If you've ever been through El Portal, CA, you're lucky.  It's one of the last cities you pass through on an incredible ride up from Merced, CA on highway 140 to the west, rock gate of Yosemite National Park.

In my younger years, this was the only route I even knew into the park as we either lived in Atwater, CA or Merced and it was less than an hour's shot to the gates of Heaven. 

Over the past few years, the fokes of El Portal have had a rough go.  The year Kari and I got married, 2006, there was a huge rock slide that happened that just wiped out this incredible road with straight-down, breath-taking drop offs.  The way was impassable for months and the only way for tourists, and locals to get to the city was to drive all the way around from either the southern or northern entrances to the park, go through the park, and then out of west gates.  For any of you know even the littlest thing about business, (location, location, location) this had a significant impact on the area. Bigmeadowfiremap831

Well lately they're facing a new challenge, the Big Meadow Fire, which from the accounts I've been following was caused with the materials controllers were trying to use to keep such a fire from happening.  And then it jumped the shark. 

My thoughts go out to the people living in the area.  It's been a rough couple of years for them and for the city of El Portal, the last thing any of them need is another reason to close up the shop for a few days, particularly with Labor Day just around the corner and the potential for a big weekend for tourists. 

If you're lucky enough to be going to Yosemite this weekend, make sure you check out the fire reports before you go, and keep up with what's happening when you're there.

I've come to really enjoy the daily updates I also get from YosemiteBlog.com via email and Twitter.  If I lived closer, I'd be a part of such a wonderful project.

And so if you're planning to go this weekend, reminiscing on a prior trip, or never have been, I'll offer you the latest pictures from our June, annual trip from Dallas. 

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The photo to the left is what the top of Yosemite Falls should look like without there being smoke in the background. 

We had a beautiful morning when we visited the falls this past June.  I love how the white clouds contrast against the rocks and lone pine trees.  It really helps one at the bottom get a good idea of what it's like up top, where most shall never set foot.

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One of our favorite places in the park to visit is Bridalveil Fall.  I could sit at the spot to the right and listen to the water rush by for hours.  As a matter of fact, I do spend at least an hour a year sitting in this one particular spot watching how the mist, sunlight, trees and people all interact together.  Not to mention the incredible sound of the water coming over the top and then racing past.

Yosemite 09 305  And what would a photo essay of Yosemite be without El Capitan?  Yes, I should also include one of Half Dome, but this is a shot I've not spent that much time with.   We walked a good ways toward the foot of the mountain this year.  This is where, if you were reading previously, we found a rattlesnake making it's way through the pine needles.  In dozens of years of going to the park, this was the first time I'd ever come upon a snake.  

I've said many times, if life were simpler, I'd pack up the family and we'd move to the Yosemite area.  There's no question I could spend days on end hiking through the park and coming away with some fantastic photos to share with the world.  If only life were simpler, if the world wasn't out of whack, if honesty meant something, if evil weren't lurking around every corner, and fires weren't burning out of control. 

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