnel View is another iconic point in Yosemite National Park. That is a point where every tourist has a photograph and almost the same photograph :) ! That morning was no less beautiful. The cloud was still hovering in the valley beneath and the distant sky was turning light pink. After some time, the high clouds spoiled the morning glow but the clouds in the valley were still providing plenty of opportunities for every photographer to explore possibilities. We spent about two hours by enjoying image making process and soaking in the atmosphere of the place.

The rest of the day was spent in exploring various other spots and some trails in the Park. The prominent one which we enjoyed was our visit to Mirror Lake. The name was accurate and meaningful to the place. The lake indeed was a mirror, reflecting the high glaciers and the peaks in its water. The ripples were not often and hence the beauty of looking at the neat reflection was a sheer joy for quite some time. We enjoyed making some images at that place.

Post lunch we headed to few other spots to view Yosemite Falls from bottom and stopped at few places to make some images enroute. Our plan was to witness another sunset before we start heading back to Sunnyvale, which was about four hours of drive from the Park. We decided on a place that is beside a river from where you have a clear view of the El Capitan on one side and the other peaks on the opposite side. The river in the foreground was adding nicely to the whole scene. Our decision of spending another sunset paid off as the sky was turing very vibrant. The red glow of setting sun was falling directly on the imposing structure of El Capitan and its vertical side was reflecting the radiant glow. A set of small cloud was giving a nice scale to the whole scene.

After making few images at the spot we suddenly decided to go to Tunnel View once again before the twilight fades away. By the time we started to head towards Tunnel View, which was about 3 - 4kms from the place where we were shooting, the glow was quite at its peak. But we knew that the scene would be much more appealing from the place where we were going now and we were not disappointed! When we reached the place the sky was having post sunset glow and the whole valley in front and the sky above were bathed in pink afterglow of sunset. That light was there for few minutes before it started to fade away by giving place to the evening blues!

By the time we started back from Yosemite it was about 5:30PM and it was already dark! But what we had witnessed that evening was something truly special.

The majestic El-Capitan, beautiful Yosemite Falls, serene Yosemite Valley and those HUGE Giant Sequoias have etched memories of Yosemite experience forever in our lives.

Asking me if I want to go there again?
- Why not? :)