Joan Larsen’s Travel: A Landscape of Superlatives – A First Look at Yosemite

Posted on February 25, 2015


by Joan Larsen


Only a morning’s drive from San Francisco lies one of the world’s truly great wilderness areas – a place of plunging waterfalls, snow-capped lakes, stark stone cliffs of stunning beauty, and a natural cathedral of ancient Sequoia trees that are among the largest on Earth. Its name: Yosemite National Park, its beauty incomparable . . . and truly, this is a journey not to be missed in your lifetime.

I was still a child when I first saw this place. We drove upward . . . and then I was told to close my eyes. And then – then – the view in front of me could not truly be of this world. We were going to stay there, hike there, wade in the streams, try to climb the trails upward, reach out for the waterfalls that were dropping from the highest peaks.


Yosemite was a child’s dream. Over a lifetime, I have returned as often as I could. Yes, it was a child’s dream . . . but for those who have lived far longer, it was a place of rare beauty seldom equaled. “Make the world go away”, the plaintive song asks. Yosemite offers the answer.


A drive through the Park can feel like one old postcard shot after another. And today, for that first look, the park’s wonderful shuttle service on the park roads will allow you to later share your own incomparable pictures, pictures that will give others only a glimpse of a hidden place in our world.


Even though there is an array of accommodations in every price range in Yosemite (but be sure to reserve in advance), I have to say that I am in love with the iconic old (but luxury) park hotel – the Ahwahnee. If I splurge, I have found it worth it every single time. Built in the 1920s, the Ahwahnee – in its perfect architecture – and the seamlessly placed location close to the rocks, offers that touch of quiet perfection that pulls my world there together.


The summer can be beyond crowded and hot, but you will find the other parts of the year holding their own in delights. Do plan to take walks, hikes, and other choice opportunities to see Yosemite without others in sight. It is the only good way. Birds and animals – large and small – can provide surprises on the many trails. The marmot (below) happens to be my favorite, as he too relishes lounging in high places after outdoing himself climbing among the rocks at higher elevation. I too have climbed in my younger years. I know just how he feels!


I think I can speak for most of us when I say that in our troubled world of today we need to “escape”. Getting off the beaten path in California’s majestic Yosemite, I have found, will open the eyes to a world of superlatives rarely matched. You too will find that your spirit will be lifted by this natural world as I have found – time and time again.

You must go.


Yosemite is by far the grandest of all the special temples of Nature

that I was ever permitted to enter.

— John Muir




JoanAvatar2Writer Joan Larsen has spent a lifetime searching for the most remote places on Earth. But it is the polar regions of our world that she has been drawn back to again and again. She has done research in these lands of ice, and considers Antarctica to be her “other home.”