3 October 2014
The massive El Capitan granite rock in Yosemite National Park
Another early start to drive to the mighty Yosemite National Park. Located in Central California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range, Yosemite National Park encompasses an incredible 1,170 square miles of breathtaking natural splendor. Ranging in altitude from 2,000 feet to more than 13,000 feet above sea level, it’s hard to believe that Yosemite is just hours from bustling cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles and Reno. Though the pristine environment of Yosemite is passionately protected, the Park offers a host of year-round conveniences and guest services so that visitors can make the most of their experience while still observing a respect for the park.
As we approached El Capitan through the Yosemite Valley, the sun was just catching the side of the rock, and it looked brilliant. It is difficult to describe its size, except to say it is massive, even the bus looked like a Matchbox toy in front of the rock, which looked spectacular in the morning sunshine. Along with most of the other rock formations of Yosemite Valley, El Capitan was carved by glacial action. Several periods of glaciation have occurred in the Sierra Nevada, but the Sherwin Glaciation, which lasted from approximately 1.3 mya (million years ago) to 1 mya, is considered to be responsible for the majority of the sculpting. The El Capitan Granite is relatively free of joints, and as a result the glacial ice did not erode the rock face as much as other, more jointed, rocks nearby. Nonetheless, as with most of the rock forming Yosemite’s features, El Capitan’s granite is under enormous internal tension brought on by the compression experienced prior to the erosion which brought it to the surface. These forces contribute to the creation of features such as the massive Texas Flake, a large block of granite slowly detaching from the main rock face about halfway up the side of the cliff.
Tall trees surrounded by tall mountains in beautiful Yosemite
All around the area were tall mountains and walking trails, but cameras were fixed on the rock as everyone clicked away. We had some time to walk around the beautiful area, fresh in the morning, before boarding the bus again. We had been told about the black bears in the area, but fortunately the only wildlife we encountered (apart from birds) was a stray coyote.
We were then taken to another part of the Park where we were able to take walks to admire the beautiful mountains and trees and drink in the clear air (nice after the pollution of Los Angeles). The day was clear and sunny and much warmer than we expected it to be at this time of year, so we were making the most of it.
Tunnel View, one of the most photographed scenes in Yosemite National Park
Yosemite’s wide range of elevations, from its semi-arid foothills to its snowcapped mountains, has produced a habitat distribution that nurtures 37 types of native trees, over 1,000 species of wildflowers, 85 species of mammals, over 150 species of birds and 33 varieties of reptiles and amphibians. The California black oak (Quercus kelloggii) is a large deciduous tree with yellow-green leaves and a dark trunk that is commonly found in Yosemite Valley. The tree produces acorns that the Miwok people pound into nutritious flour. Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) is easily identified by its puzzle-like bark, which has a pattern of irregularly-shaped plates separated by dark furrows. The mature tree is very wide at the base and its lowest branches are especially high off the ground. Incense-cedar (Calocedrus decurrens) is often confused with the giant sequoia because it has feathery, reddish bark. The incense-cedar grows abundantly throughout the Sierra Nevada below 7,000 feet, while sequoias grow only in a limited number of groves. Giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) is the most massive living thing on earth. Three groves are located in the park: the Mariposa Grove, near South Entrance (Wawona Road); the Tuolumne Grove, near Crane Flat off the Tioga Road; and the Merced Grove, off the Big Oak Flat Road between Crane Flat and the Big Oak Flat Entrance. The giant sequoia is believed to live up to 3,000 years.
Although we were to visit the Bridal Veil Fall and Yosemite Falls, we were told there was no water (due to lack of rain). Our final look at Yosemite National Park was the beautiful Tunnel View, possibly one of the most photographed parts of Yosemite and often used in its promotion. It certainly is the most spectacular view of the area, and again the cameras were clicking madly.
So it was then time for the long drive back to Los Angeles, stopping on the way for a quick dinner at a Chinese restaurant, before being delivered to our hotel for the evening. All very tired, and we have another early start tomorrow to catch the plane to our much anticipated arrival in the fabulous Windy City, Chicago.