Mountains

CALIFORNIA – YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK

“This is the California that men dreamed of years ago, this is the Pacific that Balboa looked at from the Peak of Darien, this is the face of the earth as the Creator intended it to look.”

– Henry Miller  Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch

Yosemite 001

Yosemite became the first wildland in the nation protected for all-time 150 years ago when President Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant Act, protecting the Valley and Mariposa grove. Later, in 1890, it became a national park. Over the last 150 years the park has played host to a number of dignitaries and celebrities – as well as about 4 million regular visitors a year.

Yosemite 002

“Yosemite Park is a place of rest, a refuge from the roar and dust and weary, nervous, wasting work of the lowlands, in which one gains the advantages of both solitude and society. Nowhere will you find more company of a soothing peace-be-still kind. Your animal fellow beings, so seldom regarded in civilization, and every rock-brow and mountain, stream, and lake, and every plant soon come to be regarded as brothers; even one learns to like the storms and clouds and tireless winds. This one noble park is big enough and rich enough for a whole life of study and aesthetic enjoyment. It is good for everybody, no matter how benumbed with care, encrusted with a mail of business habits like a tree with bark. None can escape its charms. Its natural beauty cleans and warms like a fire, and you will be willing to stay forever in one place like a tree.“

– John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir, (1938) page 350. Find more of his quotes, from The Sierra Club.

Yosemite 003

Over eons, rivers and glaciers somehow carved 3,000 feet into solid granite to create Yosemite Valley. The nuances of the Valley form spectacular rock formations, for which Yosemite Valley is famous.

Yosemite 004

“The making of gardens and parks goes on with civilization all over the world, and they increase both in size and number as their value is recognized. Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike. This natural beauty-hunger is made manifest in the little windowsill gardens of the poor, though perhaps only a geranium slip in a broken cup, as well as in the carefully tended rose and lily gardens of the rich, the thousands of spacious city parks and botanical gardens, and in our magnificent National Parks—the Yellowstone, Yosemite, Sequoia, etc.—Nature’s sublime wonderlands, the admiration and joy of the world. Nevertheless, like anything else worth while, from the very beginning, however well guarded, they have always been subject to attack by despoiling gain-seekers and mischief-makers of every degree from Satan to Senators, eagerly trying to make everything immediately and selfishly commercial, with schemes disguised in smug-smiling philanthropy, industriously, sham-piously crying, ‘Conservation, conservation,’ that man and beast may be fed and the dear Nation made great. Ever since the establishment of the Yosemite National Park, strife has been going on around its borders and I suppose this will go on as part of the universal battle between right and wrong, however much of its boundaries may be shorn, or its wild beauty destroyed.”

― John Muir, The Yosemite

Yosemite 005

“There can be nothing in the world more beautiful than the Yosemite, the groves of the giant sequoias and redwoods…and our people should see to it that they are preserved for their children and their children’s children forever, with their majestic beauty all unmarred. It was like lying in a great solemn cathedral, far vaster and more beautiful than any built by the hand of man.”

– President Theodore Roosevelt, 1905

Yosemite 006

“The mountains are calling and I must go.”

~ John Muir

Yosemite 007

The Gates of Yosemite scene where this fall stands opposite the mouth of Yosemite Valley to El Capitan is often what comes to mind when I think about Yosemite National Park. Ever since the landscape photographer Ansel Adams captured and immortalized the “Gates of Yosemite,” it was probably instrumental in making Bridalveil Fall one of the most photographed waterfalls in the park.

Prominent as you enter Yosemite Valley, it’s hard not to notice the beauty of Bridalveil Fall.  The native people of Yosemite Valley, the Ahwahneechee Indians, called the fall “Pohono” meaning “spirit of the puffing wind.”  Early Yosemite pioneers named it Bridalveil Fall because of the flow’s resemblance to a bride’s veil swaying in the wind.

