October 10, 2009
We arrived at the gates of Yosemite via Hiway 120, quite early in the day. Even so, there was a line waiting to get in. This is considered the Manteca entrance, and it happens to be the entrance that takes you through the recent August fire of over 2,000 acres. Our local paper had plenty of criticism about a controlled burn at the height of the fire season. Pretty ugly and very damaging. In some areas stately old trees that didn’t burn outright are badly damaged and will most likely die. Once past the burn, the views just keep smacking you in the face. Every turn brings about a new rock face. If only pictures could do them justice. We opted for the Yosemite Valley knowing it would be the most crowded area of the park over the weekend. We stopped at practically every picture lookout and for me, the park has changed much since my last visit. Two lane, one way roads in and out. Parking areas with shuttle service to various areas. Guided tours if you want them. The changes are helpful and more sensitive to the ecosystems in the park. The changes were well done and positive in my opinion. The beauty is unchanged, of course. After many years absence it’s like seeing it for the first time and falling in love all over again. We climbed tumbled, car sized boulders to get closer to Bridal Veil Falls. Even though its late in the season, it still has water. Bridal Veil had no water on Jim’s last visit in August of 2001. The Visitors Center film shows the falls gushing powerfully in winter. Yosemite in winter is probably a sight I’ll never see, nor the signature views at sunrise and sunset. I appreciated the film very much. We hiked from the parking lot to the various sights then shuttled to Ahwahnee Hotel. It knocks your socks off to stand in front of the hotel with glorious views of climbers above you on the granite face. We had lunch at the hotel and took pictures of the massive fireplaces, stained glass windows in Indian motiffs, the mural room, furniture, candle holders, an eighteen foot table, a dining room that seats 491 people. Mind boggling for its time, 1927. I asked the maitre d’ how much it would cost to build the hotel in today’s dollars? He said the original building cost 1.2 million, way over estimates. He told me an architect figured the cost of the dining room alone, in today’s dollars, would run 6 million. What a treasure. No wonder its a national monument. We hiked back to the parking lot and reluctantly said good bye for the day. We’ll return on Sunday for a day trip of the high country. I’ve included a picasa web album of my pictures at this address: http://picasaweb.google.com/1579penn/Yosemite# The signal here is weak and my pictures, some from the car, are unedited. The morning was hazy and needed some subdued light and added contrast. No captions. Most people know half dome, El Capitan, Cathedral Rock,big meadow and other signature points. The fire, by the way, burned right up to Big Meadow.