What could I possibly say about Yosemite National Park that far more talented people haven’t already offered?
That’s how I feel thinking about Yosemite: speechless. Tiny. Powerless. A speck in the universe — one small person, a woman trying to hold up her chin in the shadows of something so much larger than myself. Of all the places we visited in California, all beautiful, it was Yosemite that made the biggest impression on me.
In the weeks since we returned home, I’ve found myself incessantly Googling the park and its waterfalls. I wrote a column about it for the paper. Yosemite is now my screensaver. My precious photos are stacked in folders so I can look at them often, remembering our all-too-brief time in the park. It flashed by in an instant.
Once we made it to Yosemite Valley, a perilous drive on our tour bus from Tioga Pass, Spencer and I practically ran from our group to see Yosemite Falls. I’m a wee bit obsessed with cataracts . . . and I guess that’s an understatement. I’m a waterfall chaser. If there’s rushing water to be found, I will seek it out — and photograph the heck out of it (see: my long-standing fascination with Niagara Falls). I’m most happy standing by the roar of falling water with spray dusting my shoulders.
So how did Yosemite Falls measure up? Very, very well. After walking an easy path up to the base of the lower falls, I could only stand in awe. It’s cliche, I know, but sometimes you can’t look up into the face of Mother Nature and think anything but, “Wow.”
I’m not outdoorsy. I hate bugs, can’t bear the thought of using the restroom outdoors, need a clean bed and pillow on which to rest at night. I don’t swim or hike or climb things. Generally speaking? I’m pretty lazy. I don’t like getting sweaty and am pretty annoying when I’m hot and thirsty.
But put a waterfall sighting within my grasp and I’ll be bumping tourists off paths through sheer determination alone.
Waterfalls aside, Yosemite is a truly magical place. Just driving around on a bus left me awestruck, staring out the windows at scenes like this:
I mean, really.
I’m going to be honest with you: since returning home to Maryland, I’ve thought about why I live on the East Coast. My answers are vast and varied, starting and ending — most importantly — with the fact that Washington, D.C., is my home. The only place I’ve ever lived. The only place I’ve ever known, and where my family and friends are. It’s where I work. Where I’ve started my career. Where I’ve built relationships. It’s where Spencer is.
But sometimes when we travel — taking in other vistas, other views — it’s easy to imagine yourself somewhere else, doing something else. Like building a camp and squatting illegally in a national park, say. Living off the land. Photographing streams. Scaling cliff faces and wandering the Sierra Nevada — a miniature (and female) John Muir.
Sometimes places call to you, grabbing your hand and refusing to let go.
I’ll always remember holding Spencer’s hand as we walked to the base of that waterfall. And my heavy, heavy heart as we turned to go.