- The meandering Merced River offers peaceful trout fishing
- Giant trees, some 10 feet in diameter, can mesmerize visitors
- High rock mountains offer an unmatched view, even more spectacular during sunrise and sunset
By Forrest Fisher
The spirit of reflection can provide a trail to the sacred territory. No matter where we travel in 2019, it seems many people say hello with a smile. In all goodness, I think this means it has been a great year in the outdoors and for all folks that enjoy our many special American freedoms each day, like cherishing nature and the simple wonders of the outdoors.
No politics. No special licenses. No extra cost.
All of that sort of thought took my better half and I toward a fresh look at our bucket list, it was getting dusty. Yosemite National Park had been on our list for a few decades, so we decided to “get there” this year to celebrate our 50th wedding year, it seems we needed a good excuse. The trip was two-fold, as it was also to visit our eldest grandchild, Kiley Voss from East Aurora, NY, who is now a Park Ranger there.
We flew into San Francisco, headed for a stop to a remote Pacific Ocean beach and we enjoyed the exhilarating sound of the surf – there were pelicans and sea birds screeching out conversations too. About four hours later we arrived at the park and checked into a nearby hotel to prepare for this highly anticipated Yosemite visit.
There was no wifi signal, no phone signal, and no email. Wow! What a vacation!
The next day we drove 12 miles from the hotel to the Yosemite National Park entrance gate and it felt like the year might have been 1850. No development here.
There were sharply rising mountains made of granite that rose toward the heavens along both sides of the single-lane, very narrow, but paved road.
The Merced River slowly ambles westward along the road, comprised mostly of snowmelt runoff (in September!) from the high mountains in the distance. The river thrives with abundant native rainbow trout and a healthy population of stocked brown trout. We watched an angler or two casting a fly line, it was hard to keep our eyes on the curvy road.
As we proceeded past the gate, the narrow roadway led into a much wider valley with meadows and giant trees, some of them more than 10-feet in diameter. We were astonished to see all of the giant Cedar trees and Ponderosa Pine, Sequoia, Sugar Pine, magnificent Black Oak, aromatic Cedar, and other tree species.
Then suddenly as the roadway opened up, there on the left was El Capitan, the name of a magnificent rock mountain. It is a sheer vertical cliff-like rock structure of solid, polished granite that rises to more than 7,500 feet. Straight ahead was another mountain, “Half-Dome,” more than 8,800 feet high, and then many other similar mountains all around us, many with Indian-based names converted to English. Frankly, we were astonished and speechless. It was that beautiful.
Yosemite Valley is indescribable, beautiful, unimaginable, magnificent, a place where God and the spirit of man and life may exist for all time. I felt that.
That was my first impression upon taking a drive to the place they call Yosemite Village, located in the central east side of the 1,176 square mile park of the Sierra-Nevada Mountains of California.
Our granddaughter introduced us to a Native Indian guide that conducted tours for the Indian Museum there. He was humble, and a very knowledgeable gentleman of the local wilderness and ways of the land. His name was Ben Cunningham Summerfield and he shared tales of the earliest inhabitants of the park, the Miwoc Indians (pronounced Me-Wuk).
Locally, he said, “The Miwoc were called Awahnichi and they were the Indian people that lived in Awahni.”
From other sources and from my novice understanding, the people of the Awanichi there were referred to as Yohimite or Yohometuk, the converted language meaning “some of them are killers.” Hence the name Yosemite was born from those terms when the Euro-Americans came to the area during the gold rush era of 1849.
Ben said to us, “They found no gold but did disturb the nature and the people of the valley.”
Standing next to a rustic example, Ben explained, “The Awahnichi lived in sturdy roundhouse structures made of pine or cedarwood, lashed together with grapevines and uniquely covered with a thick roof made from dead incense cedar bark, some of the roofs were additionally covered with earth.”
This history was also documented by a late Miwok lady, Isabelle Howard Jimenez, who passed away in 1996, though her sharing of Native information was recorded with her permission and is now available in a free booklet provided by the Yosemite Conservancy. Some of it is shared in this story as provided by Ben. Ben’s stories and tales were notable and mesmerizing., and unforgettable. And there were many.
We so relaxed at watching soaring eagles, circling hawks, many other tree birds, and a gray fox stalking his way through the Yosemite woods, and more. Other visitors that we met at the visitor center were coming in off the hiking trails, everyone seemed to have a smile embedded in their chin. any shared sightings of black bears, mountain lions, bobcats, mule deer and other critters of the Yosemite wild.
Among touring highlights, the Park Service offers a 2-hour long tram tour that provides visitors with a 20-mile journey around the Park. Visitors will discover the nature of birds, fish, and wildlife, and trees that are at home in the park, the mountains – their names and geology, the great places to stop for a photo and restroom stop, the history of the park and much more. Our granddaughter was the host for one of the tours that we took, of course, we were impressed with her complete knowledge and descriptions of all things Yosemite. She even spotted mountain climbers scaling the face of El Capitan. The tram stopped, everyone took pictures of these adventurists suspended about 3,000 feet up the sheer cliff face of the mountain…sleeping on a rope sling. I just thought -WOW! I once considered that treestand hunting might be dangerous.
My better half, Fern, was disappointed at NOT seeing even one bear, but our granddaughter explained, “They’re just not out in the open and along the highways at this time of year, they’re getting ready to hibernate.”
The multiple peaks, snow-covered mountains, snow-melt streams and Yosemite Falls – crystal clear water, rising trout slurping flies from the surface of the Merced River at dusk, the options for hiking and biking amidst all this beauty…simply amazing, to state it modestly.
In Yosemite, there is no hunting allowed for specific management reasons (hunting is controlled and conducted by official Park personal for invasive species), fishing is allowed, but like many places, some special rules apply.
For us, this was a trip of a lifetime.
Not judging, but as we entered San Francisco for our air-lift home, we realized the life we love is certainly not in the big cities, but it definitely is in those mountains about four hours away.
Yosemite was unforgettable.
I think God lives in the church of His mountains there. It is a sacred place.