I've grown up seeing pictures of Yosemite Valley, but had never managed to visit in person. Today, after a long drive from Sacramento--including a helping of not seeing the turnoff Google Maps suggested and ending up taking an unscheduled side trip through Sonora, and a ridiculously wiggly road hanging on the edge of plunging hillsides devoid of foliage that might stop the car if you went off the road that turned Tom's hair a little bit whiter--we arrived in the valley of Ansel Adams fame.
El Capitan greeted us on the way in, sheer granite face gleaming in the early November sunshine. Half Dome stands at the foot of the valley, catching the setting sun in shades of gold, atop its slate gray base untouched by the light. The valley itself is not especially long, at least in the kind of terms I think of for national parks, and a small percentage of Yosemite National Park itself, but the concentrated spectacle on show here is boggling.
I am writing tonight in the Awhanee Lodge beside a dying fire in a hearth that is taller than I am. The lodge is historic and grand, with roofs standing two stories high in the the lobby-level salons. Earlier I stepped out into the cold to look at the stars. I've never seen so many. The view is narrow, given the location deep in the valley, but so deep! The stripe of the Milky Way so clear I understand better how it was given its name. Bright stars fading into dimmer, smaller, and more distant. It made me feel a bit like I could fall off the world and into the sky, and keep on falling forever.
I'm looking forward to spending more time in the out-of-doors tomorrow. We've seen six deer and a number of bird species which were new to me, and I wonder if we'll meet any other kinds of animals. I could pass on the bears, mountain lions, and rattlesnakes, but outside of those, I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
Tomorrow is another long drive, to San Francisco this time, and we'll be taking the road that follows the riverbed out of the park. Tom might not survive another trip along CA-120.