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Vacation Journal Days 2 & 3 – Nature’s Canvas: The breathtaking experience of seeing evidence of the Earth’s processes

The amazing view from Yosemite’s Glacier Point: Half Dome

I admit it.  I love geology.  So much that I’ve been known to pull over on the highway just to take a picture of an unusual rock formation or vibrant striations in the the roadsides that have been cut through mountains.  These things are constant reminders to me that the earth is a living, breathing, growing, heaving, and moving planet and that I am only privileged to exist on its surface.  Because of this, traveling to a national park like Yosemite in California is truly an awe-inspiring event for me.

In Yosemite there are two big “star attractions.”  One is the amazing Half-Dome (pictured above); and the other is El Capitan.

As I stand before these enormous creations of nature’s canvass I am swept away by the idea of how they came to be.  Tectonic plates that crashed together, uplifting mountains high into the heavens.  Layers of dirt, stone, fossils, and minerals, that were laid upon the formations and created by heat and pressure within their layers exposing stark striations of color and texture.  Glaciers that covered the tops and centers of these formations and then receded to leave a U-shaped valley in their wake.  Water and air processes that both smoothed and scratched the surfaces of hard rock such as Half-Dome only to be frozen and thawed under a glacier, cracking off in one smooth section and crashing to the earth, or breaking off and crumbling into massive rockslides, leaving enormous boulders to roll down river beds where their edges would become smooth and rounded.

As I sit here feeling amazed, yet quite insignificant in the grand scale of things, I am grateful for this opportunity to experience some of nature’s most spectacular creations.  You can read about the geologic history of Yosemite at this link (h/t to myiq2xu) and at this link.

Today we’re relaxing for the early part of the day and then visiting Yosemite for the sundown experience.  Tomorrow we’re headed off to Napa Valley for some wine and some more wine.

Happy Saturday Everyone!

71 Responses

  1. Wonderful Pictures! Really breathtaking! Thanks for sharing these SOD. All you need is a trip to one of our glorious national parks to realize how urgent it is to save our planet and all of the beings who inhabit it.

    • Yes. You really get a sense of stewardship for the planet. Thank God they had the foresight to set these areas aside. I hope they never give in to the greedy money changers who’d like to “harvest” the natural resources.

      I learned something interesting about the Redwoods in that the wood is so delicate and brittle that the resource pillagers found them to be useless. Therefore their delicate nature is what saves them from destruction.

      • We can thank Teddy Roosevelt for the vast majority of the land set aside in perpetuity for our enjoyment, and most of all , for its preservation. TR almost singlehandedly saved these gorgeous reminders of the spectacularity of our natural environment from the depredations of private ownership and exploitation . For some of us, the great outdoors is our only place of worship. So thank you TR, wherever you are.

  2. SoD,

    Awe inspiring.

    “A thing is right to the extent that it upholds the beauty, stability, and integrity of the land. It is wrong to the extent it does otherwise.”

    (paraphrase from memory of Aldo Leopold from A Sand County Almanac”)


  3. SoD
    Doesn’t it just take your breath away? Sometimes we need to just remember the beauty in this country of all kinds.
    I am so glad you are enjoying yourselves. Have fun. You take great pictures and thank you for sharing them.



  4. you have thrown the gauntlet, madam. I will have satisfaction! You just wait until I get to Maui on the 18th and go to the big island to see the volcanos.
    Cue the dueling banjos.

  5. (((waving))) Are you out the window in one shot, or out the sunroof? Inquiring minds want to know. 😆 Looks, like it is a beautiful day.

    • I stepped out onto the back porch and snapped the picture of the deer. She was not intimidated by me at all.

      • Over in Pacific Grove (next to Monterey) the deer will come right up to the house and eat your garden.

        BTW – the brown bears in Yosemite are very friendly too – they will eat your lunch. Those Yogi’s will break your car windows to get your food supplies.

      • Really? Around here we just run them over. You got a problem with that?

        • Yeah, in central PA I think more deer are killed on the roads than during hunting season.

          BTW, a little geological trivia for your Hawaii trip (which you might already know). Each of the Hawaiian islands are the product of “hot spots” beneath the sea floor. Because the sea floor is in continual motion new volcanoes are formed by the hot spot along the arc of the path. Of course it took like 70 million years, but who’s counting.

  6. Unbelievable – thanks for sharing sod.

    I have traveled a great deal but this is one place I have not been. I just put it on my list of things to do. Thanks.

    Note: The only other thing on my “to do” list right now is salmon fishing in Scotland.

    • I still have hugging a Kaola Bear in Austrailia and going whale watching in Cape Cod.

    • BTW Dee, you should also add Yellowstone Nat’l park in Montana/Wyoming to that list. It is one of the most incredible places on earth. The vast array of huffing, steaming, spurting, gushing, and bubbling geothermal features along with the beautiful prismatic pools and so much wildlife you will never go more than 5 minutes without an encounter makes it a memorable journey.

  7. The Sierra Nevadas are volcanic in origin. Massive amounts of molten rock bubbled up and formed them, then the glaciers came along and edited them.

    Imagine a glacier big enough to scrape away the missing part of Half Dome.

