(This post is picture heavy - 
because it has to be... )

For approximately 25 years this gorgeous valley was our annual vacation spot.  Our first visit was before our 1st anniversary and long before James was born.
You may think we lacked imagination or got stuck in a vacation rut, but the truth is - 
we were hooked after that first visit 
and through the years we brought friends and family to share it with us.
Yosemite Valley painting by Albert Bierstadt

Yosemite was my son's home away from home.  When he was a toddler,  my husband hiked with him on his back, and when he was a young man, he climbed Half Dome on his own.
When my son left for college, we stopped going to Yosemite for a while.  
It didn't seem the same without him - and I was going through a giant case of empty nest syndrome - 
ugly it was...

Then, a few months ago, my son (now degree'd, employed and living in the Bay Area),  called to say  he was planning a Yosemite high country backpacking, hiking, camping trip with friends, 
and did we want to meet him in the Valley when they came back down?

We did.

Photo courtesy James Barnett @jamezillasaurus

It felt so good to be back in the valley that we  
are already making plans for next year.

So, after many years visiting this park, I thought I would share with you my favorite things about Yosemite... 
(in no particular order).


It doesn't feel like we've arrived until we drive through the Wawona Tunnel,
(even though we have officially been in the park for over 1/2 hour driving from the gate to the actual valley.)

We always touch the ceiling of the car, make a wish and try to hold our breath through the tunnel,
which is nearly a mile long (.8 miles).  


I can't remember when or why we started doing that,
but it is a tradition.  
(I can never hold my breath for the full length of the tunnel - 
so I guess none of my Wawona Tunnel wishes have come true... )

The tunnel makes me feel like we have arrived - because the end of the tunnel is pure Yosemite magic. The whole valley spreads in front of you in the most picturesque way.
Everyone stops here.
It's breathtaking.

One upon a time, really big glacier cut a really big swath through solid granite,
leaving giant polished monoliths in its path
and a beautiful valley.

That was a long time ago -
eons ago -
but what remains are impressive solid granite formations.

I think Yosemite Valley stands out from other beautiful places in this world because of its compactness.  There is so much beauty in just a few square miles -
 you literally cannot turn your head without seeing something gorgeous.

Gray granite could have been so boring...
but these giant walls of stone are breathtaking as they
tower over tall trees and soft green meadows
This one, named El Capitan, challenges rock climbers from all over the world -
(with binoculars you can see them climb this sheer cliff,
and they sometimes sleep there, suspended in hammocks)
This is one gorgeous, very tall, hunk of rock...

but El Capitan is not the only hunk of rock in the valley -
across the Merced River lies the Three Brothers
with El Capitan on the left and the brothers on the right,
and Bridal Veil Falls dripping over the edge -
well, do I really have to tell you this is beautiful?

My very favorite hunk of granite is Half Dome.  So much so that it gets its own number (see #12 below).
It is the iconic image of Yosemite - immediately recognizable as such... but I will show you more about Half Dome a little later.

From the valley floor, a little journey by car or bus takes you a few thousand feet up
(3,200 feet to be exact) to Glacier Point
and from there all you see is rock -
Lots of it.

unless you look down.

There's a reason we come in the Spring.
It snows up there in the high country and the resulting melt in the Spring produces an abundance of

In the spring, they gush - spewing volumes of water down sheer granite cliffs.
(In the late summer some disappear
others trickle.)

Spring is definitely the best time of year to see them

because the falls, river and streams are at their fullest.
You can hear them everywhere.

This time of year the water rules.

This is upper Yosemite Falls, one of the longest waterfalls in the world.  I takes 3 drops
before landing in a spray of water and mist.
Photo courtesy James Barnett @jamezillasaurus

It's an easy walk to the bridge at the base, which is a wet experience in the Spring.

But not this bridge.
This bridge is over a stream caused by yet another waterfall.
Vernal Falls.

and you can actually hike to the top of this waterfall via a hike aptly named the Mist Trail... more on that later...

Above this waterfall, connected, but not visible from the valley is another waterfall - the Nevada Falls.
Photo courtesy James Barnett @jamezillasaurus

Photo courtesy James Barnett @jamezillasaurus
Bridal Veil falls is the first visible waterfall when you enter the Valley.  You can see it as you exit the tunnel.

There is a convenient picnic area at its base and a trail  -  just a short walk - to the base of the waterfall
This waterfall can completely disappear in the Summer.

