Yosemite is trembling with the sounds and sprays of mightly waterfalls this spring; there isn't a place on the valley floor where you don't hear water.
So many national parks are well hidden, especially the canyons and valleys. You can be within 1/4 mile of the Grand Canyon and not know it is there. The Badlands in South Dakota come as a huge surprise as the rolling, grassy prairie splits open in front of you.
Coming into Yosemite from the south is similar. Along Hwy 41, the curvy road rises several thousand feet through heavy forest to the park entrance. For another 30 miles or so, it's just another mountain drive, with an occasional lovely valley or granite outcropping - nothing to suggest the proximity of the breathtaking vistas so nearby.
Just as a few granite outcroppings and knobs begin to appear, you enter the long, dark Wawona tunnel. On the other side, facing east, there it is - Yosemite Valley from one of it's most lovely and famous viewpoints, Tunnel View. Half Dome in the distance, Bridal Veil Falls thundering endlessly... wow, you know you are in for a treat.
All of the famous falls - Yosemite, Vernal, and Bridal Veil - are so mighty this spring that it was not possible to approach closely without being drenched by the spray. Though it was a too cool to want to get wet, it was a perfect day for hiking and we toured the valley floor on foot and by shuttle bus.
It definitely is not summer yet, and the high elevations of the park are still snow covered. The roads to Glacier Point and Tioga Pass haven't opened, and the cables used by hikers to climb to the top of Half Dome are not "up" for the season. Snow that melts during the day and runs onto the roads freezes at night.
The springtime blooms of the dogwoods are outstanding. Stands of white dogwood were impressive, but the few pink dogwood near the cottages on the way to the Awahnee Lodge were outrageous. Every branch, large and small, was covered with pink blossoms.
As always, photos fail. The physical sensations - the constant sound of water falling or rushing or gurgling, the warmth of the sun on our shoulders and backs, the little breeze, the scent of blossoms, the cascades of white petals from the dogwoods - none of it can be captured, and it all contributes to a day filled with a sense of freedom, calm and well-being. We LOVE the national parks!