Before I write about Yosemite Park, I have to mention a PBS series we just watched about our national parks...and it's a must-see. It was produced in 2009 by Ken Burns (arguably one of the best documentary producer/directors living today). It's called The National Parks: America's Best Idea. We've only been able to find three of the six episodes, but we're searching for the rest and if we have to buy the series, we will. It's that good. Little did I know, but we owe our entire national park system to the dedication, foresight and talents of a handful of men....John Muir, Teddy Roosevelt, Stephen Mather, Horace Albright, Franklin Roosevelt and John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Were it not for these guys and a handful of others, every one of our amazing national parks would have been sold off to the mining companies, logging companies, railroads, real estate developers and others who just don't give a damn about our natural resources. After you watch a few of these shows, you'll understand just close we came to losing it all. You'll also learn about an amazing couple who explored the parks out West in their old Buick's (think 1920's)...and camped beside their car in the wilderness. The first RV-ers? Probably...and they're our hero's (you'll understand why after you watch the series).
Now, on to the story about our recent trip to Yosemite. Sitting around the campfire one night (actually our dining room table), Claudia and I realized that we needed to visit Yosemite before the schools let out for the Summer. Plus, this was a record year of snow (now melting) and the reports coming out of Yosemite said that the waterfalls were as good as they've ever been. We were hoping that our arrival on Sunday would coincide with the weekend visitors leaving. Whoops....were we ever wrong. It turns out there really is no "down time" for Yosemite.
Since Yosemite is only a three hour drive from our home in Grass Valley, we loaded up a few clothes, a bunch of my cameras, some of Claudia's great pimento cheese spread, some King's Hawaiian rolls (one of the great food products ever produced) and of course, our buddy Tuck. And off we went. When we arrived at the outskirts of the park (the ranger's station is about 20 miles from Yosemite Village), we noticed that cars were piling into the park. No one was leaving. Lots and lots of cars. And buses. And RV's. We got in a long line of cars and drove about 20MPH the rest of the way into the park. Once we arrived at Bridal Veil Falls, one of the first amazing waterfalls, we discovered that there were no parking places and everyone was driving around jockeying for the next spot to open up when someone pulled out. It was nuts. What's up with this? It's May for crying out loud. Schools aren't out yet and it's a week before Memorial Day. Who were all these people and didn't they know it was our week to visit? The nerve.
We quickly discovered first hand what the PBS series had been trying to tell us....our national parks are being loved to death. Walking around the park grounds, we heard Chinese, Japanese, French, German, Italian, British, Slavic, Canadian ('eh) and probably Russian. Everyone was there....young, old, people on bikes, lots of strollers, backpackers, campers, tour buses, old VW Westfalia campers, Harley's, BMW riders with serious-looking leather outfits (geez guys, aren't those things hot?), climbers with lots of rope in tow and bless their hearts, dozens of park rangers directing traffic. The next time you see a park ranger, stop and give them a big hug. (after they remove their hat). To stand in the hot sun and direct traffic all day, while at the same time answering the same questions..."is there anywhere to park"..."where are the bathrooms", etc. requires a dedication not many people possess. It's a thankless job and my hats off to them for doing it. However, having said that, if you want to be a park ranger, you can't get a much better gig than Yosemite! I mean, everywhere you turn there's another amazing vista to look at or another waterfall to admire. Beats the hell out of being a banker, I can tell you that.
After all was said and done, we loved it and we're already planning our next visit in October. And next time, by golly, we're going to beat the crowds. I hope. We loved the views, the falls, the unbelievable granite mountains (you have to see Half Dome and El Capitan to believe it) and just the unbelievable majesty of the place. I can certainly understand now why John Muir and all the other pioneers fought so hard to save it. Well done guys, you're giants among men.
I'll be posting some pictures of the park later tonight and tomorrow. They don't begin to do it justice, but there's only so much you can show in a small photograph. My best advice in closing is...just go.
Wayne, Claudia & Tuck