Yosemite, The Complete Guide: Yosemite National Park, by James Kaiser
For many years, I considered Yosemite National Park to be my "home park." When I was in college at UC Berkeley, I made a point of routing my trips home to southern California through Yosemite Valley. As a youngster, I backpacked through many of the high Sierra wilderness areas in the eastern sections of the park. James Kaiser's new book, Yosemite: The Complete Guide, acted as a time machine this week for me, allowing me to revisit old haunts and marvel at the richness and diversity of this awesome place. Like the other books by James Kaiser that I have reviewed, Acadia: The Complete Guide and Grand Canyon: The Complete Guide, this beautifully produced book has drop-dead gorgeous photos. Kaiser worked on this book over the course of three years, and the photographs are one of his most impressive achievements.
Some of my favorite photos from the book accompany this article, but when you pick your copy of the book, be sure to look at his winter and summer exposures from the Tunnel Viewpoint. One that will take your breath away (perhaps from imagined fear) is the shot of the hikers on the back side of Half Dome as they crawl their way up those cables. It has been almost forty years since I last did that hike, and even now, my fingers are slick with perspiration with the memory of trying to get down that near-vertical rock face as a thunderstorm loomed nearby. The author must be a heck of an athlete and climber to have gotten some of the photos in this book.
As in Kaiser's other books, the sections on geology and local history are excellent and will enrich your appreciation and awareness for this area. Nearly four million visitors converge on Yosemite each year, but the author provides all sorts of tips for easily finding peace, quiet and relative solitude in each of the major sections of the park. One of these places is the Pohono Trail. Easily accessible from the Glacier Point Road, it boasts magnificent views.
The book is organized into six sections with maps and detailed information about lodging and recreation in Yosemite Valley, the Glacier Point Road area, Tioga Pass road, Tuolumne Meadows, Wawona and Hetch Hetchy. Two additional sections provide information about the flora and fauna and some of the recreational opportunities the park offers, including hiking, rock climbing, winter sports and river running.
If you want to cause a stir, go into an office, open this book to one of the gorgeous photos and leave it in the reception area. I did this unintentionally while running an errand the other day, and that simple act caused at least half an hour of oohs and ahs -- and I almost didn't get my book back! That's the magnetic power of Yosemite at work, and this great guide book captures it brilliantly.