"So, what's going to be so great about this place? It can't be any better than Glacier." My brother whines. He is going through his "teenage" phase, a time where nearly everything that comes out of his mouth is inconsiderate and whiny. My father snorts in disbelief.
"You'll see," says my mother. "It's pretty breathtaking."
My brother simply rolls his eyes, tired and cranky from the grueling five-day drive to the park. I, on the other hand, keep my eyes wide open and my index finger on my camera's shutter button, not wanting to miss the valley when we see it.
â–º quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
Those who have been to Yosemite can understand just how silly I feel when our beat-up dually truck rolls out of the tunnel that hides the valley from the road. The valley is immense, and I nearly drop my camera, I am so struck by its raw beauty. There is absolutely no way that you could miss a shot here. Even my brother, in the throes of his teenage angst, sits up and stares in awe. Just outside of the tunnel's exit, there is a parking lot where one can shoot as many pictures of the legendary valley as one desires. There are many tourists here already, even though it's early, and they are all scrambling for their own preserved digital memories.
The valley yawns. It opens itself to you, and you feel like you have entered the true valley of the giants. Our first stop is Bridalveil Falls. It is a short walk (a half mile round-trip), and easy at that. I don't expect to see much, because (as I have learned) the easy walks are never as satisfying as the painful ones. Still, as I leave the sunny parking lot and enter the shadow of the sheer rock face, I find myself grinning uncontrollably. Bridal falls is massive, thundering down with enough force to power a hundred thousand homes, but still lives up to its name, looking like a delicate silk veil. To my delight, I find that water not only spills down its destined creek bed, but also around my ratty tennis shoes on the pavement that is supposed to keep us dry.
"That's the fullest I've ever seen those falls," my father says later, after we have gotten our pictures. We continue to explore the park as quickly as we can, because we only have a precious twelve hours there. We drive the loops around the valley, take the easy hike to Lower Yosemite Fall (one mile round trip), crane our necks to see Half Dome, and use our binoculars to ogle the brave fools who dare to climb the walls of the canyon, and the face of El Capitan.
Finally, it is nearing the end of the day, and we take a last hike to Sentinel Dome. Again, the hike is easy, but at eight thousand feet, the altitude begins to affect you. Still, the view is the most fantastic thing I have ever seen. A complete panorama of the valley tears your breath from your body, and you begin to understand just how insignificant you really are. I stand on an ancient stone dome that could very easily be the bald head of a sleeping giant, staring out at a marvel that has been here for thousands of years, before we even dreamed that there could be such beauty. I turn, then raise my camera and press the shutter button in a futile attempt to capture a vision of a pure, untainted world.
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