There is nowhere on earth like Yosemite National Park. Yet, the last few years I have assiduously avoided this paradise in granite. I've grown weary of National Park crowds and craziness (see my commentary on Zion). I go to nature to reduce my anxiety and sadness not to increase it.
A couple of years ago we stayed in Wawona in July and visiting Glacier Point felt a lot more like Disneyland than the wilderness. The only reason we went was that I wanted to be sure my daughter experienced it before she ran off to college. I really didn't know when I'd be back but, it is, after all, one of the most stunningly beautiful places in the world. In the valley, looking up at the granite monoliths, one becomes overwhelmed by the staggering size and sublime scenery. It literally brings tears to the eyes. It's just that spectacular.
Last year I wrote a blog post about my favorite National parks and started to think about going camping again in Yosemite perhaps during the off season or my favorite mountain month- September. I knew that getting camping spots was problematic and I would have to plan on reserving online at 7:00 AM five months before I wanted to go. The Yosemite website suggests making sure that your clock is set correctly when attempting to book a site. Yeah. It's that intense.
So...I lucked out and got a spot in Upper Pines campground for a week following Labor Day. The campgrounds were full but the Park was, relatively, quiet compared to the June, July and August just as I'd hoped. Unfortunately there were two large wildfires burning nearby which obscured many views and limited my photography. Still it was magnificent Yosemite. Here are some black and white images I made on the trip.
The first few days I walked around the valley and drove up to the Tuolumne Grove, got to know my neighboring campers, hiked a bit, and kicked back while trying to find sun for my solar panels. On Saturday my dear bay area family; Kara, Steve and Jack arrived. We walked up to Happy Isles and had a marvelous dinner. The next day we spent in the Valley and sunned in one of Kara's favorite childhood spots along the Merced River. That following day Kara and Steve hiked up Yosemite Falls while the old guys, Jack and Jeff, drove over the Tioga Pass and had lunch in Lee Vining. Here are some more images of the trip. The first image was taken the night I arrived - a cloudy and smoky sunset.
If you look closely at the next photo you'll see Kara about to take a dip in the Merced River. The weather was perfect and warm that day but that night we were treated to a rocking and rolling thunderstorm.
Yosemite alone? Remarkable. Yosemite with people you love? Even better.
Since the Park was so smoky I think it merits a quick return trip, don't you? May sounds like a delightful month before it gets too crowded and while the water is running high. I better go back. In the meantime I'll leave you with a panorama of a soggy mountain meadow along the Tioga Pass in John Muir's "Range of Light".
Last year I had a marvelous visit on my own for the "super bloom" in Death Valley. I decided last Fall that I wanted to go out there a little earlier this year since I'd read that December and January were the least crowded of the year (can you imagine going in, say, August? Who are those people?). I asked two of my dearest friends to come with me. I've known Steve and Marty for nearly 40 years.
I arrived on Monday, at overdeveloped and busy Furnace Creek, and had two days to myself before the lads joined me a few days later. I made a few photos near Zabriskie Point on Tuesday morning.
This night photo is from my campsite. That is the Furnace Creek Inn in the distance.
I spent the next day, in shorts with weather in the sunny mid 70's, hanging out in Furnace Creek. I went to the old Borax Museum and the Harmony Borax site as well as driving the short road through Mustard Canyon. I was also visited by my favorite bird, "El Correcaminos".
On Wednesday I got on the road and listened to the Liverpool match on radio while waiting for Marty. The weather began to change and while the forecast was for rain I figured, "Hey, it's Death Valley. How much could it rain? How cold could it get?" This seemed especially true as I drove through a dust storm in the warm Mojave sun.
Marty finally arrived a few hours late but explained that the drive was so beautiful he had to stop and take photos along the way. Made sense to me.
We got up early and drove out to my favorite Death Valley campground - the much more primitive and isolated Mesquite Springs. Mesquite sits at 1800 feet in elevation. We should probably have stayed in Furnace Creek or gone to Stovepipe Wells which are much lower and warmer but, to me, Mesquite is more scenic. It rained all day (as had been forecast). Steve arrived that day after a long drive from the Bay Area. The three amigos were together and ready for some Death Valley fun because tomorrow had to be warmer, right?
Since it was Steve's first visit I decided to do the "tourist tour" which included Badwater and the Devil's Golf Course.
To my surprise, it stayed cold and it stayed wet. After many years of tent and cowboy camping we felt fortunate to have my little trailer to stay warm. We spent time inside watching a few movies on my iPad and singing folk songs to the accompaniment of Steve's guitar and Marty's harmonica.
We spent much of the next day at the Ubehebe Crater. That's Marty on the far left of the panorama running to take his next photo or perhaps trying to stay warm. Since the weather was so nasty it did preclude us from some off road travel but we're saving it up for next year.
I also made a few black and white photos on the trip as well.
We all went our separate ways at the end of the week but have decided to make this an annual trip. The planning has already begun...Death Valley holds a lifetime worth of fascinations. I will get to see Steve and Marty at the big shindig in Lassen this summer but I'll miss them until then.
Next I'll be heading to the Sonoran desert in Southern Arizona. My hunch? It will be warmer and stunning but, without my amigos, not quite as much fun.
This will mostly be a journal of my travels. I may include other items that interest me. Feel free to join in.
All content (C) Jeff Hubbard. No re-use without express written permission