There’s a way to arrive at Yosemite Valley, the well-trafficked area of Yosemite National Park that houses its most picturesque cliffs and waterfalls, that takes you through a tunnel. When you emerge, the vista of El Capitan and Bridalveil Fall are perfectly framed against the background of Half Dome, just as Ansel Adams captured it in his famous 1934 photograph. For those who have visited the viewpoint, it’s as if you can reach out and touch a postcard.
John Flinn was seven years old the first time he gazed on that view. It was the summer of 1964, and Flinn, former travel editor for the San Francisco Chronicle and current freelance travel writer, and his family had just moved to California from the East Coast.
“[My father] made me keep me eyes closed and we parked the car and he made me stand up and he said, ‘uncover your eyes,’ and there was the perfect Yosemite Valley spread in front of me,” Flinn recalls. “Having come from New Jersey, I’d never seen any landscape like that at all… I just fell in love with it instantly then.”