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The Four Seasons of Yosemite (1980) by Dana Morgenson


Summer

sunrise
[click to enlarge]

Sunrise on a day in June, when the sun signals the advent of summer by riding farthest into the northern sky, appropriately occurs over the shoulder of North Dome, which rises more than 3,500 feet above the Valley Floor. Half Dome and adjacent cliffs are in two-dimensional silhouette, awaiting the sculpturing effect of the sunlight.


Merced River in summer
[click to enlarge]

(Top Right)
Summer in Yosemite Valley is a time of warmth and languor, of lazy days when time seems to stand still. The Merced River, no longer swollen by the exuberance of spring’s snow melt, moves slowly and at much-reduced volume. Its water is warmer now, and invites the attention of swimmers and sun-bathers and fishermen. Along its banks, wildflowers nod in gentle breezes. Deeply-green meadows bask in the sun, laced with shadow patterns of pines and oaks. Always, the great cliffs provide the dramatic backdrop for such scenes of quiet splendor.


azalea
[click to enlarge]

(Lower Right)
June is the month which belongs to the azaleas (Rhododendron occidentale). Then their fragrance perfumes the air in Yosemite’s meadows and their creamy-white trumpets shine out from the shrubs’ dark recesses. They are well represented in the Valley meadows—especially in El Capitan and Cook’s Meadows—and may be found frequently wherever moisture in desired amounts is present—such as near the river and in cool side canyons along the roads to Glacier Point and Crane Flat. Though exquisite in form and texture, their most memorable quality is undoubtedly their delicate fragrance. Once experienced, only a fleeting reminder is sufficient to transport one again in memory to the glories of a Yosemite day in June.


cow parsnip
[click to enlarge]

Another flower commonly seen in the early-summer meadows of Yosemite is the cow parsnip (Heracleum lanatum). Dramatically tall, with large creamy heads of massed flowers, it stands brilliantly against the sky or, as seen in this photo, as bold contrast to views of the waterfalls or great rock forms of the Valley.


three brothers
[click to enlarge]

(Right)
The Three Brothers stand in side-lighted silhouette amid the tranquillity of a summer morning. Quiet reigns across the Valley—no breeze yet sways the graceful stalks of golden helenium or mars the perfect reflection of cliffs and forest. This formation is named for the three warrior-sons of old Tenaya, chief of the Yosemite Indians at the time of the first entry of white men into the famous valley in 1851. The highest of the three, known as Eagle Peak, rises almost 3,800 feet above the Valley Floor.


Tuolumne meadows River
[click to enlarge]

Summer in Yosemite National Park means to many visitors the availability of the High Country, that vast region of meadows, lakes, streams and mountain peaks which lies above and beyond the more-famous Valley itself. Tuolumne Meadows, seen in this photo, is the heartland of the High Country. Lying at an elevation of 8,600 feet above sea level, it is the largest single area of grassland in all the Sierra, with the Tuolumne River meandering quietly through its lush green-ness. Around it are grouped an impressive array of the Sierra’s summit peaks, their bare granite thrusting far above tree-line. Our photo includes Mt. Dana (13,053 feet) on the left and Mt. Gibbs (12,700 feet) to the right, softly bathed in evening glow. In the far left foreground rises Lembert Dome, most prominent landmark of the Tuolumne region.


Mount Dana
[click to enlarge]

(Top Right)
Early summer, late June or the first week of July, brings the first touch of spring to the landscape of the High Country. Snow still lies in shaded pockets along the lower mountain slopes and in larger expanses near the summits, feeding the many icy streams and clear, blue lakes of this lovely region. However, the fresh green of new grass and tiny flowering plants can be seen everywhere, transforming meadows and lake shores with the magic of life’s awakening from its long winter sleep. In the background of our picture, Mt. Dana (13,053 feet) dominates the horizon above one of the many small lakes of the High Country.


White Wolf meadow
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(Lower Right)
Summer’s full development brings rich emerald tones to the meadows of the High Country. Soft, spongy turf gives the feel of deep-piled carpeting across spacious rooms, whose walls are shadowy forests reaching up to a ceiling of cobalt skies and cottony-white cloud patterns. These meadows, which often have evolved as old glacially-scooped lake basins that later filled with silt, are one of the lasting impressions of the mountains’ mystique. Our photo shows White Wolf Meadow, situated some 35 miles from Yosemite Valley along the Tioga Road, at an elevation of 8100 feet.


Tioga Lake
[click to enlarge]

(Right)
The many lakes of the High Country are an important element in its memorable beauty. Some are in rocky basins among the crags while others lie surrounded by smiling grasslands—some are shallow tams which reveal patterns of rocks and plants under their surfaces and some are darkly mysterious in their unknown depths. Lakes come in every size and shape, but they all have in common the clean, unspoiled attraction of mountain water removed only a short distance from its source in the snow fountains of the peaks. Here, we see evening light painting the quiet surface of Tioga Lake with the subdued tones of sky and clouds and granite summits, holding briefly all the memories of a glorious summer day.


(Below)
The ultimate glory of a mountain meadow comes with the blossoming of summer’s wildflowers. Usually about the first of August, spring is at last firmly established in the High Country with lavish displays of the blossoms native to this land of the sky. The picture of springtime— a season almost forgotten in the hot landscapes of the foothills and central valleys of California—seems complete on such a day as this: mild sunshine, drifting clouds in a richly blue sky, birds singing, a soft breeze swaying the tall grasses and flowers. Our scene is of a meadow near Tioga Pass, with multitudes of small pink asters (Aster alpigenous ssp. andersonii) leading the eye on toward Mt. Dana (13,053 feet) on the skyline.

Tioga Pass meadow
[click to enlarge]

Tuolumne Meadows
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Tuolumne Meadows glows with its own incomparable display of wildflower color in late July. Then, large areas are brightened by the rich magenta tone of the alpine paintbrush (Castilleja lemmonii). Although individually a rather small flower, the effect of large masses of them is like vivid scatter-rugs thrown across the green floor of the meadow. In the background, Lembert Dome rises almost a thousand feet into the sky, dominating most views of Tuolumne Meadows as does Half Dome in Yosemite Valley.



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