By now you’re probably well aware of Parker Flatly’s obsession with America’s National Parks. One of the very first National Parks that he ever parked himself in was this incredibly beautiful place nearly 1,900 miles from his home in Minnesota. Take in the pictures and follow the clues to see if the info can help you reveal this special spot.
Since the park was such a long way from home, Parker started his trip by boarding an airplane. The 3-hour flight passed directly over the Rocky Mountains and continued all the way to the coast. The ocean (actually, a very recognizable Bay) would be the starting point of this journey.
After viewing the city’s most well-known tourist attraction from a private spot called China Beach, Parker needed to secure some transportation for the rest of the week. Since cable cars weren’t set up to take him the full 195 miles to the park entrance, he rented a car instead.
The drive to the Sierra Nevada mountain range took about 4 hours. (Maybe a bit longer, after that quick stop at the Route 99 winery along the way.) By the time the Jeep had reached the approximately 4,000-foot elevation of the Arch Rock Entrance on the western edge of the park it was beginning to snow. At this point 4-wheel drive or tire chains were required or the park rangers would be turning patrons away at the gate. Fortunately, we heeded the warning of the rental car associate and upgraded to a 4-wheel drive Jeep back in the big city. (Read a full account of the trip here.)
Once inside the gate the views just kept on coming. Rain had preceded the snow, so the waterfalls were flowing strongly. The namesake of the park was one of the first that we stopped and gawked at. Believe me, 2,425 feet looks awfully impressive when you are standing at the bottom and looking up. And it should. That’s almost a half mile drop. At that height it is the second highest waterfall in the United States. You’d have to travel to Hawaii to find one higher.
If it’s impressive mountains that you’re looking for, this park contains a couple of the most well-known rock formations in the country. In fact, El Capitan was featured in the movie, Free Solo, a documentary on Alex Honnold’s journey toward his rope-free climb of this intimidating mountain. But “the Captain” doesn’t stand alone. With its smoothly rounded sides and vertical face, Half Dome is also an easily recognizable, very popular chunk of granodiorite that is sure to catch the eye.
One of the most popular overlooks in the park is Tunnel View, just off of Wawona Road. This particular spot has been deemed the most photographed spot in the world. From this location the eye can take in a majestic panoramic view encompassing a valley of trees, El Capitan, Half Dome, Sentinal Rock, Cathedral Rocks and Bridalveil Fall.
If you continue through the Wawona Tunnel you can drive to Glacier Point Road, which Parker was told provides a spectacular overlook of Mirror Lake, a couple of more waterfalls (Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall,) plus the valley and the iconic mountain ranges. Further south you can get to Mariposa Grove containing some giant sequoia trees. Unfortunately, a foot of snow on the other side of the tunnel prevented us from exploring these other sights.
After all that exploring, you’re going to need a good spot to rest your weary head. Even though we didn’t get a lodging spot at the historic Ahwahnee hotel, conveniently located in the main village of the park, we were able to stay in the nearby town of El Portal, around 10 miles outside the gate. The El Portal building may have lacked the ambience, elegant restaurant, multiple parlors, iconic views and amazing location near the visitor’s center and Ansel Adams Photo Gallery that are standard at the landmark Ahwahnee hotel, but it still had a great mountain view.
Created in 1890, this place became the third national park of the United States of America. Environmental trailblazer John Muir was one of the biggest advocates of this special piece of wilderness. The national park congressional action was signed by President Benjamin Harrison, but President Abraham Lincoln had paved the way by signing a protective land grant for the valley and the Mariposa sequoia grove in 1864. Thanks to these actions, the current park contains almost 750,000 acres (nearly 1,200 square miles) of protected land.
More than 400 species of vertebrates including fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals inhabit the park. There are also a wide variety of wildflowers, trees and plants throughout the park. Black bears and bighorn sheep are among the favorite mammals found under the towering trees. And of course the abundance of waterfalls …
Have you figured out where Parker was parked yet? Just because our current president can’t pronounce the name of this incredible place doesn’t mean it “Mite” be hard to say. You don’t even have to be “smarter than the average bear” to get it right. In fact, it’s pretty simple. Parker immersed himself in the beauty of Yosemite (pronounced Yo-Sem-It-Tee) National Park. And even though he’s been to a bunch of places with similar National distinctions since that trip, this still stands as his all-time favorite so far.
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