Park here for the summer

Green Haven

The tallest of all : The Yosemite Falls. Photo by Nalini MurlidharThis was the second time we were visiting the west coast of the US and were staying at Sunnyvale, in the Bay area. We decided that this time we must see Yosemite National Park. Despite trying a few months in advance, we could not get any hotel reservations in the park itself in summer.

So we opted for the next best thing which was to stay at Fresno, a small town about an hour’s drive from Yosemite.

Ideal picnic spot

We set out early the next day for Yosemite National Park. Spread over 1,200 square miles of forests, waterfalls and the giant Sierra Nevada mountain ranges, Yosemite is a nature lover’s dream.

Our first stop was at the swinging bridge which gave us a view of the Bridalveil Falls. On the stream below were holiday makers rowing boats and canoes while we sat on the picnic tables laid out on the shore to grab a quick bite.

And as we did so, we watched a blue woodpecker hopping by, its quaint little head bobbing up and down and its brilliant blue plumage looking beautiful as it caught the sun’s rays.

In fact, we later noticed that the blue woodpeckers were very much a part of the Yosemite landscape and could be spotted off and on as also the giant squirrels, scurrying around busily.

We moved on, driving through lush green forests of fir and maple. Our next stop was the famed Yosemite Falls, which consisted of the lower Yosemite Falls and the Higher Yosemite Falls. Cars could not be driven on the narrow path to the Lower Yosemite Falls.

We were required to park our car and take the shuttle bus which took us near the falls. A few metres walk and we were almost beneath the lower Yosemite falls, feeling the  spray of the water on our bodies.

We learnt from a board nearby that the Yosemite falls were the tallest in the US and fifth tallest in the world. The source of the falls were the melting snows of the Yosemite Creek. After watching the falls to our heart’s content and posing for photos like scores of others, we finally got back to the car and drove up to the other side of the Sierra range.

Here, at a strategically positioned viewpoint, we could see the Nevada and Vernal Falls at a distance, cascading over the grey granite of the mountain. In the distance we could see the Half Dome towering over the mountains at 8,842 ft. True to its name, the Half Dome was a giant mountain peak looking exactly like half of a dome.

We then drove to Glacier Point. It’s not really a freezing viewpoint as its name suggests, but the tip of a mountain range from where one could get a spectacular view of the whole of Yosemite National Park.

Largest tree on earth

As the sun set over the Sierra Nevada mountains, we made our way back to Fresno. After spending the night at a hotel there, we headed out to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. Located in the Southern Sierra Nevada ranges, this National park contains diverse aspects of nature — from deep canyons to giant trees and high peaks.

The park extends from a height of 1300 ft (418 m) to 14,491 ft (4,417 mts) at the summit of Mount Whitney.

We did not have much time on our hands, so we decided to see the most important parts of the Sequoia National Park. There we saw groves of sequoia trees and learnt they don’t die of old age and are resistant to fire and insect damage. These huge trees sprout from seeds as small and light as oat flakes.

Mature trees may produce 2,000 egg-sized cones in a year bearing 400,000 seeds dispersed only as cones open. Our first stop was the General Sherman tree, which is the largest tree on Earth as it has more wood in its trunk than any other tree in the world. The volume of the tree keeps increasing and grows wider every year, adding enough wood to equal another tree.

Its circumference is now 103 ft (31 mts) and volume is 52,500 cubic feet (1487 cubic mts). It is 2,200 years old and weighs 1385 tons (1256 metric tons).

Later, we drove through the park to see another interesting place — the Tunnel Log. This consisted of a giant sequoia tree fallen across a road. The tree had a massive tunnel through which cars could drive.

On our way back, we saw a sort of mini traffic jam in the National Park. Wondering what it was that could hold up cars in this secluded place we peeped out of the car window only to be surprised to see a bear walking nonchalantly in the distance.

As twilight began to cast its spell on the park and the sky began to turn a duller grey, we decided it was time for us to move, to head back to the city before night cast its dark shadow. Winding our way down the mountain ranges, we had a breathtaking view of green valleys and mountain sides, nature at its pristine best.  

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