Kyle Kotajarvi

Day 10: Yosemite National Park

I woke up at 6:30 to my alarm blaring and said to myself that there’s no way I’m waking up until at least another hour of sleep.  I was so exhausted.  Finally at about 7:30 I forced myself to get up.  Dustin was already dressed and almost ready to leave, so I began to pack my stuff.  After taking a  shower and waking up a bit, we had a nice pancake breakfast with our host family before parting ways. 

We headed out of Soulsbyville down Highway 108 towards Highway 120.  It was pretty neat to see the scenery around the area that we stayed.  Since we had come in so late at night I hadn’t notice how dramatic the hills were around us.  We stopped at a very unfortunate looking, small-town gas station to fill up and get some snacks before we headed out. 

After that, we hit Highway 120 towards Yosemite.  The drive out there was gorgeous.  Highway 120 led us through switchbacks the majority of the way through the foothills and we couldn’t help but pull off the road a few times to take photos.  The weather was gorgeous.  There wasn’t a cloud in the sky that day and the sun was shining so beautifully through the rolling landscape.  One thing I really love about California is the layers you get with the landscape.  Everything feels like a painting.  

We passed through a handful of mining towns on the trip out, which was pretty neat.  We stopped in Big Oak Flat to get coffee at one point.  Anyways, as we began to climb higher and higher in elevation we saw snow for the first time.  At one point, for about a mile, it looked like the amount of snow could become a problem, but it dissipated really quickly.  We arrived at the gates to the park at about 10:30.  So the drive only took us about two hours.  

We entered the park and were immediately struck by how gorgeous EVERYTHING was.  We weren’t two miles into the park before we stopped for the first time.  We pulled off on the side of the road and looked over a tree covered valley for about 15 minutes.  We hardly even took photos.  We just admired it.  It was beautiful.  We began to drive deeper into the park and made it to a beautiful pull off near the top of a mountain and pulled off for twenty minutes or so. The terrain up there was so rocky and orange.  We looked out over a valley of burned trees and wilderness and just simply couldn’t render that we were in Yosemite.  We took some photos and continued into the valley. 

I just remember the excitement was building and building in me to see El Capitan and Half-Dome.  We came around a corner and there it was.  It was incredible.  We pulled over into a small parking area and just sat in the car in awe for awhile. . I took some photos from the overlook before I decided that I needed to get a different perspective than the one that everyone else was seeing.  I found Dustin and asked him if he wanted to climb the hill above the road with me and he agreed, so we set off up the hill.  About halfway up, Dustin hurriedly got my attention and pointed out that there were three deer not 20 yards away from us.  They just stared at us as we starred back.  It was a very nomadic experience. They began walking away from us, but not before I took a ton of pictures of them framed between two trees with the valley in the background.  Dustin and I continued uphill towards a spot that I thought the view would be better.  The view was alright, but we did find some giant pinecones.

We got back to the car and began driving towards the valley.  We reached the valley and it was just absolutely amazing.  Our first stop was at the foot of El Capitan.  We hiked towards a creek that had some massive boulders in it and grabbed some photos before moving on.    

This boulder was likely created through an ice erosion process known as "plucking" and spheroidal weathering. Plucking is a process of glacial erosion which involves the penetration of ice into subglacial crevices; as the glacier moves, it plucks off pieces of jointed rock.  Once the glacier has melted, the bedrock is subject the spheroidal weathering, which is a chemical process when the concentric layers of the rock peel off, much like an onion would.  Also, you wouldn't define this as just a boulder, but rather, a glacial erratic. In geology, an erratic is defined as material moved by geologic forces from one location to another.

So yeah, thanks earth for setting up this picture for me. And yes, that's a nice glacial erratic.

Our experience at Yosemite was very rushed and sporadic.  We spent our entire time in the valley and made tons of mini pit-stops.  Most of the pit stops were these 30 minute solo excursions around the park.  Here are some of my favorite little moments from around the park.  

Today was short and sweet.  Unfortunately, we didn't have a lot of time in the park, and the light didn't cooperate for most of the day.  The harsh light mixed with light-colored bedrock left a lot to be desired.  I would really like to go back to Yosemite and spend some time outside of the Valley.  While the Valley is incredibly gorgeous, it was just too populated for my liking. 

We left the park around 4pm, as the sun began to go down (winter feels).  As we made our way to Los Angeles we stopped along this beautiful road to take some photos of the night sky.  Between 30 second exposures I thought about how beautiful today was.  Though I didn't take many pictures, I really did appreciate the place that I had visited.