Visiting a crown jewel

Half Dome, Yosemite undefined

Half Dome, Yosemite

Linda Nicholson

Our southern California coast drive has been beautiful. Now it is time to head north to Yosemite for a lovely drive through the park. Mike and I have been planning this trip for months, and we are really enjoying it.

As we enter the park, the cooler temperature and the changing landscape are very inviting. It is late September, and the changing colors against the clear blue sky promise a colorful drive. As we drive farther into the park, it becomes apparent this is not going to be a drive through event!

Checking into the hotel, we have booked the next night also, knowing that we cannot possibly leave without seeing more. We immediately book a tour for the next morning. During dinner at a local diner in Mariposa, our excitement mounts just looking at the photographs on the walls depicting the beauty of the park. We are up early the next morning for the one-hour drive to the valley floor to take the tour. We feel like kids on our first field trip!

Our first stop is the base of El Capitan. The gentle landscape of the meadow at the base poses a striking contrast against the stunning sheer cliff face of El Capitan in the distance. Rising 3,600 feet from the valley floor, our necks arch back as our eyes climb this monument to nature’s energy, which is 96 million years old. Continuing on to our destination of Glacier Point, we pass the largest rock fall in the park’s history, which occurred in 1987. We cannot even imagine the thundering sound of 1.5 million tons of rock raining down the mountainside!

As we enter Tunnel View, it is incredible to think that we are driving through a mountain! It takes 43 seconds to drive the .8 mile through the tunnel…counting as I hope the integrity of the 81-year old structure is still sound. Outside Tunnel View we begin the rest of the ascent, which offers spectacular views of the valley floor and some hair pin turns! Our minds imagine what the visitors of the 1880s endured on their stagecoach passage into the park.

The bus completes a few more tight turns before we arrive at Glacier Point. Departing the bus we head straight for the viewing area. Our pace quickens, anxious to see nature’s wonder.

Half Dome rises triumphantly 3,200 feet above the valley floor and 7,200 feet above sea level. The panoramic view of Half Dome and the Sierra Nevada mountain range is magnificent from Glacier Point. Basking in the quiet splendor of this wonderful sight, we are inspired and humbled by its majesty. It has been said Half Dome resembles the profile of a dolphin or a cloaked wizard. I see the profile of a bald eagle, our Nation’s symbol of freedom and greatness as he watches over one of our country’s crown jewels, Yosemite.

If you go, check out:, Tours: 209-372-4FUN, Lodging inside the park: 801-559-5000.

Mariposa, CA also offers several nice motels.