The Merced River flows through the valley and collects all of the water from the falls.
You can rent rafts and enjoy a lazy float down to a pick up zone - 
(water fights optional)

It is full and very cold in the Spring.
In late summer, it is shallower, but not as frigid
and there are deeper areas perfect for swimming.

And it did.  
She was so quiet, most people walked by without noticing her...
Isn't she sweet?

This doe was only 3 feet away, and near the shuttle bus stop.
We have seen deer, fawns, bobcat, coyote, bear, raccoon, and about a million squirrels.
The wildlife is one of my favorite things in Yosemite.


There are hikes and rock climbing for every level of enthusiast.
From easy walks, to climbing Half Dome and beyond.

My favorite hike is the Mist Trail.  The trail's destination being Vernal Falls,
with the last part of the hike being a climb to the top of Vernal Falls by a path cut into the granite like steps.  It isn't the easiest hike, but the rewards are well worth it.
Best to bring a poncho for this, in the Spring it is very wet.
The spray from the waterfall creates a heavy mist and by the time you get to the top,
you are soaked.

If you are fortunate to be there at the right time of day, you may find rainbows in the mist.
Photo courtesy James Barnett @jamezillasaurus

The rainbows, music of the stream and the thunder of the waterfall makes it an amazing experience.

The trail is well maintained, but can be slippery when the mist is heavy -
and the last portion of the hike is like climbing a thousand stairs.


Ansel Adams is gone now, but his photographs live on.  Yosemite was one of his favorite subjects.  He brought it to life in Black and White.
His images are amazing - timeless.
Photo:  Ansel Adams

The Ansel Adams gallery in Yosemite Village will inspire you to capture this beauty on your own camera -
or to try.
(Its also a great gift shop to find a souvenir to take home)


The Majestic (Awahnee) was built sometime in the 20's or 30's. 
After the tradition of the grand old hotels of that era, it has soaring ceilings,

cavernous fireplaces,

beautiful views,
rustic elegance,
and an amazing grand dining room.

The hotel itself has a waiting list of over a year.

While we may not stay here often, we always have breakfast in the grand dining room
at least once during our stay.

or maybe dinner, 
if we've remembered to bring the appropriate clothing


I don't camp.  
I don't sleep on the ground,
I hate not having showers,
or bathrooms
and no electricity...

No roughing it for this girl.

Unless its the tent cabins in Half Dome Village (formerly Curry Village).

While not exactly 'luxe', 
the tent cabins allow me to feel like I'm in the great outdoors, 
without sleeping on the floor.  
I can still hear the wind in the trees and
rain on the canvas roof -
 if it rains.
I can smell the fresh air
and hear a pine cone drop.
It feels like I'm out there in the woods
but I have a wood floor
I have a bed and wool blankets and pillows
There is a room safe and electricity
and a locking door.
There are bear bins to store things bears might be interested in...
OUTSIDE the cabin.
There's a lodge

showers and bathrooms
a swimming pool
a general store
a pizza patio
and this view!
I hardly even notice the lumps in the bed...


I'm a little nuts about trees.

There happen to be a lot of them in the valley.


and so green
and they smell amazing.

It may seem silly, but the trees are one of my favorite things here in Yosemite.


It takes your breath away.
The sheer volume of twinkling lights above.

Not a single street lamp.
No lights from houses or shopping centers.
Just the occasional passing car,
a gazillion stars,
and great granite silhouettes.

James and friend Erik had this fun idea to do some star tracking.
(Time lapse photography with a tripod.)
Here is one of Erik's photos:
Photo courtesy Erik Totman
You can actually see the rotation of the earth.

The Hubs didn't have a tripod, so he used Half Dome as the focal point - 
and tried to keep the camera still by propping it against the bridge...
Our pictures turned out more like a painting than a photograph...
not perfect, but I love them

See the shooting star?

We spent the rest of the time lying on our backs on the sidewalk of the bridge
gazing at all those sparkling diamonds in the sky

My favorite thing we did on this trip!


Yosemite National Park is visited by people from all over the world.  
Its a great place to people watch if you enjoy that type of thing (I do),
but my favorite is listening to all of the languages and dialects of the people around me.
We really are more alike than we realize.
People from all walks of life and all places of the world, here in one spot -
to enjoy the beauty around them and immerse themselves in nature. 
Just like us!


Once you arrive in the valley, you really don't need to use your car to get around.  
The shuttle bus is free, and circles nearly the entire valley floor.

Hop on and off wherever you like. 
 They come along every 10-15 minutes.
I like to ride for the complete circuit and just enjoy the view!

