California is full of extremes, from the dramatic waves of the Pacific ocean, to the High Sierra Mountains, from the mists and fruitfulness of the north, to the desert sun of the south, there is much variety, but what it all shares is a natural beauty, which is perfect for the casual traveller to explore.
Leaving the gently quaking ground of San Francisco behind, we head over the Oakland Bridge and head West towards Yosemite National Park. As we leave the greater city behind, we drive out past rough roadside shacks selling fruit and vegetables, poor neighbourhoods, and dusty fields stretch on, filled with row upon row of citrus trees, giving this region a distinctly backwater feel. This is clearly not a region frequented by tourists. It is an area that is passed through, and passed over. Here, there is little evidence on show of the excess and largesse of much of the rest of the State. Many signs are in Spanish, reflecting the fact that the Hispanic population is huge here, and rapidly expanding as time goes on. It is interesting, after all the artificiality of much of the California Coast, to see how everyday life is for many of the inhabitants of this diverse state.
As we drive the fruit fields gradually give way to grasslands. They are pale gold and brown, burnished by the sun. Everything is dry – very dry, too dry. The summer has been a long one, and the Fall has been unseasonably hot. There is drought throughout the area. We pass the old mining towns and imagine how different they were during the California Gold Rush in the middle of the 19th Century. There certainly does not seem to be much wealth here now, if there ever was.
Things improve as we begin to climb into the foothills, gradually rising up as we make our way into the Yosemite National Park. We climb up a road that becomes more thickly forested the higher we ascend. A viewpoint gives us our first, breathtaking view of Yosemite Valley, the famous images of the Half Dome and other peaks standing in the distance, almost like megaliths from another world.
We descend through the redwood forest, winding down into the Valley bottom, glimpsing the Half Dome and El Capitan and the Sentinel between the trees, and hearing the thundering of distant waterfalls. The natural walls and spires and battlements loom up around us as we drive along near the Merced River.
We find our camp site and pitch up, as the Half Dome is illuminated by a streak of golden, late afternoon sunshine between the fleeing clouds. The Valley feels safe, and solid, the rocky promontories standing guard over the peaceful tree-filled camp ground. We walk between some trees beside the pitch and walk to the river’s bank. On the other side, an elk mother and her children take a drink. Birds sweep high above us, as the river burbles over the stony bed.
We could stay here for a long, long while, in this almost unbelievable natural beauty. But the next morning, we move on, continuing on our Californian adventure.
Content Courtesy- www.traveleze.co.uk