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30 July 2006 @ 09:51 pm
Return to Yosemite  
The awe-inspiring sight of great wilderness is probably much like a drug-induced hallucination. The drugs, of course, come in many flavours. The ingredients for a high-altitude type include cold breeze, sparkling air, clear icy waters, striking green conifers, grassy meadows, blue skies and snow-capped mountains. The one I'm going to write about today is popularly known as the Sierra mountains.

The last time I was there, the day was spent at the usual touristy places. These places are very much like the legal drugs - caffeine and tobacco - many try it, but not everyone become addicts or big fans. It's only the more inquisitive and more adventurous ones who go on to seek out more. And as if there is an invisible fine-particle filter, fewer people make it through each passing grade and many fall by the wayside. And just like how filters work, people tend to get their own specialties. Some hike, some climb, some fish, some raft, some cycle and some may even sit to watch flowing water.

With endless possibilities, each person goes with an agenda ranging from the aimless wanderer to the expert mountaineer. Our agenda was to drive around as much as possible and we did just that - every single mile of paved road in the park*. That's close to a staggering two-hundred miles! Well, that's not exactly an environment friendly way to see things, but doing two-hundred miles on foot or even a bike will take me days (not to forget at least a year's worth of time to tune up my body for such an effort) and time is something that I don't seem to get enough off these days.

The CA-120 highway through the Yosemite National Park is open only during the summer months and the reasons are very obvious. The place is very much like Ladakh (from what I've seen in the pictures), but at three thousand meters above sea-level, it's two kilometers short of Ladakh. This highway is dotted with many lakes, some of which are just ponds of melted snow actually. The meadows are vast and look inviting to walk on, but a notice asking people to curb that temptation (to give the plants a chance) is taken very seriously by visitors and the authorities. The high country also has unique wildlife which lead remarkably different lives than their friends below. One, they hibernate and two, no one knows how they got there! An example of that is a marmot. They are found in high altitude places only, but are found all around the world - Himalayas, Alps, Sierra. These animals are masters of extreme environments and thrive on scanty and unpredictable availability of food.

Ah! The withdrawal symptoms seem to be getting to me. It's just been a few hours since I got back from there and I'm already thinking of what I should be doing there the next time. It's too difficult to keep the soul away from where it wants to be.

Still waters, eerie silence and the brilliant green of the coniferous trees. The Olmsted lake was the first of the many lakes we saw.

Three kilometers (almost ten thousand feet) above sea-level. A seasonal stream flows through a lush green meadow on the edge of a coniferous forest.

Toulumne Meadows. Grasslands as far as the eye could see.

The gorgeous Tenaya Lake (northern edge). It's named after the valley's most powerful chief - the last one before the new settlers took over management

Tenaya Lake - the southern edge

Fishing in the national park seems to be a favourite hobby for a lot of people, like this man, on the Tenaya lake.

Tioga Lake - close to the Tioga pass (9800 feet). Arguably the bluest fresh water lake I've seen till date.

A gas guzzler parked next to the Ellery Lake. And thanks to that gas guzzler, a Ford Explorer, my trip was a wonderful and safe one.

Tioga pass. Dangerous road which is closed for most of the year and may even be closed without warning depending on changing weather conditions.

A mountain bluebird on the look out for insects

Belding ground squirrel. Toulumne meadows' most favourite resident. It's distinctive bird-like whistles are hard to miss.

South Sierra Marmot.

An American robin feeding on a dead California wildcat - not the way I intended to see a wildcat in Yosemite.

My tent - that's how the night was spent in the bear country.

* Except CA-140 which is closed due to a massive landslide

Note: Every mention/comparison of legal/illegal drugs is based on what I have read and I do not have any first-hand experience with any of them. I do not drink coffee regularly, nor have I ever consumed tobacco or any of the illegal drugs.

depontideponti on July 31st, 2006 06:41 am (UTC)
I am sure you are tired of all the "wow" comments...but that is precisely what you are going to get Yathin! You have strengthened my resolve that I will visit Yosemite this time too...I will not be able to take such photographs, but I will be able to see such beautiful scenes! Thanks for the snaps.
Yathinyathin on July 31st, 2006 06:43 am (UTC)
I think the Tioga pass and the CA-120 (inside Yosemite) will be closed from September to June because of heavy snowfall. But, I am sure the valley will be even more beautiful when it's covered in snow.
Preethifiveonehalf on July 31st, 2006 06:52 am (UTC)
Beautiful pictures!! I am left speechless at the grandeur of the place..
~time~fiery_fiona on July 31st, 2006 07:09 am (UTC)
i love
..the depth of colors in the pics..

