Taking as many photos as I do, I sometimes get a bit overwhelmed when I think about processing them afterward. But the upside of always being at least three to six months behind on sorting through my travel photos is that I’m always surprised–again–by the beauty of the places I’ve visited.
Case in point: Yosemite.
My friend, Karen, and I spent a long weekend last fall driving the “Majestic Mountain loop,” a three-day road trip itinerary that lets you check out three of California’s greatest treasures: Sequoia, Kings Canyon, and Yosemite National Parks. We spent the final night at Tenaya Lodge, just below the south gate of Yosemite and headed into the park first thing in the morning.
I’ve been to Yosemite several times before, but what really grabbed me on this visit to the park were the views of Yosemite Valley in the fall. The fall colors were a bit past their peak (in mid-November), but there was still lots of yellow and orange on the last remaining leaves.
The bright colors made a really nice frame against the granite wall of El Capitan.
The other benefit of traveling in the fall is that the cool weather and moisture in the sky result in some pretty stunning cloud formations.
I’ve been to Glacier Point lookout many times before, but never under such a dramatic sky.
The clouds started to burn off by the time we got to the Tunnel View lookout, but a few stuck around as if someone had striped the sky with a giant paintbrush to improve this shot.
Yosemite National Park gets more than four million visitors a year and most of them (if you visit in the summer high season!) seem to be jamming up the roads and trails all at once. For that reason, the very best part about visiting Yosemite in the fall is getting to have these monumental landscapes all to yourself.
It was such a peaceful time to explore the park…
… and check out the smaller details within the landscapes.
After spending the day checking out the sights of Yosemite Valley, we decided to hop over the hill to check out the Hetch Hetchy Valley. Neither Karen nor I had ever explored this remote part of Yosemite National Park, but even though we don’t think of it often, it’s a place we depend on every day–the Hetch Hetchy water reservoir supplies drinking water to 2.6 million San Francisco Bay Area residents.
The domes and granite walls surrounding the Hetch Hetchy reservoir bear a striking resemblance to those over the hills in the Yosemite Valley. In 1870, legendary California conservationist John Muir called the Hetch Hetchy Valley, “a wonderfully exact counterpart to the great Yosemite Valley.” When public officials started to talk about damming the Tuolumne River and turning the valley into a reservoir to serve fast-growing San Francisco Bay Area, Muir’s words helped to rally public support against the controversial dam project.
The Great 1906 San Francisco earthquake changed all that. The massive earthquake disrupted water supply to the city and shifted public opinion away from conservation and in favor of the massive infrastructure project. The O’Shaunnessey Dam was completed in 1926 and still serves San Francisco today.
The view of the Hetch Hetchy Valley and the Tuolumne River from the dam.