Wow! Merveilleux! Wunderbar! Fabuloso!
More than 3.5 million visitors flock to Yosemite National Park in California each year, with about 10 percent of them coming from outside the United States. No matter the nationality or language, the first glimpse of the Tunnel View—one of the most photographed vistas in the world—renders one speechless. Famed naturalist John Muir once exclaimed, “…by far, the grandest special temple of nature I was ever permitted to enter.”
Created as a forest reserve in 1864 by President Lincoln, Yosemite’s 747, 956 acres has as its highest peak, Mt. Lyell, at 13, 114 feet. The park is home to more than 400 species of vertebrates, offers 800 miles of hiking trails and 12 miles of biking paths, and boasts 13 main campgrounds and a variety of marvelous lodging options.
Tenaya Lodge, just 2 miles from the park, combines elegance, luxury, fine-dining, a world-class spa (Ascent) and superb service with the scope and amenities of a four-diamond resort. This is a special place where you can rough it without roughing it. The Ahwahnee Hotel, built in 1927 and located in the heart of the park, is a mastery of architecture. The mammoth dining room has hosted countless celebrities, royalty and presidents. For a trip back to the 19th century, there’s the Victorian-style Wawona Hotel, built in 1850, oozing character and nostalgia and low on modern conveniences. It’s perfect for guests looking for a purist Yosemite experience and a challenging nine holes of golf.
Yosemite is an Indian word for ‘grizzly bear,’ but don’t expect to encounter any California grizzlies. Sadly, they are extinct in Yosemite today. Ninety-four percent of the park is designated as wilderness so wildlife abounds: mule deer, bobcats, mountain lions, golden eagles and black bears, just to name just a few. Up to 500 black bears call this sanctuary their home. At birth, cubs weigh a tiny half pound, but full grown bears can weigh up to 500 pounds.
There are countless sights and activities throughout the park. A good start is a drive to Glacier Point, which has an elevation of 8,000 feet. Once there, tippy-toe over the paved trail to the railing’s edge and look out across the valley for one of the most exhilarating overlooks on Earth—a 3,214 foot drop to the valley floor directly below. Bridalveil Fall—a spring wonder, with wind swirls creating a delicate water free-fall—is beautiful even when dry. The facing Half Dome and North Dome is a geologist’s dream, with nature’s forces still sculpting this exposed, 87-million-year-old rock. Then there’s El Capitan, the massive, granite monolith standing 3,593 feet from base to summit (straight up, not the slightest slant), which challenges climbers from all over the world. Looking like ants from below, climbers usually make the ascent in four to six days, hauling up to 100 pounds of gear, food and water, and sleeping on porta-ledges on El Cap’s sheer face. At least 70 big wall routes have been established on the Southeast and Southwest faces, with varying ascent times ranging from 2 ½ hours to 261 days.
A final word from John Muir sums it all up: No temple made with hands can compare with Yosemite. Every rock in its walls seems to glow with life.
Such grandeur should not be missed!