Discovering Yosemite off the trail | High Sierra Topix  

Discovering Yosemite off the trail

Grab your bear can or camp chair, kick your feet up and chew the fat about anything Sierra Nevada related that doesn't quite fit in any of the other forums. Within reason, (and the HST rules and guidelines) this is also an anything goes forum. Tell stories, discuss wilderness issues, music, or whatever else the High Sierra stirs up in your mind.
User avatar

Discovering Yosemite off the trail

Postby ERIC » Fri Apr 11, 2008 3:16 pm

Discovering Yosemite off the trail

By John Bogert
Article Launched: 04/03/2008 10:17:55 PM PDT

Don't ask me why I thought that Yosemite was directly east of Davis. But if you did ask I'd have to explain that I rarely look at maps and, despite having gotten horribly lost in many lands, I still just assume that I will somehow find what I'm looking for.

Plus this time I had the help of a brand-new college-graduate daughter, an otherwise intelligent young woman who is even more direction-clueless than I am and even less likely to consult a road map.

Not that she'd own something as mundane as a map and not that she'd be able to find it in the tangle of garments and bookage that defines her living spaces.

I even heard the echo of childhood when I asked her over the phone how far the national park was from her apartment near the UC Davis campus.

"Oh, not far," she replied, sounding exactly as she did when she was a kid and a question about the location of a friend's house would yield distance descriptions like "in a nearby village."

But somehow I figured that a year of navigating Europe alone and all those good grades (coupled with graduating a financially merciful quarter early) might deliver me someone who knew "not far" from "fairly far."

Face it, we're a poor genetic combination. Which is to say that "not far" was fine with me. So knowing little about Yosemite aside from the Ansel Adams photographs, I called the park's booking service and stumbled into a reservation at the Tenaya Lodge. One second the reservation taker in Fresno was telling me no way and the next she was saying, "Wait, a cancellation!"

So I didn't actually look at a map until my son and I reached Davis in our rented Pontiac GTO which, by the way, should be renamed the Reason to Buy a Foreign Car. I could go on about this. But an America that fails this badly at building wasteful muscle cars is surely an America in decline.

But seriously, what can be better than a dad and two of his three offspring heading toward Yosemite, which lies considerably south and east of Davis and is nearly impossible to miss because it is 1,169 miles square.

Like most things begging for comparison, Yosemite is the size of Rhode Island, only much nicer. Which is why 4 million of us drive into the park each year and pay a $20 entry fee set in the mid-1990s. This was a $15 increase and it caused an immediate 20-second decline in park attendance.

I know that this is all about accessibility to everyone. But 30 minutes into the park I began to think that the fee should be $100. Seriously, $20? Two people can't see a Harry Potter movie for that. But isn't this so like us? We'll spend $100 in gas getting there and a small fortune on food, lodging, L.L. Bean camp wear and a rack to carry the 11 bikes your kids need to turn the roads around the Ahwahnee Hotel into an extension of suburban hell, but raise admission fees to keep a park viable and we complain.

And this is a park with 196 miles of paved roads, a park averaging 130 DUI arrests and 500 accidents per year. In short, it's the city come to the wilderness and bringing along its smog, waste and weird city peculiarities.

According to the National Park Service, nearly 90 percent of those 4 million visitors confine themselves to the 30 miles of road bisecting the famous Yosemite Valley. Really confining. In fact, nobody walks anywhere. At the famous Bridalveil Falls, people gaze upward like they are watching a waterfall movie. Only they do their gawping through windows and sunroofs.

Parked in front of us was a black limo with a uniformed limo driver carrying a family dressed for hiking. Only they weren't hiking. They were gazing. Luckily, most of this goes on at the marked and crowded scenic overlooks. It's a lot like Disneyland in that respect, only the picture-taking involves much better camera equipment.

Seriously, we need to get over this Ansel Adams thing, with people standing four feet from their parked SUVs and shoulder to shoulder with 50 other people, with everyone going for a shot that will look like all the other shots taken of this breathtaking place since it opened in 1890.

I have a rule about nature. I never photograph it. That way, I won't embarrass myself. I have another rule formed some years ago in Yellowstone. If you want to enjoy a national park, get out of your car!

The fact of the matter is, there are two parks in Yosemite, the one where people fight for parking spaces and the one that exists 10 feet down any trail. Even easy trails like the paved 0.4-mile path from the road to the famous falls.

It was deserted except for Japanese tourists and the kind of big-butt families that always seem to be climbing over the do-not-climb signs. But at least they are walking, God bless them.

Still, away from the majestic visions are the far more subtle ones. The three of us took several four- and five-hour hikes along snowy trails, which was fun in the warm spring air.

There's an awful lot of alone still left in Yosemite and it's right where it was when the great ice sheets receded and the Indians arrived, right where it was in the time of John Muir.

Acorn woodpeckers, mule deer (the ones that don't get flayed by cars), Pacific dogwoods, giant sequoias, black swifts, peregrine falcons, marmots, alpine columbine are all there just down the many paths.

But there's more to it than that. Out in all that quiet green we had time to explore this current version of ourselves. After all, I suddenly have a second college-educated daughter and a son growing by the minute. And they, for better and worse, have me at this time of life in the snow with the noise of our voices echoing through the temple.

I want to hear your comments. Connect with me at or send a letter to Daily Breeze/John Bogert, 5215 Torrance Blvd., Torrance, CA 90504-4077.
New members, please consider giving us an intro!
Follow us on Twitter @HighSierraTopix. Use hashtags #SIERRAPHILE #GotSierra? #GotMountains?
Follow us on Facebook:

User avatar
Your Humble Host & Forums Administrator
Your Humble Host & Forums Administrator
Posts: 2899
Joined: Fri Oct 28, 2005 9:13 am
Location: between the 916 and 661
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

Return to The Campfire

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests