What Does Your Mother Think?

May 23, 2013

My ride into eastern California was via interstate 15, the first interstate I took on this trip. Past Bakersfield I hopped on route 99, a smaller route, but still heavily traveled. It wasn’t until I reached the smaller route 198 into Sequoia National Park – a beautiful, winding, twisting, scenic road into the mountains – that the traffic subsided. I passed through miles of citrus groves and even some large oil fields. This is a rich land! Undoubtedly it took a lot of water to make it this way. No doubt the irrigation is diverted from the Colorado river. This is the type of landscape I passed through before I settled down into the valley between Bakersfield and the Sierra Nevada’s. Is this why they call California the Golden State?

The Golden State

I have to hand it to the National Park Service. The roads through the national parks – Mesa Verde, Grand Canyon, Zion, Sequoia, Yosemite – are cut along ridges and mountain ledges to maximize views of some of the most beautiful vistas anywhere, bar none. Motorcyclists take note, these routes are particularly fun (and challenging) with their uncountable hairpin turns and plentiful turnouts to stop for sweeping views across canyons, mountain tops and carved valleys: route 64 leading in and out of the Grand Canyon; route 9 through Zion National Park; route 198 through Sequoia National Park (outstanding!); routes 41, 140 and 120 through Yosemite. Add routes 88 and 89 from today’s journey riding into Tahoe. Motorcyclists abound on these roads. All of these roads rival any I’ve driven in Europe.  If you’re coming this way on two wheels or four (or more), don’t miss these parks. Ride these roads.

Two glorious days are what I spent in Yosemite after  three spectacular days in Sequoia that I thought would be hard to beat. The Yosemite Valley has been called The Grand Cathedral. It is no exaggeration. The granite rock faces that rise out of the valley started to form millions of years ago underground when molten magma hardened. The magma crystallized, was pushed up by the movement of tectonic plates, and with the additional force of erosion Yosemite was formed into a feast for the eyes. Here’s my first view of the distant valley coming in on route 41 from the west.

Yosemite Valley from 41

For the average tourist like myself, Yosemite is about the vistas, the views, the rock, and the exceptional melding of them all to create one of the most outrageously gorgeous landscapes anywhere (in my humble opinion). For rock climbers it’s about walls like Half Dome and El Capitan, just to mention two of the most famous rock faces. In the picture above you can see Half Dome in the distance; El Capitan (El Cap) is the rock face in the far left foreground.  Before I bring you to our feature story 😉 for this post, here are some more pictures from around Yosemite. In the last few I’ll zoom in on El Capitan, where you’ll get to meet three young climbers I spoke to in the shadow of El Cap – Jared Guglielmo, William Butierez and Andrew Rice.

This view of Yosemite Valley was made famous by Ansel Adams. This is Steve Tavella’s imitation.

Photo May 21, 5 10 25 (1)

Here’s a color shot of it. Bridalveil Fall is the waterfall you see plummeting from the rock face just right of center.

Ansel Adams Color?

Into Yosemite Valley. Half Dome in the background.

Yosemite Valley

A view from Mirror Lake.

Mirror Lake

Yosemite Valley

Yosemite Valley

I woke up early on my second day in the park so I could get a sunrise picture of the valley. I got there a little late. This is the result.

Sunrise over the Valley

I wandered into this grassy meadow after I photographed the valley. I modified the photo to contribute to the mystical feel I sensed while walking there. I call this Mystic’s Meadow.

Mystic's Meadow

Yosemite Fall from the distance. See the lower fall at the bottom left of the picture. Water in the valley is fed primarily from snow melt.

Yosemite Fall

Let’s get a little closer.

Yosemite Fall

And how about a little closer.

Yosemite Fall

At the end of my second day in the park I wanted to get some late afternoon shots of the valley. One of my stops was at the base of El Capitan. This is a storied rock face. It’s hard to get a sense of the scale of this piece of granite, but hopefully the next few pictures will help lend a perspective.

El Cap!

I was shooting pictures when I met these three guys standing in the field. They were gazing up at the wall with a sense of purpose, as though they were studying it. I walked over to them and asked if anyone was up there climbing.

Jared, William and Andrew

They pointed up to two spots: one a “roof” about a third to a quarter of the way down from the top of the wall, and the other an inverted “C” just above the tree line on the shaded side of the wall (right side of the sunlit wall). Look to see if you can see these features in this photo.

Roof and C

Jared, William and Andrew were pointing out two spots where climbers were currently scaling the wall. I ran to my motorcycle and grabbed my 300 mm zoom lens. Let me zoom in a little closer for you. Do you see the inverted “C” at the bottom of the frame? How about the roof at the top right side of the frame?

Zoom to see all climbers

Now let’s zoom in as close as my 300 mm lens will take us on both points. First, the roof: See the lead climber under the roof on the crack where shadow meets light?  See the other climbers just above the broad horizontal band at the bottom of the frame?

Climbers at the Roof

Here are the two guys at the inverted “C” toward the bottom of the wall. They appear to be pulling up their gear.  Now look back up at the original photo showing the entire rock face. That’s a huge wall!

Inverted C

Here’s a video from You Tube showing Hans Florine and Alex Honnold scaling El Cap freestyle. They hold the record for the fastest ascent – under 2 1/2 hours!  William, Jared and Andrew told me it takes, on average, about 4-5 days for skilled climbers to get up El Cap. You’ve got to watch this video. Click on the link, below.

Hans Florine and Alex Honnold on You Tube scaling El Cap

I spoke with Jared, William and Andrew about their climbing background, how they got involved in it and their aspirations. It’s a real treat to listen to these young men talk about their dreams. I say follow your dream, man!  Follow your dream!  But I still had to ask them, “What does your Mother think?!?!?!”

Jared, William and Andrew

William just started a blog that follows his climbing adventures. You can find it here. It’s a good read with up-close pictures of these guys climbing. They’re for real!  These dudes don’t mess around!

“Hey Mommy, I know where your son is!”

Jared, William and Andrew


Sun on Trees

All content Copyrighted ©  Stephen Tavella

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