We will know it’s coming to an end


Today we are heading to California for the last of our scheduled trips, and already, I find myself emotional and mildly panicked at the thought that this part of our lives is nearly over.  I never expected to like California very much, and, as it turns out, I’ve fallen very much in love.  With the mountains and the deserts, the forests and the fertile valleys, the classic cars on every road, the lush vineyards, the speed of life, the unending battle between the sunshine and the foggy marine layer, and the cold wild Pacific Coast, all of which have already begun to haunt my dreams.   I’ve spent years listening to love songs written to California; how foolish to think that this place wouldn’t get at my heart, too.  All week long I’ve been listening to sad songs, reading Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, looking at photos, and getting a little weepy.  California, I’m not ready to let you go.

Photo from Yosemite, California. January 2015.

Touch the sky


Having fun with reflections in the water on a short hike out to Mirror Lake.


Skiing at Badger Pass


We couldn’t have asked for a lovelier day to spend on the snowy slopes of Badger Pass.  I’m new to skiing and it was a bit icy out that day, so after sliding around on the little hills for a while, I retreated to the decks of the day lodge to enjoy the sunshine and the views.  While sipping on hot chocolates, it was relaxing to watch the other skiers speed down the mountains, especially the Mister, who’s been skiing since he was very young.  Every few minutes I’d spot his bright red jacket hurtling down the slope, and when he’d reach the bottom, he’d give me a little wave before happily hopping on another lift to head back up the slopes.

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Underneath my California stars


The dark dark skies of Yosemite were perfect for practicing our star photography, and so on a few frosty nights, we ventured out to the open meadows with my camera and a tripod, our hearts racing as we tried not to think too hard about mountain lions, coyotes, and bears.


Yosemite Falls


There are so many breathtaking sights in Yosemite National Park, but the one that looms most in my memory is Yosemite Falls.  At nearly 2,500 feet, Yosemite Falls is the highest waterfall in North America and the seventh highest in the world, an impressive spectacle located just above the cozy lodge in which we stayed.  The falls were the first thing we saw when we opened our door in the morning, they loomed over us as we ate our meals at the lodge restaurant and had drinks in the lounge, and even in the pitch black of night, we could hear the roar of their waters crashing down over the granite mountainside.  One frosty morning, we made our way up the Yosemite Falls Trail, a grueling hike of rocky switchbacks and sheer drops that I’ve heard equated to climbing the stairwells of two Empire State Buildings.  In the winter, if you leave early enough, the trail is quiet and lonely, and its easy to imagine you are alone with the mountains and the valley.  The hike affords beautiful views of the snow pile left at the base of the upper falls where the sunlight pulls rainbows out of the misty air, and when the rocky switchbacks break into flat trail, there are often stunning views of the valley and Half-Dome, often along cliff-sides so high up that my knees went wobbly every time I looked out on the valley spread out below.

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Winter Scenes

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El Capitan


We felt very lucky to be staying in Yosemite during the final week of Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson’s historic free climb of the Dawn Wall on El Capitan, a smooth, steep rockface that is considered by many to be the longest and most difficult free climb anywhere.  In fact, they finished on the final day of our visit.

El Cap’s 3000-ft face is a challenging favorite among climbers, though the smooth expanse of the eastern-facing Dawn Wall had never been successfully free climbed (utilizing only hands and feet, with ropes attached merely as a safety precaution in the event of a fall) until Caldwell and Jorgeson’s 19-day effort.  It was fun to be in the Valley as it buzzed with excitement over the climb, and we enjoyed overhearing the climbing chatter everywhere from the Valley shuttle to the hiking paths, at dinner at the Alwahnee and over drinks at the Mountain Room Lounge, as well as seeing dozens of media trucks gathered in a meadow near El Cap on the final day of the climb.  One afternoon, we hiked over to the base of El Capitan to get a closer view of the climbers camp halfway up the mountain and were thrilled to see the tiny figure of Tommy Caldwell working his way up the wall for that evening’s ascent (he is visible as a tiny yellow form in the left-center photo, two shots down.)  Here are a couple of great articles from National Geographic, if you’d like to read more:

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Wanderings: Yosemite

DSC_1593You come to love places in different ways.  Some places reveal themselves slowly, rooting their way bit-by-bit into your heart, until you find you’ve fallen in love.  Other places dazzle you and grip your heart from the first moment, leaving you breathless and at a loss for words.  Yosemite was the latter.  Driving there, you twist and turn around mountainside curves, which are perfectly lovely, but then suddenly the valley opens up before you and your heart is gone along with your ability to find adequate words.

Over the days we spent in Yosemite Valley, I often found myself standing in a meadow, staring up at the mountains that seem to rise up straight out of the valley floor, and wondering how there was still enough space for the sky to seem so big.

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