We've been giving my nephew Max, a University of Iowa freshman who until this week had never been west of Des Moines, a crash winter tour of our slice of central/northern California. (A little bit of deja vu here: He's making his first trip west about a month before his 19th birthday; I was about two and a half months shy of 19 when I made my first visit out here in 1973, starting out on a Chicago-to-Oakland ride on Amtrak).
What's the one place you'd take a new visitor to this part of the state (I mean after you got done with Fisherman's Wharf)? For me, it's Yosemite, a part of the state I have visited only infrequently but which I think leaves an unforgettable impression. Also, I confess I wanted to get up there because of the historically dry weather we're having--so little snow so far that the Tioga Pass road, which rises to nearly 10,000 feet, is still open (more on that later).
As always happens with me and my trips, we were a little on the late side getting out the door on Tuesday. But we had plenty of light, and stopped frequently along the way to check out the sights and take pictures. We checked in to our little cabin just outside the park entrance, then headed for Yosemite Valley, a little more than 25 miles away (the reasonably priced lodging down there was all booked, and I didn't see springing for the Ahwahnee Hotel for one night). We got down to the valley floor just as the sun was crawling up the granite faces hanging above--notably El Capitan and in the distance, Half Dome. We parked near a bridge over the very serene-looking Merced River and snapped away as the sun faded and night came on. Then, finally feeling the cold (I was wearing shorts, of course), we went to dinner and headed back to our cabin.