It just didn’t seem plausible in the blazing August heat that the water flowing over Yosemite Falls came from some glacier higher up in the Sierra Nevada, but jumping into the icy pool beneath the lower falls removed all doubt.
Refreshing doesn’t begin to describe it. The cold hit me like a hammer. I lasted about 45 seconds before I clambered, shivering, back into the 95-degree heat.
I should not have doubted the glacier story. Rangers don’t lie.
Boys were jumping off the rocks into the pool, as boys do, while one girl huddled on a boulder in her dripping swimsuit. “How do you handle this water,” she asked a boy as he splashed by. “You wait until you go numb,” he replied cheerfully.
That’s Yosemite National Park — all about the impact. Millions of visitors have been stunned into speechlessness by the magnificent cliffs, towering waterfalls and massive sequoia for more than 150 years, and it can be assumed that the native Americans who lived there for thousands of years felt the same way.
In the first recorded sightings by non-Indians, various expeditions of fur trappers passed along the edge of Yosemite Valley on their way to the California coast in the 1830s. They reported seeing a mile-high waterfall and trees more than 100 feet in circumference.
They were a little off on the waterfall — Yosemite Falls is only about half a mile high, but that still makes it one of the tallest waterfalls in the world. They were closer on the trees — some of the giant sequoia in the park measure nearly 100 feet around.
And there’s no need to drag pack mules through snow drifts to see them. All it takes these days is a rented Hyundai and the park shuttle buses.
For all its cafeterias, paved trails and millions of visitors a year, the teeming valley still has awesome impact. And not just because it’s big. It’s also magnificent and sublimely beautiful.
I left Yosemite refreshed, and not just by the cold water. I’m not going to be able to write anything more inspiring about it than John Muir did, or take better photographs than Ansel Adams did. I’m just going to suggest you visit Yosemite if you can.
My husband and I had only a few days there, which was not enough, and we’re determined to go back and see more of the park.