For just a short, brief moment – maybe two or three minutes – today, I tasted solitude in the ancient wilderness. I was alone, for a few minutes, on the trail, and stopped. All I could hear was the rustle of the pine needles, and the scuffling of a tiny squirrel nearby. Its mate stood upright, watching me intently. A black-headed green bird pecked at the ground. And the giant sequoias around me rose up, up, up into the sky, majestic, silent, brittle, in the dry, dry heat. It was a sweet moment, and I will cherish it.
The rest of the day was filled with people, cars, the busy to-ing and fro-ing of Californian life and of the immense tourist machine that is Yosemite National Park. The drive was reasonably easy – initial nerves some nine months since I last drove on the right-hand side of the road, in Portugal last November, were quickly overcome, and the automatic hire car was very easy to drive, and I was, of course in no hurry, happy to keep within the low speed limits of North America. Wamona Hotel, in South Yosemite, is a lovely old place, and a welcome respite from the heat, though I have to say my bathroom-less, window-less room is grossly
overpriced at $150 per night, though I’m not sure I wish I’d spent the $220 on a room with a bathroom and window. After four nights at $225 per night in the luxury of the San Francisco Marriott, it’s perhaps no bad thing to be spending a little less.
Mariposa Grove, and the Grizzly Giant, the Bachelor and the Three Graces – the largest of the trees here in the South of the Park, were all sights worth seeing, despite the crowds around them, made all the more worthwhile by my moment’s solitude with smaller trees and the wildlife, on the way up the hill. Sitting on the veranda of the old wooden hotel building, in the cool of the evening, full with good homely fare from the hotel restaurant, I am content with a day well spent, experiencing the natural wonders of California, a landscape filled with beauty, if not with much in the way of human history – certainly none that the tourist machine tells of, beyond the early 19th century.