  8. Were the volcanos a result of tectonic convergence? The appearance of El Capitan seems to me to be that unless it’s just glacially eroded volcano. I’m going to (hopefully) pick up a book on the geologic history of Yosemite in the park today. We’re going 140 into the Valley.

  9. When I was a kid they still had “Fire Falls”

    They would start a bonfire and then push it off a cliff (after dark) to entertain the tourists.

    • I saw a sign at Glacier point talking about people that hang glide from that area. Lots of crazy people. I have a picture of some guy standing on a big rock overhanging the valley at Glacier point.

  10. http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid1137883380?bctid=17075685001

    a little fun for those of us not on vacation.



  11. happy you are having such a great time beautiful pictures.
    is it ok if i have one as a laptop background?
    thanks hugs

  12. Wow. Nice camera. Beautiful.

    • Believe it or not, it’s only a point and shoot, Nikon Coolpix P80 with an 18X zoom. My daughter has a Polaroid Lumix that takes even better pictures. We considered a more expensive camera but the guy in the camera shop recommended these two.

  13. Ooohhh, those pictures are just beautiful!

    And you’re an awesome photographer SoD!

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Thank you! We didn’t get my daughter’s pics uploaded yet or I would have included some. She is an excellent photographer. I just get lucky now and then.

    • I also forgot to mention that the Arch rock picture was taken on the fly as we drove up to it with me hanging out the window. That was a lucky shot.

      • Nah SoD, not just luck! You sure have an eye for it! And if your daughter’s pictures are even better – wow, can’t wait to see those too. 🙂

  14. Gorgeous pics! Yosemite has just moved up on my bucket list.

    • Half Dome is over 3/4 of a mile straight up from the valley floor.

    • Just past Tunnel View overlook you come face to face with El Capitan. We pulled over for about 15 minutes of “holy shitting” and picture taking. It’s over 3500 feet high.

  15. When my husband and I hiked the PCT in 2000, I was so thunderstruck by the Sierra Nevada that I now live here. And Yosemite is really just a small part of it. The John Muir Trail is a 225 mi. hike through the best part —from Whitney north. Thank you so much SOD for putting out those pics. You do great credit to the awesome geologic splendor and mystery of this place. It marks your soul. To live within this wilderness just means you can never see the cities, the traffic and made up political theater in the same way. I really picked this up from Sarah Palin—she and her husband are marked by the great Alaska wilderness in such a way that she can never see politics the way the msm and beltway folks do. I guess she pays a price for that but when it gets in your soul, you just don’t care what the world thinks; you are just glad it is a part of who you are.

  16. If you like geology Hiddenite,NC is a lot of fun. You go gem hunting in the creeks and get buckets to go sluicing. They have an expert on site to help you identify all the different specimens. Flourite,pyrite, sandstone, moonstone, saphirres, rubies, emeralds and other minerals. Additionally, the expert helps you identify which pieces you find are worth getting cut. They have a small shop that is capable of cutting them for a small fee too. My husband and I spent 2 days with the kiddos hunting. We ended up getting a sapphire cut(cabachon) and a garnet(my daughter’s birth stone) cut. The whole trip was fairly inexpensive and the kids had a blast.

    • wow. That is really neat. Thanks for that trip tip.

    • totally cool…my little rock hound is going to LOVE this! I’m going to see about taking a long weekend to do this with him.

  17. Has anyone here been to Zion National Park in Utah? I was there a few years ago. SPECTACULAR.

  18. SOD,
    When in Napa do as the locals do…
    For the best burger you evah had try Taylor’s Refresher just south of St Helena. Outside eating and none better.

    Best Mexican food: Villa Corona in the BelAire Shopping center w/ Trader Joe’s and Whole foods. It’s at the end of the complex.
    Ask for it. It’s tops. Not fancy but superb food.

    Best art at a winery: Hess Collection ( out of the way on Mt Veeder), but top shelf art…or Clos Pegase near Calistoga has Richard Serra sculptures.

    Be sure to check out Silverado Trail on east side of valley. Some hidden treasures along that road. Groth, Joseph Phelps, the best views.
    It’s been nice and cool in low 80’s and evenings are down right chilly.
    Have fun!

  19. Fantastic pictures SOD! It brings back my visit to Yosemite. Rock climbers scale El Capitan in stages, sleeping in hammocks wedged into the cliff overnight–amazing. Make sure you visit the Ansel Adams exhibit there, if they still have it. No one captured that place with more majesty than Adams, though your pix are great! 🙂

  20. OT: There seems to be a whirl wind out on the blogs this afternoon about the government invasion of privacy via the cash for clunkers. Seems when dealers log on to put your deal through for the government rebate they have to agree to a government take over of their computer system. WTF does that have to do with buying a new car? Amazing. Glad we have mountains and other beautiful things provided by mother nature (female, of course) to take our minds off of how F’d up the government is in running anything and private industry is in running anything. Notice how mother nature does it. Pretty spectacular just about everywhere you go.

  21. Wow, those pictures are amazing.

  22. The photos are breathtaking. They almost look like paintings.

  23. Great pics – thanks so much!

  24. Thanks for the holiday updates. I, for one, really enjoy them.


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