Pilgrimage

While certainly there must have been some disparity between the theology of John Muir and my own, I assume we would have agreed that the Yosemite region is one of God’s great works in geologic creativity and natural splendor. Superlatives leave much to be desired when applied to the waterfalls and granite monoliths of Muir’s “incomparable Yosemite Valley”. The park’s forests boast groves of stately oaks, cedars, and even sequoias all salted with beautiful dogwood blossoms.

At nine o’clock on Sunday night, the Sundevils wrapped up their regional tournament by dominating a weary Arkansas team, and I left the game heading west on I-10. By five thirty the next morning, I took the hint from eyelids that seemed on the verge of closing while I drove and pulled safely into a rest stop for a two hour nap. After 700 miles of driving and one more stop for breakfast at the Wawona Hotel, I finally arrived in the valley proper under cloudy skies that had recently dampened the ground.

"Glacier Point View" - clouds played an integral role in making this view one of the most dramatic of my two days in the park

I spent the next two days overwhelmed by a park of not particularly great size, but Yosemite lives up to all its hype and leaves a photographer reeling to make the best of each moment’s opportunity. Once a campsite was secured, I hit the trail heading for Vernal and Nevada Falls. I took the long way up, which turned out to be beneficial since I discovered on the way down that the Mist Trail totally lives up to its billing this time of year. Being dryer during the bulk of my photography allowed me to work some compositions that required stitching multiple frames in order to encompass the vistas that were not only wide, but also very tall.

My photography is far more often described as contemplative or calm than dramatic. Still, it was the drama of Yosemite that drew me back to the park roughly nine years after my first visit. I had a particularly strong desire to see the valley’s waterfalls near their peak, and the plunging torrents did not disappoint. Water seemed to be hurtling over cliffs at nearly every turn, and the forests had a spring-like liveliness even a few weeks before the summer solstice. The falls promise to continue their performance through the early summer since there was a considerable amount of fresh snow falling in the park during my visit.

"Clearing Skies Above Nevada Falls" - after entering the park at the end of a gloomy morning, I hiked to Nevada Falls and then down past Vernal Falls on the Mist Trail

It’s one thing to travel all through the night to reach a destination of dream inspiring grandeur, but it’s another thing entirely to drive home. For that reason, I left the valley early in the day and made my way back toward the south entrance to the park. With each mile up the road, I grew increasingly less likely to expend the necessary hours to return even as far as “tunnel view”, and in the end, I chose the Mariposa Grove as the finale for my brief visit. As God had allowed the most cooperative weather during the entirety of my trip, I could practically have been expecting that the trail to the upper grove would soon be engulfed in fog, multiplying the mysterious quality of this land of giants. Had it not been for a perilously low battery in my camera, I would have lost myself in creative response to the sublime surroundings.

In the end, the return trip to Phoenix seemed almost of no consequence due to the wondrous experience in Yosemite. I long now, not only for the return to that special place, but for the next opportunity to live in any of God’s wilderness; the chance to take my daughter into a landscape that will take her breath away or tickle her spirit with its wildlife; or the glimpse of the glorious with in my own backyard. I’m ready.

"Gentle Giants" - the sequoias of Mariposa Grove provided a worthy finale before my exit from the park

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.” – John Muir, The Yosemite

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