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  • Writer's pictureNicole Olsen

The Grandest Temple of Nature

We have seen some pretty incredible things on this trip. It seems as if the California landscape is boundless in its beauty with so much to explore and see. But I don’t know if anything can compare to Yosemite National Park.

“It is by far the grandest of all the special temples of Nature I was ever permitted to enter.” – John Muir, 1868.

As we entered Yosemite from the West entrance to the Tioga Road, the sky was gray, and the smell of smoke lingered in the air. Amy said it remaindered her of Dante’s Peak (a favorite movie of ours from childhood) after the volcano began spewing ash into the sky. We turned on the radio, and every station was talking about the out of control forest fire in Mariposa, just south of us. As we continued East through mountains, forest, and meadows the sky looked haunting and beautiful. Every inch of it was spectacular.

Our first scheduled stop was Olmstead Point, an incredible granite rock lying between lush green trees speckled with purple and pink wildflowers. The kids were eager to get out and stretch their legs, so we decided to hike up to the top of what seemed like a rather small mountain, but as we approached the crest, we were surprised by the immense vista showcasing miles of gradually sloped mountains as far as the eye could see. The smoky sky blended with the rounded granite peaks making the twisted and gnarly trees that protruded between the stones stand out in stark contrast.

The kids felt adventurous and the parents nervous as we watch them walk down the mounds of granite and out of sight. I think they would have stayed there for hours slowly ascending and descending the slopes of stone into the backcountry, but daylight was burning, and there was so much more to see.

Our next stop was Tenaya Lake, a crystal clear lake held between snow peaked mountains. The kids dipped their toes in and skipped rocks, begging us to pull out the raft and swimsuits, but it was the same song different sight…more to see, places to go.

We reached Tuolumne Meadows just before the sun set. In all directions, there was endless green meadow dissected by a meandering river that reflected the orange sunset. We enjoyed the rest of the daylight with the deer that were grazing in the distance. The kids practiced keeping balance as they walked across a fallen log over the frigid water. My youngest and most intrepid fell in and tried to shriek, but the cold took his breath away.

After a quick change of clothes, we move further East. With evening approaching we had to pass by all the treasures of Yosemite, trying hard to keep them in mind for when we would return. At 10,000 feet elevation, we reached our highest point and then began our steep and winding descent to our temporary home in Bridgeport at the base of the Sierra Mountains.

Amy and Howie set up their tent in the dark. We scrapped together dinner while discussing our plans for the next day, and it was unanimous…we had to go back to Yosemite.

The next morning, we packed for a full day in the park and headed back to Tenaya Lake with swimsuits, rafts, and plenty of time. The kid’s teeth were chattering and their fingers pruned when we pulled them out to put them in dry clothes for the rest of the day’s activities. Only 5 miles distance from our last stop I spotted our next adventure. I yelled at Jeanne to park the car and pulled everyone out for what I thought looked like a slide rock. The moment we approached it, the kids got that familiar gleam in their eyes, and before long we had five kids, stripped of their clean and dry clothes, sliding in their underwear down the slick granite rock and into the pool below. The water here gave you pins and needles, but it did not stop the kids from all the fun. Instead, they found a shallower pool that had been warmed by the sun for soaking their cold bones in between slides down the icy stream.

The rest of the day we stopped at all the beautiful places we passed the previous night. But still, there was not enough time in the day to see all that Yosemite offers. Again we got back to our campsite at dark wishing for more time in the park. But all things must come to an end, including our time with my sister and her family.

I know I will be back to Yosemite, I am already in anticipation for our next visit here, hoping by then we will all have more stamina to hike into the further reaches of the park, beyond the road to see what beauties lie within.

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