24 Hours in Yosemite by Matt Quinn on Exposure
Last November, as the world around me was starting to freeze, my wife, two children and I headed west to the sunny California coast. I hadn’t been out to visit my brother and his family for years and with American Thanksgiving coming up, we thought it was an ideal time to go. While there we also wanted to get out and witness some of the amazing natural beauty around the bay area. Not being all that familiar with the local geography, I hadn’t made the connection that Yosemite National Park was only a few hours away by car. I’ve wanted to visit Yosemite since as long as I can remember and to finally have the chance was something I had to make happen. Considering we didn’t have a lot of days to spare on our trip, the journey to Yosemite was going to have to happen in one day. With the 3+ hour drive each way, was a day trip even going to be worth it? There was only one way to find out. We awoke around 4:30am the day of our trip. We packed as little as possible, some food, books and toys for the kids. We filled up my brother’s Siena and we were ready to roll. The kids were still asleep and we got them into the van without waking them up; it was a good omen. We hit the road just before 6:00am and it was still pitch black. Google maps said the journey was going to be 3 hours and 34 minutes. I had my fingers crossed that the kids would sleep most of the way and perhaps we might make it there in under 4 hours, given the coffee and bathroom breaks. We headed east through the yellow hills of the California country side. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the sun was just about to peek over the horizon. The day was turning out to be absolutely stunning and our excitement grew as we wheeled onward. Driving through mid-land California was a different perspective on the state I had only known for its coastline. It was incredibly flat, dry and full of farm fields, fruit trees, pickup trucks and rodeos. Not what you would typically picture when thinking about California. It was nice to see the other side. After about two and a half hours we hit the Sierra Nevadas and our route to Yosemite took us up some insane roadways that appeared to be dug out from the side of mountains. We climbed upward about 5000 ft. After a short while we entered the Stanislaus National Forest. As we got closer to Yosemite we noticed the base of most trees were scorched black from fire. Everything had scars and some areas had been completely wiped out. After some Googling we learned that there was a massive wildfire here in 2013 and was in fact the largest fire on record for the Sierra Nevadas. It was clear to the eye how much damage it had caused. Large swaths of land completely burnt to the ground. It was called the ‘Rim Fire’ because of its vicinity to the ‘Rim of the World’ lookout point. The landscape was still beautiful, just perhaps not as it once was the previous years. After reading about the fire we came up on the lookout and we had to stop and take in the view. It was immediately apparent why it was called ‘Rim of the World.’