It all started with some good fortune when I went to pick up my rental car and was handed the keys to a bright red Ford Mustang! Driving from San Francisco, I crossed the bay on a long bridge and turned up the radio.
I should’ve thought ahead. This being the dry season, a huge forest fire had started growing outside the park and was spreading west and south along one of the entrances into the valley. Of course, that wouldn’t stop me.
From a distance, I could see the smoke rising on the horizon and a golden haze settling over Modesto and Merced. A local told me to drive with the windows up and let the car’s air filter take care of the rubbish. But it was sunny and I was driving a Mustang, so that wasn’t going to happen.
It smelled like a fire and looked like a fire. Birds seemed skittish. I drove faster toward the mountains and past brown, grassy fields filled with orchards.
Climbing and descending, the road twisted along the route, winding past mountain towns and local eateries.
And finally, I entered Yosemite.
Although a summer weekend and the National Park Service’s birthday—meaning free admission—the crowds weren’t bad.
Hiking was my priority, and so I began the trail to Vernal Falls. I guess my many runs paid off because I ascended quickly and passed many out-of-breath tourists with sweat stains and fanny packs. It took about an hour to reach the very top.
What a surreal experience. It was beautiful and peaceful. Everyone was partially clothed and laying on various rocks along the shore of an ice cold lake, spires of ancient rocks overhead. And so I joined—resting on my own rock with my eyes closed and the sounds of the Sierra Nevadas all around. Rocks changed color as the sun descended.
Item #14 is now complete. This one was fun.
I’ve included some more pictures below. Enjoy!