Yosemite 008

“When I think of the overwhelming majesty of Yosemite National Park, I cannot help but agree with Carl Sharsmith, a longtime Yosemite ranger.  When a park visitor asked what Carl would do if he only had one day in Yosemite, Carl replied, “I’d go sit by the Merced River and cry!”  And he was right:  There may never be enough time to see all the grandeur of the Yosemite, in all its wonder.  But however much time you have to spend, Yosemite National Park is worth the trip.  It does not matter what season.  Every experience—taking a sunrise walk with a ranger, strolling through the rain on a chilly fall afternoon, picnicking along the Merced in the summer, being surprised by the mist coming off Bridalveil Fall, noticing deer or coyote across a field, or marvelling at wildflowers as they come to life after a spring shower—adds to the tapestry that is Yosemite.  Each experience is its own unique treasure.”

-From the Blog: “Learn More Everyday”

Yosemite 009

This is my personal favourite photograph of Bridalveil Fall. Inspired by the great Ansel Adams, I attempted to capture – within the limited time that I had to spend in Yosemite – a decent image of this spectacle. With a bit of luck, I found an angle that illuminated the rock face thereby exposing its raw texture and reflectivity. Notice the formation near the centre that appears like a human skull, or a mummified head.

“I went to Yosemite as an homage to Ansel Adams. I could never be Ansel Adams, but to know that’s there for us – there’s so much for us in this country.”

– Annie Leibovitz

“A lot of people think that when you have grand scenery, such as you have in Yosemite, that photography must be easy.”

Galen Rowell

Yosemite 011

Along with Half Dome, Yosemite Falls is the iconic symbol of the grandeur and beauty of Yosemite National Park. I think the falls are practically synonymous with the incomparable Yosemite Valley.Yosemite Falls is one of the tallest waterfalls in North America, with a total drop of 2,425 feet.

Yosemite 010

El Capitan is a favourite for experienced rock climbers. Rising more than 3,000 feet above the Valley floor, it is the largest monolith of granite in the world. El Capitan is opposite Bridalveil Fall.

Yosemite 013

Half Dome is perhaps the most recognized symbol of Yosemite. It is one of the most sought-after landmarks in Yosemite. Rising nearly 5,000 feet above Yosemite Valley and 8,800 feet above sea level, Half Dome is a Yosemite icon and a great challenge to many hikers. Despite an 1865 report declaring that it was “perfectly inaccessible, being probably the only one of the prominent points about the Yosemite which never has been, and never will be, trodden by human foot,” George Anderson reached the summit in 1875, in the process laying the predecessor to today’s cable route.

Yosemite 014

“It is by far the grandest of all the special temples of Nature I was ever permitted to enter.”

-John Muir

Yosemite 015

“Yosemite Valley, to me, is always a sunrise, a glitter of green and golden wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space.”

-Ansel Adams – Photographer

Yosemite 012

“Every time I come, I’m still amazed at the breadth California has. Big Sur, Yosemite, the desert… I love it.”

Theo James

ARIZONA – MOUNT LEMMON

The drive up Catalina Highway offers impressive views of the valley of Tucson, the surrounding mountains and the rock formations known as hoodoos. There are many vista points along the way that offer good stops to take photos.

Mount Lemmon 002

I have travelled all over the USA and visited most of the major National Parks, and I believe that there is no more dramatic drive than the 30 mile trip to the top of Mr Lemmon. There are pull-offs, trailheads and scenic overlooks all the way along the highway. I took an amazing number of beautiful photos – one breathtaking view after another. Because you climb nearly 7,000 feet in elevation, you go through several different and unique ecosystems.

