At risk of sounding un-American, I did not love Yosemite National Park.
Don’t get me wrong. The place is beautiful, and it’s undoubtedly a geological phenomenon. Glaciers moved and scraped and melted and molded a landscape incredible to behold. The peaks and valleys and canyons and fissures are breathtaking. The natural beauty of the place is undeniable. It’s the people that turned me off of it.
It’s 4th of July week. I know this. With the holiday falling on a Wednesday, the days leading up to it and the days following it were bound to be busy (allegedly, this particular holiday brings record crowds to the parks). But really, I had no idea what that would entail. And for me, as I seek reprieve from noise and crowds, it felt like calamity. I felt crowded and stressed and not the least bit connected with the sense of peace I usually glean from nature. There were people everywhere, and the “valley” of the park was teeming with cars and trucks and buses and RVs and motorcycles rushing to get from place to place, whilst everyone seemed stuck in a cycle of hurrying up and waiting. It’s like all the tens of thousands of people in the place were rushing from one photo opportunity to the next without much genuine regard at all for relishing nature.
All the time I was driving, I was taking my time, taking in the sites, and taking care not to fall over the edge of cliffs at the side of the road (!), and folks were driving right up behind me like I wasn’t going fast enough. I pulled over often to let them rush by and wondered where they were going in such a hurry and if they were enjoying themselves. I also considered the 15 Yosemite bears killed each year by speeding cars. Here we come, plowing through the wilderness, doing parks like we do the rest of our lives – in a hurry.
Folks are welcome to “take in the parks” however they wish (though I do think they could do less aggressive driving, more quiet talking, and much, much less littering…), but I don’t like to take mine in a rush or a crowd. So, for now I will bid farewell to Yosemite much sooner than I had anticipated. I’m eager to get to some place more crowded with bears than humans. As it turns out, I think I might actually like the bears’ pace and temperament better.
(The picture is of a winding creek I came upon with very few onlookers. For some time, I sat alongside the creek reading, soaking in the sound of the water and the sounds of the birds. It was the most glorious couple hours of my visit, to be sure. And I imagine this was as close as I got to experiencing the Yosemite John Muir described.)