In recognition of Air Quality Awareness Week in 2017, I have put together this series of clean-air adventures. I wanted to bring attention to places I traveled to in the past with vistas of unparalleled beauty, where a person could actually see the horizon and where polluted air was out-of-sight, out-of-mind.
I indeed cherish those times, the travels and visited-places.
With that said, for Air Quality Awareness Week – officially, May 1st to May 5th – in 2017, the Clean-air Adventure series covering San Luis Obispo, South Lake Tahoe, Yosemite National Park, Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park, Mount Shasta/Dunsmuir, California and Sierra Valley, situated along Golden State Highway 70 and atop Beckworth Pass, is being presented here for your reading enjoyment.
But, more importantly in my view is the fact that when my travels took me to those destinations, these environs seemed to me to be pristine and the air in and around them, as far as I could tell, clean. I would like to think that those who venture to these as well as other locales similar in nature find the exact same thing.
And, now: my times at Yosemite.
High country, Yosemite style
Yosemite is one of the jewels in the National Park system. Its landmarks, unmistakable: Half Dome; Bridalveil-, Vernal- and Yosemite Falls; Mirror Lake; El Capitan; The Three Brothers and on and on and on – the vistas just don’t quit.
How many times I have visited is hard to put a finger on. It’s been more than a few.
Nor can I say what year it was. However, over one Memorial Day weekend, a bunch of college friends and I planned a Yosemite visit. Finding a campsite then probably wasn’t an easy proposition; no doubt others had the same thing in mind. You see, it is just this time when the park opens to such activities for people, when the temperature is more conducive to Yosemite high-country camping.
Sad to say I can’t remember the bulk of what I did during that particular outing, but what I can tell you is how cold each morning was upon my awaking. In fact, it was so cold that I found it necessary to run around the site just to feel some warmth in my bones. What I also recall and for good reason, was the occasion where when during the night, when we were all sound asleep, an unexpected guest showed up – namely, a bear. As it happened, what I remember was one of the people in the group left food out instead of tucking it safely away in a proper storage container for safe keeping. That bear, having detected the food, was clawing at the tent from the outside while those on the tent’s inside were doing all they could to keep this unwelcome – and apparently hungry – visitor at bay. It was tent occupants 1, bear 0 as the bear eventually fled. As for everyone else, all managed to go back to sleep. The encounter sure caused quite a stir and most probably rattled some nerves, too.
On another visit, I hiked to the top of Vernal Fall, the most scenic of all the Yosemite-area falls in my opinion.
All seasons venue
There were plenty of high points on this hike. Like when walking up the established trail alongside, there is a place one gets to where heavy mist from the rushing fall waters can literally get one drenched, soaked. On my visit, I have to tell you, I was glad I brought along a winter coat, one, in fact, I used to wear when I used to snow ski. And, quite coincidentally or interestingly, there was a place to just sunbathe as it were in an area seemingly just for this purpose on a smooth rock surface and with the warmth of the sun beating down, this allowed me to dry off in relatively short order. I did this before making the rest of the climb.
As to the many sites to take in, one of my favorite is the view from Glacier Point. If you’re not familiar, it’s commanding. What one will notice from the scenic overlook here looking toward Half Dome, besides Half Dome, is Mother Nature’s handiwork, specifically, how glaciation left rock (granite) surfaces smooth in spots. And, hence the reason for the name Glacier Point.
Meanwhile, for those willing to brave the elements, a winter Yosemite visit for reasons not too difficult to imagine can be very rewarding. Skies are often dramatic-looking, and that’s just for starters. Among other highlights are the alluded-to abovementioned landmarks which are at times punctuated with the addition of snow – a light dusting (see photo at right) or otherwise. Picture-taking for the photographer, by the way, can provide many opportunities and produce quite excellent and truly satisfying results.
Regardless of time of year, visiting Yosemite is never disappointing – it has never been for me, anyway. Add to this that, based on my understanding, there is a least one time of the year when the entrance fee is waived.
If that all weren’t enough, the fact that Yosemite National Park is right in my own back yard? Who could ask for more?!
Image credits: Cathedral Peak, Jon Sullivan (pdphoto.org); Sentinel Rock, Ethan Hoffman
– Alan Kandel