Why Yosemite is Your Birthright

Road Trip IV, Days 47-49: Fish Camp, California to Medford, Oregon

Wait, where does Yosemite come into it? Just give me a sec.

First of all, Fish Camp (unfortunately the mental images the name conjures up don’t really fit) is the final outpost of private land approaching Yosemite from the south, and we stayed there for three nights with some friends, spending our days in the park.

Second of all, since Medford, OR is only a (long) day’s drive from home, you’d think I’d be writing about that right now. Home. The place we’ve not seen for 49 days. Not to mention our poor dog…although she probably doesn’t miss us one bit since she’s being spoiled rotten by our wonderful friends on the mainland. She may even be a little bummed to see us.

“Oh, you guys? The ones who make me sleep outside at night? Yeah, hi. Welcome home. When do you hit the road again?”

But that will have to wait for my next post, because I need to write about Yosemite.



Have you been to Yosemite? Wonderful! Then you’ll know what I’m talking about. Have you not been yet? Give yourself this gift, sometime in your life: GO.

I believe there are three locales which every American should visit:
Washington, DC
The Grand Canyon

DC is pretty self-explanatory. It’s our Capitol, it contains the (arguably clogged) arteries of our unique-in-the-world form of government, and hell, we pay for the place, right? Every nook and cranny of DC, from the great and obvious Lincoln Memorial (I DARE you to read the Gettysburg Address out loud in front of that massive, sad figure and not choke up) to the innocent-looking curved facade of the Watergate Hotel, reeks with political history…the story of who we are.

OK, the ol’ history teacher’s getting a little fired up here. Down, girl.

But why do I list the Grand Canyon and Yosemite as American birthrights?

I’d like to say, “Just trust me on this.” But that’s too glib even for me. Both these parks are soul-stirring testaments to the power of geology, or the grace of God, or whichever mixture you prefer. Both stop you in your tracks on first view. Both will make you say, “I’ve seen it on calendars before, but I never thought…” and then either run out of words, or need to swallow to get some moisture back into your hanging-open mouth.


Neither need be out of reach for any American, either physical or financially. Both can be appreciated, in exactly the way I’ve just described, from a motor vehicle (although of course I would not recommend that if you can manage more). Busses go there. Both are possible as day-trips, though again, if you can find a way to stay…you will want to.

Yes, both are in the West, therefore harder to get to for Easterners. Too bad. Y’all can get to DC more easily than the rest of us.

Crowded? Yes, they are–and will be more so if everyone takes my advice. I don’t care. When you are standing at the base of Yosemite Falls, looking up to where the water begins its barely-conceivable 1,500-foot drop, thinking of the glacier that cleaved and carved and polished that endless granite wall…you are, in that moment, entirely alone.


If you can get to the Yosemite back country, or down in the canyon’s depths, on the Colorado River? You’ll never be the same.

But if you can’t–go anyway. If you’re an American, this is YOUR great gift. Give it to yourself. And remember to say thank you, and you’re welcome.

Folks who have been to these places, do you agree, or not? Would you add any other venues to my list of American Birthrights?

6 thoughts on “Why Yosemite is Your Birthright

  1. I think I would add two more places to the mandatory list. Yellowstone certainly holds special position in the American saga and is both beautiful and full of western history. It is also more accessible to those on the less active side of the scale. Gettysburg should also be a necessary stop for all Americans. The sobering reality of the place should be felt by everyone and instill a since a pride and loss in what it has taken to make this nation what it is. And for what it is worth, it is easy to escape the crowds in Yosemite, even in the valley. Some of the best spots with some of the finest views are easy to get to but only a handful of people are aware of them.

    • Gettysburg. I have the feeling you are right. I need to get myself there, although considering how I react to the Lincoln Memorial, I’m not sure I can take it. And you have some company regarding Yellowstone’s place on the list. Also, I do agree with you about Yosemite. It is possible to find solitude there even without a backpack.

  2. I totally agree, Gretchen. I visited the Grand Canyon as a teen, and it’s on the list of places to take the kids. It will be a big trip from Michigan, but it’s in the plans before Kid Number One (14) graduates. We did Yellowstone two years ago which, along with Alaska, are the two place I’d add to your list. We’ve detoured around DC several times–waiting till Kid Number Three (9) gets old enough to appreciate it. Another few years. That’s an easy one for us to get to. Yosemite is a much bigger adventure. That will probably only happen after Retirement. And Alaska will probably take mulitple trips (or a really long one) during Retirement.

  3. Yup, Alaska, definitely. It makes one feel properly small. And Yellowstone is phenomenal, although for some reason it’s never stirred me like those other places. Best venue for wildlife, though, that’s for sure.

  4. I would have to second the other comment on Gettysburg. Awe inspiring, truly, when you think of what happened to shape our young nation in that small town. And I would have to say, Crater Lake. The only place I have ever been surrounded by dozens of people on either side of me, yet felt totally alone. It was beautiful looking down at that deep blue lake!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s