Beauty as well as bread

I’m reminded of what Bill Bryson said of Yosemite in the Lost Continent (from memory): “When you arrive in Yosemite, your first thought is that you have died and gone to heaven. Your second thought is, that means you are going to spend eternity with a lot of fat Americans in Bermuda shorts.” But don’t despair - this is only true in the height of summer. When I was there at least the FAIBS contingent was far less in evidence, and indeed even when they are thronging the flat paths in the valley floor and packing out the shuttle buses, move more than 200m from a bus stop and they are already thin on the ground (nice that they can be thin somewhere). Climb more than 50m above the valley floor and they are nowhere to be seen.

It is the most improbable of landscapes, the most beautiful of places (wasn’t that the name of the pyramid complex of Unas?). No photographs can adequately capture the massive scale of the cliffs and falls - unless you could blow you photos up to 300m high. And even then they would still be small reproductions of the real thing.

I’m told that the average length of stay for a visitor to Yosemite is three hours. Which means that the vast majority stay for less than that - I was there for 86 hours. What can you see in such a short time? You can stare in awe at the cliffs and walk to the base of Yosemite Falls - then back to the car or the tour bus. Or you can follow the advice a Ranger offered to one such visitor, and just sit and weep. Three days, three months, three years would hardly be sufficient to explore the beauty of Yosemite. We all have so little time here it is too tempting to rush from one experience to another, just checking off the various famous sites from the list, eyes down, focused on the trail and forgetting to look around. But it is not a race. Perhaps the best part of being in Yosemite is when you just sit down and soak up the sights, the sounds, the peace and the beauty, trying to fix it in your mind forever.

[The title of this post is a quote from John Muir]

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