Far from the crowd in Yosemite
There are places a visitor can go to escape the masses.
The twin peaks of Mt. Dana, left, and Mt. Gibbs are reflected in a small lake in Tuolumne Meadows. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
As an adult, I've found/ it is the memory of Yosemite in summer that draws me to her, like the savoring of a first love. For me — and, I suspect, for others, Yosemite meant freedom from school, from work, from the constraints of the city or the monotony of the country. It meant nature and animals and a moon so milky white that it seemed a dream. It meant family and fresh air and the time to pause and reflect on a state that sometimes seemed less than golden.
We love Yosemite and the memories it conjures, but maybe we love it a little too much.
Today, tour buses belch forth legions of passengers, and campsites are full. Sometimes as many as a half a million people tramp through the 1,189-square-mile park at summer's zenith. I've been here many times in the warm months, but it's not always easy to love the crowds that come with it. Maybe I just don't like sharing. As I've chronicled Yosemite in four seasons for The Times in the last year (this is the last installment; the others can be seen at latimes.com/yosemite), I've found that my sense of ownership is greater in other seasons when the park seems more like a one-on-one experience.
Nowadays, you need an escape plan for your escape plan, but it means forsaking Yosemite Valley. A drive up Highway 120, Tioga Road, offers a great change of perspective and gives the valley-weary traveler a chance to explore and hike in the high country.
At 8,600 feet, Tuolumne Meadows is about a two-hour drive from Yosemite Valley. The meadow is filled with beautiful vernal pools, wild flowers and hiking trails that lead to pristine lakes and crystal streams.
Glacier Point, too, offers a break from the crowds. The long, winding road to the point provides several great viewing spots, access to some easy day hikes and, perhaps more important, a vivid perspective. The air is clean and the scenery uncluttered.
Here, away from the crowds and the noise, you are that much closer to heaven.