Yosemite, Mist Trail, Nevada Falls

Gasp! I went to Yosemite and wasn’t blown away.

I’ve been asked by several people and have given nearly the same response. How was your trip to Yosemite? Did you love it?

Awkward pause…

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

Yosemite, Mist Trail, Nevada Falls

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

Yosemite, Mist Trail, Nevada Falls

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


12 thoughts on “Gasp! I went to Yosemite and wasn’t blown away.

  1. Gasp! I’m blown away by your detachment… you make your point well but the photos are awesome… Love the Muir quote!

      1. The photos are awesome, so for the viewer it’s hard to imagine that it’s not a place to be blown away. I was parodying your post title in an attempt at a joke. Look, here’s my smiley face 🙂

      2. I wasn’t trying to say that anyone or no one should feel the same way, more my mixture of emotions as I didn’t respond like others had said it might. I’ve had great suggestions by others to do a few specific hikes outsides the immediate Valley, which I do plan on doing. And now, a smiley face. 🙂

  2. Hey There! I actually love this post.
    In my experience many people are, as you say, “blown away,” when they see Yosemite, and the majority of those many visitors grapple with the annoyance of crowded trails, roads, and campgrounds. I have to say that the visitors I converse with can see beyond the circus that is (let’s say) Tunnel View on a Saturday in July. Tunnel View is one of the most iconic vistas in the world shall we say? It’s popularity is undeniable, even with the advent of social media.
    And ah yes, social media! What a controversial topic in the outdoor world. It is so fun to share the places we’ve been and the wonderful images we’ve captured, but does that take away from visitor’s who come after us? Does it change their perceptions, reactions, expectations, the list could go on and on…
    I live and work in Yosemite Valley. Part of my job is to find meaningful connections between nature and her visitors; 9 out of 10 times though, it isn’t necessarily a view that people remember, it is some overwhelming feeling that comes over them– if it’s observing a bear, it’s a 10/10–whether the feeling is anger at the traffic, or not getting a campsite, or elation after reaching the top of Half Dome (or actually being selected for a permit) visitors remember the feeling. For better or worse, your underwhelmed feeling is legitimate, because it is how you felt. Anyways, just thoughts on a page!

  3. When I read your response to Yosemite – “meh” – I feel, well, just, I feel very sorry for whatever reason all that Yosemite is cannot reach you.
    I “get” how the park’s popularity can have an impact on one’s experience of it. My husband is particularly impatient with the crowds.
    Nevertheless, Yosemite is a very particular place, with very particular beauty, in small precious ways, in its very grandeur is poetry and symphony.
    You intimate that Instagram has misrepresented it and now you find the actual experience less. I cannot conceive that a flat image has such an impact that the actual thing – the space, the texture, the light, the color, the smell, the sound of the actual Yosemite is seen as less.

    1. Hi MC, and thank you for taking the time to leave your thoughts. I hope you were able to read my entire post.

      I wouldn’t disagree that Yosemite is indeed “a very particular place, with very particular beauty, in small precious ways, in its very grandeur is poetry and symphony,” but I do mention that vast portions of the Sierra, places touched less by tourism, have a very similar quality; a thought you may have left unread or ignored.

      And, you state that Yosemite cannot reach me with a feeling of regret, which is more to say that Yosemite won’t reach me if I have to battle crowds to be reached by it.

      I don’t wish to be part of an overburdened place of wilderness when there are many others, just as beautiful, to enjoy and respect.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.