I’ve been asked by several people and have given nearly the same response. How was your trip to Yosemite? Did you love it?
Not really, I’d respond in slight embarrassment, No, one of California’s most iconic landscapes didn’t inspire me all that much.
In truth, it’s a hard answer to stomach. It’s a funny feeling, leaving a place so ubiquitous and struggling to to process a mixture of aloofness and appreciation. I’ve seen possibly hundreds of images of Yosemite. We studied it in photography classes, I’ve seen original Ansel Adams prints in real life, and to the point, perhaps that and the digital age is what’s driving my indifferent viewpoint. Don’t get me wrong, I thought it was damn gorgeous, so let me explain…
I’d never had much interest in seeing it anyways
One thing you hear over and over again before visiting The Valley is, 1. How epic everything is, and 2. How many people will be there.
I tried to go in the off-season, that is being a very well weathered weekend in November. I was expecting crowds and perhaps they were less than I’d even imagined, BUT crowds are not why I go into the wilderness. I don’t want a Disneyland on the trail, wherein people coming and going are stacked next to one another in nature. This alone made it extremely difficult to appreciate. Distracting tourists menaced every moment of peace that the trees, water, and mountain offer.
And, I have the feeling that for the majority of those tourists, Yosemite is distilled into a single, fleeting snapshot, rather than the heavy weight on a heart it should offer.
I’d rather go into the outdoors where most people aren’t. One can argue that I’m part of the problem, part of the endless hum of crowds flowing through Yosemite’s valley. Another could very validly say that I’ve seen likely 1% of the true spectacle being on one trail, and they’d be entirely right. I didn’t have time for that this weekend, so perhaps another day and onto my next point.
The views WERE epic, but…
I feel extremely privileged in this regard, so don’t mistake my waxing for hipster-borne whining: I have seen bits and pieces of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in my travels and feel all of it is incredibly beautiful, hence my hard-hearted approach at Yosemite’s splendor.
Of course, you will not see such a cerebral display of landscape elsewhere in the mountain range; a combination of sheer scaling granite sides, rising straight into the abyssal sky, feathering water falls seemingly out of nowhere. But, the Sierras offer so much more.
If Yosemite is a summary, then take the unabridged version. Picking a dot on a map of her spine and you’d likely go and come back with greater stories and adventures. I’m continually surprise by each backpacking trip I take and upon my return think, This was here? I had no idea. I am small and meager, but these mountains make me feel all the feels.
Perhaps social media has taken away some magic
One should avoid cliches and this part gets sticky. How likely is it you’ve seen some ridiculous view of Yosemite on Instagram? How likely is it you’ve seen image after image of a similar view? I won’t discredit what social media has done for the outdoors and the great messages is its spread, though it was reduced some themes to sullen cliches, through tired repetition. I am likely guilty of the same doctrine.
All I will say on this is – What does it do, when you’ve seen it many times over again, then you see the thing itself in person? For me, the luster was a little dull, the surprise, a little morose.
So there, that’s my take. I’m not arguing against the whole thing, just offering my bittersweet viewpoint on the subject. Yosemite, to those that haven’t been, should be a vestige of the ongoing need to be inspired and learn more. And, having mentioned cliche earlier, I might as well end with another, the main theme that drives my life, the precipice of diving inward.
“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” – Muir