Every year I visit my family in California in late March, and every year we try to find something new to see or do. This year, we decided to see Yosemite National Park. In a lifetime of visiting California, I somehow never managed to make it there. I’ve flown over it several times, but it’s hard to see much detail from 30,000 feet.

My mother and I drove eastwards from the Bay Area, passing whole hill-sides of windmills:

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The valley grew steeper and rockier, eventually coming right up to and sometimes even over the road:

Finally we came across a large cliff face and a rocky bend in the river, with small waterfalls in the distance.

As with every other first-timer, we pulled over and took a lot of pictures, not knowing what was waiting just a few miles ahead.

We drove through a small forested area and then out into open pastures – and I realized what the big deal was with Yosemite. I’ve seen my share of impressive scenery, but this was jaw-dropping:

We got to the hotel just as the sun was going down. We were staying at the Awhahnee Hotel – the only hotel that’s actually in the park, and one has to pay a big premium for the privilege of the location. The place made me a little uneasy for some reason, and it wasn’t just that I’m not used to staying in such expensive lodgings. Then I saw the elevator:

While the original story of The Shining was based on a hotel in Colorado, and the exteriors for the movie were shot at the Timberline Lodge in Oregon, the set designs were heavily based on the Ahwahnee – including that elevator.

Needless to say, I was always a little nervous whenever I pressed the “Up” button. However, only the right door opens, it’s a bit smaller than in the movie, and it’s actually quite pleasant inside:

The next morning, I realized why the hotel cost so much. This is the view you get from your bedroom window:

Because I really like reviewing my travels on my computer and phone and iPad, and even more so because my GPS pictures can automatically make a daily map in Remembary, I tend to take a lot of pictures whenever I’m visiting a new place. I realized that this was going to be a big few days for pictures. I started early, setting up my little travel tripod:

After I actually got dressed and had breakfast, we drove through the Valley, stopping at various interesting spots to go for short hikes – or just to gawk at the scenery.

Yosemite is a long twisty valley, with cliffs that rise straight from the flat valley floor. It was carved out by glaciers, and reminded me a bit ofNewfoundland’s Western Brook Pond – but taller.

We got very lucky with the weather: the forecast had been for thunderstorms and rain, but those only happened at night while the days were sunny and bright. The sunlight evaporated the moisture on the rocks and trees, causing mist to rise out of the forests and over the cliffs – making the scenery even more dramatic, and giving everything a great sense of depth.

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We stopped at one point at the base of El Capitan, and I walked out to a meadow to get a better look. I didn’t get many good pictures of El Capitan, because I saw this in the other direction:

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