Some places on Earth are simply too beautiful and too extraordinary, such that in the modern tourism era, they may never for a moment escape public attention. Yosemite must be up there; defined by El Capitan and the Half Dome. First-time visitors like us simply stand and stare at the improbable beauty of 3,000 feet cliffs that rise from a narrow flat-bottomed valley and then capture the scene on phones and cameras. The views seem to bring out the best in people; at the car parks, smiles abound and impromptu conversations start up with strangers; perhaps because we all strive, and sort of fail, to make sense of this wonderful place.

El Capitan in the Fall
Half Dome

The work of glaciers that departed as the climate warmed only around 10,000 years ago, has been to incise the granite and leave smooth, sun-washed faces of clean rock, marked by long fissures and narrow ledges. In the past half century, this has become the home of climbing.

Climbing El Capitan
A game of snakes and ladders

Fire is the biggest threat to life and evidence of recently burnt sections of forest is commonplace; such burnt areas quickly regrow and create a diverse forest structure. Black bears are quite common in the forest. As opportunistic omnivores, their foraging strategy is a constant search for anything to eat with the least expenditure of energy, hence it is unsurprising that camp sites and settlements are plagued by animals in their quest for an easy meal. Bears frequently cross the road and bring the traffic to a stop; sightings near the road create a traffic jam as people line the road to watch them.

Fire-damaged forest

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