A Special Destination


Lower Yosemite Falls


My appreciation and love for the outdoors is mostly contributed to by my dad, Toby Spalding Nelson. His dad, my grandfather Dan Spalding Nelson, was a park ranger. Not only was my grandfather a park ranger, but he worked in three of the most popular parks this country has to offer, Glacier, Yellowstone, and Yosemite. As a ranger, his family lived inside these parks, and thus, this is how my dad, and his two brothers, grew up, in landscapes deemed so beautiful and special, they were set aside as National Parks. So it is no wonder that my father became an outdoorsman, how could one not when your backyard is pristine wilderness. Growing up fishing, hunting, hiking, canoeing, and camping; all these activities were happily passed down to Andrea and me. We were taken camping beginning at an age where the only thing we could do was waddle and crawl around in the dirt.

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So it’s no wonder the outdoors has always been an important part of my life. When Alexis presented the idea of traveling the country for a year, she coaxed me in with the idea of visiting a lot of National Parks and camping in a trailer. And so the list making began of all the cool places we could visit and Yosemite was near the top. Not because it gets over 4 million visitors a year, or because it was our first National Park (established 1890), or because I’ve always wanted to see Half Dome. I wanted to see Yosemite because it was the only park I hadn’t seen where my dad grew up.


El Capitan


Yosemite Falls and Merced River


It was the end of November when we headed to the park and the snow was already accumulating on the ground. Not wanting to camp in the freezing temperatures, we splurged and rented a cabin outside the park at the Evergreen Lodge, a place we highly recommend. Hauling the trailer there was a bit nerve racking as we drove down steep icy dirt roads with signs that said chains required. Glad we were in the Ridgeline instead of the Subaru. This also solidified why we wanted to avoid snowy places during our travel. The white knuckles were worth it and the forecast was warm and sunny for the next several days so I knew we could drive out without a problem.


Merced River


Alexis presenting Half Dome


Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls

The next morning we headed to Yosemite Valley just like the majority of park visitors do, and I can see why. This seven-mile valley has got to be one of the most scenic seven miles I’ve been in. And what made it even better was there was hardly anyone there, which is unusual.  I was warned about the bumper to bumper traffic inside the Valley but instead we enjoyed a quiet park and could take it all in at our leisure.


Half Dome


This Valley is so iconic; I barely need to describe it. There’s the giant granite cliff faces of Half Dome and El Capitan, the waterfalls like Bridalveil and Yosemite Falls, the latter being the largest in North America. Then there’s the Merced River that works its way through the valley, flowing between forests and meadows. It seemed everywhere you looked it was a photo opt. Funny thing is, out of the hundreds of photos I took; most were of Half Dome and Yosemite Falls. They just stood out like a movie star in a crowd. I took photos of them from multiple vantage points and different times of day. It’s no wonder the Ansell Adams Gallery is next to the visitor’s center.


Yosemite Valley seen from the “Tunnel View”

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A five-minute walk the other way from the visitor’s center is the house my dad lived in. You can see Yosemite Falls from the front yard and it is a ten-minute walk to the base of the falls, where my dad and his younger brother would swim. A short walk down the road takes you to the school where he spent grades 4-8 in. I can’t imagine growing up in a place like this, a small village in a gem of a place.


My Dad’s childhood home



His school

We spent three great days in Yosemite and then, as the Universe dose sometimes, I get a call from my Dad saying he’ll be in San Jose for a job. So Alexis and I drive out of Yosemite to San Jose and have dinner with my him. He was just as excited to hear about the Park as we were to hear his stories living in it. I couldn’t think of a better way to end that chapter of our trip.