April 8, 2012

A Special Place

Yosemite National Park is special.  It’s one of my favorite places on earth, and it touches me in a way I can’t quite explain.  Perhaps John Muir stated it best, “It is by far the grandest of all the special temples of Nature I was ever permitted to enter.”  To me it seemed particularly fitting to enter Yosemite on Easter Sunday.  Too many years have passed since I was last here, and I was so excited to return today and share Yosemite with Tim.

We arrived via the south entrance and made our way towards the Mariposa Grove, the park’s largest grouping of giant sequoias.  At least 500 of these amazing trees grow here, and we took the trail to see some of the most famous ones.  These trees are the largest of all living things and seem to symbolize survival against all odds.  They are so majestic, and it’s hard to contemplate that some are more than 2,000 years old.

The Grizzly Giant, perhaps the most famous of all the giant sequoias in the park, measures 96 feet in circumference and 27.6 feet in diameter at its base, and it is the tree that everyone wants to see.  I can certainly understand why.  We also admired the Bachelor and Three Graces, the Fallen Monarch and the California Tunnel Tree on our hike. 

The Base of the Grizzly Giant

The Grizzly Giant
Bachelor and Three Graces

Sarah at the Fallen Monarch
Tunnel trees were an early form of tourism promotion, and visitors lined up to drive through them.  My mother often recalled driving through one of the tunnel trees when she visited the park in the 1940s.  Obviously cutting a hole in the base of a giant sequoia is a practice that is frowned upon today, but I’m secretly pleased that one of these trees survives for us to see.

Tim at the California Tunnel Tree
The Mariposa Grove is particularly significant to the National Park Service, and images of giant sequoia cones are embossed on belts and hatbands worn by national park rangers.  The cone is a symbol of the preservation of this special place.

Belt Worn by National Park Rangers
These Giant Sequoias Are Just Babies
The Mariposa Grove is located near Wawona, a historic community that preserves many of its pioneer buildings.  The Wawona Hotel, one of the park’s historic lodging options, is a charming place and we explored the lobby.

Wawona Hotel
As much as I enjoy the southern part of the park, it is Yosemite Valley that draws me in.  Catching my first glimpse of Half Dome, El Capitan and Bridalveil Falls spread out before me was just as breathtaking today as the first time I saw it.  I stood and stared and probably shed a few tears.  It’s that beautiful to me.  I hoped that Tim would find it to be just as special.

No Photo Can Capture the Grandure of Yosemite Valley
We drove through the valley, and I resisted the urge to ask Tim to pull over so I could photograph each spectacular sight.  Instead, we headed for our campground and settled in.  The campgrounds in Yosemite Valley are nestled among pine trees and are very scenic.  Although there are no hookups, we are prepared for a couple of days.

Our Campsite
We had early dinner reservations at the Ahwahnee, one of my favorite national park lodges.  The dining room at the Ahwahnee imposes a dress code, one of the few lodges to do so.  We didn’t mind, however.  It was actually a treat to dress up for a change and leave our hiking and traveling clothes behind.

Not only is the food at the Ahwahnee superb, but the experience of dining there is just as wonderful.  The dining room is a spectacular space that originally seated 350 guests.  The magnificent views beyond the floor-to-ceiling windows provide a scenic backdrop to this elegant hall.  We started the evening with a delicious country pate appetizer.  My entrée was haddock, and it was one of the best entrees I’ve had in recent memory.  Tim’s steelhead trout was just as good.  We shared a wonderful cream brulee trio for dessert, and the pistachio was especially good.  All in all, it was a memorable evening and satisfying in so many ways.

The Ahwahnee Dining Room
The Grand Window View
Doesn't Tim Look Nice?
My Halibut
Tim's Steelhead Trout
Creme Brulee Trio


  1. Looks like you had a great day! Did you see anyone climbing at Yosemite? Can you tell us what Ahwahnee means? LV

    1. LV, It was a wonderful day. We didn't see any climbers, but it's often so difficult to spot them. Ahwahnee was the name that the first people gave to Yosemite Valley. The translation is "Land of the gaping mouth." The president of the company that built the Ahwahnee wanted the hotel to have a Native American theme. Even the china that is still used today carries out the theme. Sarah

  2. I can see why you love it so much. It is beautiful. What a lovely resturant to have Easter dinner at. Glad you enjoyed it. Love A

    1. A, The Ahwahnee was the perfect setting for Easter dinner. Maybe you can talk Chuck into taking a trip to Yosemite sometime. Sarah