I have tried the VIVID setting on my cam (canon SD110) , though it deepens tones while capturing people/closer objects...but does not do justice to the scenice pictures..

Any work around?
Yathinyathin on July 31st, 2006 07:20 am (UTC)
Re: i love
All the pics are processed from 16-bit RAW files - it is an unprocessed linear format. The range of colors captured is much greater than the 8-bit modes like jpeg. Also, an added advantage of shooting in RAW is the ability to under-expose / over-expose by a few stops.

Of course, there are always software workarounds - you could try increasing the saturation, or playing with curves and levels in GiMP.
Re: i love - fiery_fiona on July 31st, 2006 07:41 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: i love - yathin on August 1st, 2006 11:19 pm (UTC) (Expand)
RJP: Wallace & Gromit - Cheezz!!romad on July 31st, 2006 07:12 am (UTC)
No snaps of bears? :)

Intoxicatingly beautiful snaps! The first few in particular are postcard/wallpaper-worthy!
The marmot looks like a beaver!
And I've always been curious, how long do you wait in ambush to take these gorgeous bird pictures? If you've blogged about the entire process in the past, do send me the link. Cheers :)
Yathinyathin on July 31st, 2006 07:27 am (UTC)
> No snaps of bears? :)

I wish I saw one. Maybe they want me to keep going back there. :(

> how long do you wait in ambush

I'm one of those shoot at sight fellows. So, as soon as I see a bird, I try to get a shot at it. Sometimes they allow me to get closer for better shots and sometimes they don't. Of course, approaching any bird is a massive challenge since we need to remain as non-threatening as possible. It's a big story. Here's a nice article about it all:

Most of my bird photography skills are very similar to that.

Arunbirdonthewire on July 31st, 2006 07:21 am (UTC)
Yathinyathin on July 31st, 2006 07:28 am (UTC)
(no subject) - birdonthewire on July 31st, 2006 08:57 am (UTC) (Expand)
(Deleted comment)
Yathinyathin on July 31st, 2006 07:49 am (UTC)
> One can swim in the mountain lakes but they are cold!!!

Oh yes. They are freezing. I put the tip of one of my fingers and realized that right away. :D
sandeepdeepsan on July 31st, 2006 08:39 am (UTC)
The place is beautiful,
loved the tenaya_lake_fishing picture.
smiles_tinasmiles_tina on July 31st, 2006 08:53 am (UTC)
Beautiful! All of them!!
(Deleted comment)
Yathinyathin on July 31st, 2006 02:31 pm (UTC)
> takes one somewhere magical

Absolutely. :)
suhassuhas on July 31st, 2006 09:34 am (UTC)
Man great shots. Went with Zeep and gang? Alone? I wish i was there :(.
Yathinyathin on August 1st, 2006 06:52 am (UTC)
Yeah, Napa and Las Vegas (though I've not been there) are so boring compared to Yosemite! :)
Roopesh_dodo_ on July 31st, 2006 10:31 am (UTC)
Beautiful snaps :-)
depontideponti on July 31st, 2006 10:56 am (UTC)
nature as a drug...an interesting, intriguing comparison!

btw...the word Sierra MEANS mountains.... Sierra Leone is Lion Mountains, for example..
Yathinyathin on July 31st, 2006 02:23 pm (UTC)
> btw...the word Sierra MEANS

Yep, it was difficult to accept the redundancy when I first heard of the term "Sierra mountains" or "Sierra Nevada mountains"
depontideponti on July 31st, 2006 10:57 am (UTC)
...and this tells you how many times I have returned to look at those gorgeous pictures today....:-D
Nadir Hashminadircruise on July 31st, 2006 11:44 am (UTC)

...And we say heaven is in Kashmir! What crap.
Yathinyathin on July 31st, 2006 02:29 pm (UTC)
> ...And we say heaven is in Kashmir!

Ladakh officially belongs to Jammu and Kashmir and you must look up for pictures on that.

And most high-altitude places are ver similar - Nepal, Sikkim, Arunachal, Meghalaya, Kashmir, Uttaranchal and Himachal could have been very similar hundreds of years ago.
ZuZusuzan_s on July 31st, 2006 02:02 pm (UTC)
WOOOOOOWWWWW! These are GREAT pics! It reminds me of Yellowstone!
Yathinyathin on July 31st, 2006 02:32 pm (UTC)
I really wanted to go to Yellowstone this time, at least that's what I vowed to do the last time I was here. But looks like that's not going to happen and I'll have to wait indefintely for that. :(
(no subject) - floopilot on August 1st, 2006 09:38 pm (UTC) (Expand)