Yosemite Valley is a lush garden space of meadows, woods and the Merced River flowing between high, massive granite cliffs like Cathedral Rocks, El Capitan and Half Dome.
Tunnel View parking lot is one of the most popular photography spots for views of Yosemite Valley.
Turkey vulture welcomed me to Yosemite Valley after hours in the high Sierra of Tioga Road where I was watched over by Raven, my guide animal for Utah and Death Valley. Seriously, ravens were the dominant wildlife feature in all the National Parks I visited. Turkey vultures are the birds I encounter commonly when hiking the Monterey County coastline of Big Sur.
Turkey vulture appeared as I first saw Yosemite Valley from Big Oak Flat Road while driving west through Yosemite National Park on Highway 120 from Tioga Pass, the highest trans-Sierra road at 9,945 feet.
Three main features of Yosemite Valley are seen in the Tunnel View photo with El Capitan, Bridalveil Fall and Half Dome.
Southwest face of El Capitan.
El Capitan is a vertical granite rock face rising 3,000 feet from the Yosemite Valley floor. El Cap is one of the great rock climbing venues of the world. There is the southwest face and southeast face with different climbing routes.
Bridalveil Fall plunges 617 feet to join the Merced River in Yosemite Valley.
Half Dome at 8,840 feet has a vertical granite rock face that rises 4,737 feet above the Yosemite Valley floor. The Native American Ahwahneechee name for Half Dome is Tis-sa-ack. This is another favored climbing location.
Bridalveil Fall is an easy walk of a couple hundred yards from the parking lot. The mist from Bridalveil Fall keeps the area quite wet at the base.
Tourists at base of Bridalveil Fall are usually sprayed with mist which is comforting on warm days and chilling on cool days. Yosemite Valley was about 70 F degrees on Friday, May 17, 2013. The mist was refreshing.
Cathedral Rocks are the large rocks seen on the south side of Yosemite Valley between Bridalveil Fall and Half Dome.
Yosemite Falls at 2,245 feet is the 20th highest measured waterfall in the world. Yosemite Falls actually has three sections with the upper falls plunging 1,430 feet. The Middle Cascades are a series of five plunges for a drop of 675 feet. Lower Falls is a 328 feet drop with a popular viewing location near Yosemite Lodge.
Upper Falls of Yosemite Falls being dispersed by wind.
I talked with a 20-something physically fit woman riding a bike through the valley. She said hiking the 3.5 mile trail to the Upper Falls is one of her great experiences in Yosemite. The combined plunges of Yosemite Falls makes this waterfall number 20 on the top 20 highest waterfalls in the world.
Yosemite Falls seen from the Valley floor meadow.
Completing the circle
Pulling myself away from the beauty of Yosemite Valley was a delayed reaction. Monterey was still a 200-mile, four hour drive to endure to reach the end of my 3,500 mile, 12-day road trip from Monterey to Colorado Springs for the Boarding Area conference (BAcon) and back again with stops in seven National Parks along the journey.
When the mountains call I must go to them.
But I always find my way back to the sea.
My view of the Santa Cruz Mountains looking north from my street in Monterey.
This desert journey through California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Colorado took me to the mountains and deserts, then home to the sea of central coastal California once again.