Half Dome is my favorite hunk of rock.
It is immediately recognizable to Yosemite National Park

I love to watch as the light changes on its face throughout the day, or as the weather changes.

Braver souls than I climb it.
My boys have done that, but I prefer to gaze at it from the valley floor.
Photo courtesy Erik Totman
Because who, in their right mind, would want to do this?
Photo courtesy James Barnett @jamezillasaurus

Photo courtesy Erik Totman
If you do decide to take this adventure, make sure the weather is good.  
If it looks like a storm is approaching - don't climb Half Dome.  
According to park officials, lightning has struck the top of Half Dome
every single month of the year.  
Kind of a fatal attraction going on there....

Photo courtesy Erik Totman
Still, its a pretty impressive hunk of rock, whatever your vantage point.


I like to hang out here to watch people,
visit the Ansel Adams Gallery,
see how the valley was formed at the information center,
get groceries,
buy fudge,
and have lunch at the deli.
Its also a most excellent vantage point to view Yosemite Falls.


I call it the magic hour - although it rarely lasts an hour.  
If you don't look up, you will miss it.  

When conditions are right, the setting sun kisses the granite with its warmth
and leaves the valley in shadow.  
It is called Alpen Glow.
 Conditions aren't always perfect for this phenomenon, 
which makes it all the more magical when you see it.

We caught Half Dome blushing this year.  

There are many sounds.
There are thousands of tourists
and there is never silence.
There are car and shuttle bus sounds.  
There are thousands of voices and thousands of footsteps.
And yet, this vast wilderness area somehow absorbs enough of  it
that you can still hear the mountains.
The wind has a sound, 
the water never stops speaking.  
There are insect sounds and animal sounds and bird sounds - 
and sounds that are muffled by pine needles on the ground -
you can still feel the solitude.
Even at night, when everything gets so still and the living things sleep,
nature still speaks.


This is the most obvious of my 'favorite things'.
It is the reason we come here, 
and the reason we come back year after year.
Because we can never get enough of it.

The beauty stays with us after we leave 
in memories and photographs we can't believe we actually captured.

Photo courtesy James Barnett @jamezillasaurus
The valley feels somehow sacred
Photo courtesy James Barnett @jamezillasaurus

like this is God's country
and we've been allowed to visit awhile

Photo courtesy Erik Totman
You find yourself planning your next visit
even as you leave

Photo courtesy Erik Totman
because this never gets old -
it is never the same -
it changes with the weather,
Photo courtesy Erik Totman
it looks different with the time of day.

It is different in every season

Photo courtesy Erik Totman
but it is always


Just started following and so glad I found you! 
I currently have builder beige everywhere in my home. We are going to be painting entire inside. 
We just did Behr Contemplation in master bath and bedroom (love the color but not crazy about it against the beige tile) . 
via Pinterest
We have a very open floor plan. We have also decided to paint our bookshelves and around our mantel Behr Calligraphy in our hearth room which is directly off the kitchen. 

I'm looking for a light to medium gray that will compliment those colors keeping in mind my kitchen has a tan and cream backsplash, granite is black with dark green and silver/gray specks. My cabinets are maple color. I've already sampled Behr evening white which is too light and planetary silver which doesn't really look great next to the backsplash. 

Also my floors are med dark hardwood. All my furniture is white, cognac and charcoal gray.. 
Any help would be appreciated! I can send pics if need be. 

Tracy Brecheen

Hi Tracy,
The two colors you have chosen are in the gray - gray/blue family.  I think staying in a similar palette will make the most sense in your kitchen - tans and creams tend to look very nice with the blue grays.  Try one that is more gray with just an undertone of blue and you will have a color that will have more staying power as it will read more neutral.  I like these, and you should try them on a 8x10 poster or foam core board (2 coats) and hold it next to your other colors and the backsplash to see which will work best.   The first one is Rhino by Behr - It may have a little too much blue to go with  Contemplation, but you will be the best judge of that from your sample.  It seems to look okay here...

Contemplation (Behr)

Rhino (Behr)
The  next is Dolphin Fin by Behr.  This is a favorite of mine .
Dolphin Fin (Behr)

Also pretty with Contemplation, but you will have to hold it to the Tan/Cream backsplash to see if it looks nice there too.   It looks good with the tan tile in this photo.
Dolphin Fin (Behr)
Last one, Colliseum Gray (Behr).  Nice neutral warmish gray.
Colliseum Gray (Behr)
Good luck!  Let us know what you choose!

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