In one day, I saw the breathtaking Bridalveil Falls, which is stunning, El Capitan (the largest monolith of granite in the world), Cathedral Rocks and spires, Half Dome, the famed Ahwahnee lodge and hotel, named after the Ahwahneechee Indians that roamed the Yosemite Valley, and a mighty black bear. Waterfalls roar, giant sequoia trees tower, meadows dance in the wind and it is a wonderful experience with nature. The park has it all: backpacking, rock-climbing, hiking, fishing, horseback riding, birdwatching, museums, buildings, and points of historical interest. This park, granted to California by President Abraham Lincoln, offers an authentic California adventure.
Visiting the vast, federal government-controlled Yosemite requires having an agenda, so plan ahead and be prepared, as the Boy Scouts motto goes. There’s a government-imposed fee for practically everything, including a new tax on hiking at Half Dome, in addition to other fees and taxes collected for the parks program (park admission is $20 per vehicle). Only the handicapped are admitted for free. Check daily for weather conditions, updates, and seasonal rules and regulations. Bring plenty of money if you plan to visit and stay inside the park, where everything from smoking, pets, and traffic to lodging is tightly controlled by the government and subsequently terribly expensive. I opted for a stay at a cabin located just outside the park, which was fine.
This swath of wilderness is bear country. Though guides claim that rangers patrol the park for safety, I spotted one ranger during the visit and that was outside the visitors’ center. This being my first bear sighting in the forest, I must say I’m glad I wasn’t close enough to be noticed. Deer also dart in front of a moving vehicle, as happened on this trip, and rocks near the waterfalls are of course wet, slippery, and dangerous. It’s a good idea to wear hiking boots, bring bottled water, and pack a camera and binoculars. You’ll probably want to remember your trip to Yosemite. I know I will.
The manmade Pyramid Lake, near where gold was discovered in 1843, is located in Gorman off the Golden State freeway (Interstate 5) at the Smokey Bear Road exit (Emigrant Landing). The recreational lake is named after a pyramid-shaped rock carved by engineers who were creating the old highway 99. Here, there’s camping, picnicking, boating, water skiing, swimming, fishing (large and small-mouth striped bass, trout, catfish, blue gill, and crappie), and the Vista Del Lago Visitors Center, which sits on a bluff overlooking the lake and contains exhibits in the state’s water treatment and its version of the state’s and region’s history, which includes interesting facts about businessman Henry Newhall and the Newhall companies that built and developed the Santa Clarita Valley. According to Pyramid Lake’s Web site, most beaches are accessible only by boat because of the steep shoreline.