What more could so fulfill the human spirit than the sound of waterfalls gushing, wind dancing through the tops of the tall conifers, birdsong echoing, the scent of pine bark and incense cedars, crystalline air and high granite walls artfully sculpted into graceful formations that soar above you and embrace you in their splendor? It is as if a grand master laid it all out before you and with loving kindness said, “Here. This is for you.”
There are no words to describe Yosemite Valley. It exists to inspire awe in nature’s grandeur, to give inner peace and regeneration. I experience this place as heaven on earth. John Muir called it Nature’s Grand Cathedral, and so it feels. So, please hover your mouse over these images to identify them.
Intoxicated by the mystique of its scent, I stood beside an incense cedar and took this next picture:
They rode horseback into the great Central Valley of Alta California and the Sierra Nevada foothills. Lieutenant Gabriel Moraga and his expedition sought suitable sites for Spanish missions. Hot, dry and dusty, they had traveled long without water. Mercifully, on September 29, 1806, the thirsty men and their horses came upon the banks of the river. Gratefully relieved, they named the river El Rio de Nuestra Señora de la Merced, The River of Our Lady of Mercy.
John Muir called the Sierra Nevada Mountains “The Range of Light.” He called Yosemite Valley “The sanctum sanctorum of the Sierra.” Glaciers sculpted and polished the granite rock and then retreated 15,000 years ago leaving this pristine valley and its near twin in Yosemite, Hetch Hetchy Valley, 20 miles to the northwest, the Tuolumne Yosemite, as John Muir called it.
So, tell me again … why did you dam the Tuolomne and fill Hetch Hetchy with water…?
“These temple-destroyers, devotees of ravaging commercialism, seem to have a perfect contempt for Nature, and instead of lifting their eyes to the God of the mountains, lift them to the Almighty Dollar. Dam Hetch Hetchy! As well dam for water-tanks the people’s cathedrals and churches, for no holier temple has ever been consecrated by the heart of man.” –John Muir, from The Yosemite (1912), Chapter 15.
First chief of the United States Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot said of damming the Hetch Hetchy, “It is for the good of humanity. The greatest benefit to the greatest number of people.”
Enraptured, I stood in the spray of Bridalveil Fall for a long time and watched it dance on the wind. Bridalveil Fall never runs dry in the summer like the other falls, because it is fed by a living glacier.
“I wonder if leaves feel lonely when they see their neighbors falling,” John Muir wrote to his daughter.
This day, after I took the above photo looking down into Yosemite Valley with Half Dome in the distance, barely visible just under the clouds, in the right center of the picture, my companions and I got into our car and left the valley. We drove the Tioga Road, high over the Tioga Pass at almost 10,000 feet. It was the month of May. On our way along the road snowflakes began to fall.