Mount Lemmon 003

Going through this drive is like going from the border of Mexico to the border of Canada in one hour. You start going through the residential areas of Tucson, then go through the desert passing large saguaros. Slowly, as the elevation increases you’ll notice some trees. By the end of the drive you’ll be surrounded by dark green trees more reminicent of the Rockies and if it’s winter you’ll see snow. The road up Mt. Lemmon is long (about 25 miles) but well worth the drive. Along the way there are dozens of stops, each giving you a unique view at various elevations. The mountain itself is over 9000 ft. Near the top is the town of Summerhaven, which doesn’t really have too much, but is a nice break. If you want to hike to the top of the mountain (or ski – yes you could ski near Tuscon), turn right off the road near Summerhaven. Unless you’re visiting Summerhaven, you’ll need to pay a $5 entrance fee.

Mount Lemmon 004

The wonders of the desert foothills and rocky gorges of the Santa Catalina Mountains are marvellous and accessible.

Mount Lemmon 005

“The desert tells a different story every time one ventures on it.”

~Robert Edison Fulton, Jr.

Mount Lemmon 006

“A desert is a place without expectation.”

– Nadine Gordimer

Mount Lemmon 007

“I have always loved the desert. One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing. Yet through the silence something throbs, and gleams.”

~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Mount Lemmon 008

“Arizona looks like a battle on Mars.”

~Author Unknown

Mount Lemmon 009

“In the empire of desert, water is the king and shadow is the queen.” ~Mehmet Murat ildan

Mount Lemmon 011

“Once, it was so damned dry, the bushes followed the dogs around.”

~Nancy Dedera

View from Casita 2

New Zealand – Mount Cook

Mount Cook 4 copy

I’m from Canada, and New Zealand feels like you took all the best bits of Canada and squished them onto a tiny island like Hawaii. I was absolutely blown away by the beauty of the South Island.

Mount Cook 1 copy

Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is home of the highest mountains and the longest glaciers. It is alpine in the purest sense – with skyscraping peaks, glaciers and permanent snow fields, all set under a star-studded sky.

Mount Cook 2 copy

Mountaineers regard the area to be the best climbing region in Australasia, while less skilled adventurers find plenty of satisfaction with the mountain walks that lead to alpine tarns, herb fields and spectacular glacier views.

Mount Cook 3 copy

Mount Cook 5 copy

Lake Tekapo is the second-largest of three roughly parallel lakes running north–south along the northern edge of the Mackenzie Basin in the South Island of New Zealand. We got our first distant glimpse of Mount Cook from across Tekapo.
Mount Cook 10 copy

Aoraki Bound!

The scenic drive from Lake Tekapo to Lake Pukaki follows State Highway 8 through the heart of the Mackenzie Basin. There is much to see along this stretch of road including several mountain ranges, Lake Tekapo in Tekapo, and Lake Pukaki and Mount Cook once you reach Lake Pukaki. And you’ll see lupins alongside the road if you do this scenic drive in late spring or early summer.

South Island 1 copy

Mount Cook 11 copy

Lake Pukaki is a glacial lake that has become famous for its milky-blue colour and as the foreground to Mount Cook. I can promise you that Lake Pukaki looks much more impressive when you see it in person than it does in any photograph or video. You have to catch the lake on a sunny day, though, to get to see its mesmerizing blue colour.

Mount Cook 9 copy

Aoraki / Mount Cook is the highest mountain in New Zealand. Its height since 2014 is listed as 3724m, having earlier been measured at 3754m . It lies in the Southern Alps, the mountain range which runs the length of the South Island.
Mount Cook 6 copy

Aoraki/Mount Cook’s mile-long summit crest towers over 8,000 feet above a vast network of glacier-filled valleys, and three main peaks rise from the crest. Its isolated location near the west coast makes it vulnerable for sudden storms, which are often long and severe. Violent weather, crevasses, and avalanches have all taken lives on the mountain.

There have been more than 230 fatalities in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park recorded since then, including 78 from climbing Aoraki, a long, blocky mountain at more than 3700 metres tall, with three peaks. Hypothermia, avalanches, lightning, rockfalls, heart attacks and plane crashes are all listed as contributing to the tally. Now that sounds like fun!