In the Fall of 1995, upon completion of graduate school and a sadly unchallenging final exam, my roommate and I locked our dingy Virginia apartment and took off on a cross-country road trip to explore the richness of America's many national parks and growing number of microbreweries.
Among our stops was Yosemite, and while my memories of our time in the valley are kind of fuzzy, I do recall a few things. People drove up and down the valley along a paved one-way loop. There was simple (but, we’d find out, fully reserved) campground. There were no convenience stores, no Starbucks, not even a vending machine. Just endless natural beauty, and an open invitation to enjoy it without distraction.
It was what I imagined a National Park should be. Except for the lack of
bears but we’d manage.
I returned to Yosemite this past September and found a much different place.