The afternoon of our first day with Orange Sky Adventures was dedicated to one mission: to hit the must-see sights of the Yosemite Valley. The remnants of the mountain’s winter air passed cooly through Dylan’s van as the sun intensified as if to remind us that summer had just started. Fresh hints of pine and moisture from rushing water melted from higher altitudes immersed us in the northern California wilderness.
We stopped at the meadow below El Capitan to gaze upon the famous rock formation. The granite monolith reaches 3,000 ft. into the sky from its base and its tallest face has some of the most well-known climbing routes in the world. While we were stopped, each of us took turns with binoculars and tried to spot the climbers on the cliff who appeared as little colored dots against the relatively massive backdrop. You will never see me attempting to climb a cliff-face even a small fraction of the size of El Capitan, but the majesty of the granite titan did not fail to inspire awe.
The next leg of the drive took us deeper into the Yosemite Valley and then hooked back around the southern side, up the slope to Tunnel View, perhaps the most famous view of Yosemite. The viewpoint had a crowd of tourists, but there was no lack of space. People dream of seeing this in person and it looks just like the desktop backgrounds that everyone dreams of diving into with El Capitan and the Bridalveil Fall framing the Yosemite Valley. I had visited the same spot during the winter, but the summer evoked feelings of daring and dynamism that were overshadowed by the dark melancholy of the cold months.
Tunnel View was all I knew when it came to views in Yosemite. I couldn’t imagine a more picturesque spot, but of course Dylan insisted that the best was yet to come and he was absolutely right. Further up the side of the valley we rode until we reached the mind-bogglingly unreal view from Glacier Point at the height of the south wall. From the top, one can observe the curve of the Yosemite Valley with all of its most prominent waterfalls in view and Half Dome as its centerpiece.
After an eventful day of awe-inspiring sights all around the Yosemite Valley, we pulled up to our campsite for the night in the late afternoon, set up tents, and prepared dinner. Dylan thought of everything. Tents were ready, easy to put together, and even had a small electric lantern inside.
Each person took a role in getting ingredients together for side dishes while Dylan prepared the fire. A healthy array of fruits and vegetables covered our picnic table as we cracked open cans of Tecate.
Sunlight faded quickly and we found ourselves immersed in the darkness of the forest with the only light coming from our campfire and the stars in the sky. Dylan threw some steaks and chicken onto the grill and served them exactly at the right time. There was something like a genetic satisfaction, a primal bliss, that was triggered from grilling and eating meat from a warm fire in the wilderness.
After washing up our dishes and stowing everything away from the curious bears that sometimes wander into camp, we turned in for the night in our respective tents and rested up for another day of adventure.
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