Yosemite National Park – The Valley

I’ve been coming and going from Yosemite for a long time. Yosemite Valley (and the balance of the park that surrounds it) is in a class by itself – first, for its spectacular granite architecture, and then for its waterfalls, rivers, meadows, trees and so much more.


Left to right: Royal Arches, Washington Column and Half Dome. 4X5 photo, mid-60s.

I first visited Yosemite in 1955, when my parents, myself and my Aunt Etta did a 6 week-long tour of the western US, primarily to see the National Parks. I was 15 at the time, and the magnificence of the parks made such an impression on me as to determine the course of the rest of my life.

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At the Wawona Tree. Myself, and my Mom at the wheel. 1955.

I returned to Yosemite Valley in 1960. I had become a climber that summer, and learned that “The Valley” was a climbing mecca.


Climbing on the Royal Arches, with Pete Lev. Early 60s.


Postcard to my folks, showing my climb on Yosemite Point Buttress. Early 60s.

I spent many weeks and months in the Valley during the early 60s, after having started, and then stopped, my college education (at UC-Berkeley) in 1959. I became a ski and climbing bum, traveling throughout the western US and abroad. In 1966, I married Karen Holdaway and returned to UC-Berkeley. This put me, again, in the vicinity of Yosemite.


Snow climb on Sentinel Rock, early 60s. View to the east, with the snow-covered Clouds Rest Peak in the center, and Half Dome on the right.


Same, view to the west, with the Cathedral Rocks on the left and El Capitan on the right


Postcard to my folks, showing climb of the Southwest Face of Half Dome, early 60s


Cathedral Spires, in a smokey haze. Fall, 2019

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Me, climbing Higher Cathedral Spire. Photo by my climbing partner (and later National Geographic photographer), David Hiser. 1964


Middle Cathedral Rock, in a smokey haze. Fall 2019. Behind the trees on the left is the East Buttress route, which I climbed with Joe Faint in the mid-60s.

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Climbers, on the Direct route of Reed Pinnacle. The standard route on Reed Pinnacle was my last Valley climb, Spring 1966.

My last climb in the Valley was on the standard route of Reed Pinnacle, in the company of Jim Bridwell and Kim Schmitz. I tell that story in another post: https://believesteve.org/2016/05/12/reed-pinnacle-my-last-climb-in-yosemite-valley-spring-1966/

The Associated Students at UC-Berkeley (ASUC) ran a top-notch photo lab, staffed by the published professionals Dave Bohn and Roger Minich. The teaching emphasis was on the West Coast tradition, best exemplified by Ansel Adams. So, I returned to Yosemite with a 4X5 camera.


Lost Arrow and Yosemite Point Buttress, mid-1960s


Left to right: Cathedral Rocks, Bridalveil Falls drainage and Leaning Tower


Merced River in the foreground, with, left to right: El Capitan, Clouds Rest Peak, Half Dome, Sentinel Rock and Lower Cathedral Rock



At the base of Upper Yosemite Falls. Sentinel Rock is seen on the left. Mid-60s.


At the base of Upper Yosemite Falls, mid-60s


Lower Yosemite Falls, mid-60s


Potholes, Lower Yosemite Falls, mid-60s


Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls, mid-60s

35mm photos, 1960s.


Merced River, winter, early 60s


Vernal Falls, early 60s


Snow-covered benches, early 60s


Deer, early 60s


Merced River and maples, early 60s

El Capitan, 1990.


North America Wall


The Nose and the Dawn Wall


The Nose sits in the center of this vast expanse of vertical granite

Yosemite Point Buttress, 1990.


Lost Arrow and Yosemite Point Buttress

Vernal Falls, 1990


Vernal Falls, ’90


Vernal Falls, ’90

Merced River in winter (photos interpreted with Topaz Simplify).



Camp 4, early 60s.


Maya, with dogwood blossoms


Columbia Rock, with Gary Colliver (left) and Jeff Foote (right)


Columbia Rock, with Jeff Foote


Camp 4 scene


Camp 4, with Gary Colliver (left) and Fred Beckey (right)


Camp 4 table


Columbia Rock, Steve Miller. Photo by Karen Miller.

Little Yosemite.

Little Yosemite is the valley of the upper Merced River, located atop Nevada Falls.


Left to right: the backside (south face) of Half Dome, Liberty Cap, Nevada Falls and the entry to Little Yosemite. From vicinity of Glacier Point, 1990.


Sierra juniper and lichen


Silver Apron, Merced River


Silver Apron, Merced River


Steve Miller, fishing in the Merced River, early 60s

Here is the link to the next post – Tenaya Lake:







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Bald Eagles for the Holidays

It’s Christmas Day (2019), and one of my presents was to sight four bald eagles. I was able to photograph two of them. This was along the Racecourse stretch of the Rio Grande, between Pilar and the County Line River Access.




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Eagles Everywhere!

The major migration of bald eagles has arrived at the Rio Grande. They come, presumably, from points north, and always show up in mid-December … which, I’m guessing, is when the northern waters have started to ice up. The Rio Grande is relatively ice-free in the winter, which also attracts bunches of northern ducks. The eagles hunt those ducks, along with fish.  They are readily seen along the river from Velarde upstream to the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, which stretches to the Colorado border. The Orilla Verde stretch of the Monument, which begins in the vicinity of Pilar and ends 6 miles upstream at Taos Junction Bridge, is where I habitually see the greatest concentration of eagles. Eagles are also often spotted along the Racecourse stretch, downstream of Pilar (see map at end of post). The following photos were all taken yesterday (12-20-19) in Orilla Verde.

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The King Donald Chronicles, #54


The House of Representatives has found Trump guilty of Abuse of Power and Obstruction of Congress. There is no undoing this. Whether the Senate votes to remove him from office is another matter. And as much as I would like to see that happen, a failure to do so will not invalidate his impeachment.

We are now, finally, seeing the downfall of the most depraved individual ever to hold the Office of President. How is “depraved” defined? The definition is: “morally corrupt; wicked” (Apple Dictionary), which pretty much sums it up. Trump’s Presidency has been nothing less than a nightmare for those of us who wish to see a more just society, a more peaceful world, and a world committed to meeting head on the threat of climate disruption. Humanity is at a crossroads, and no one is less suited to dealing with the challenges we face than Trump. 

We are now, hopefully, also seeing the downfall of Trump’s craven minions – the Republican Party. It has sold its soul to the devil. Greed is their creed.

The world is now caught up in the ending stages of the war between good and evil. What is evil but greed – greed for riches, greed for sexual conquest and greed for unlimited power? Trump must go. He must be ejected from the Presidency, and his Republican enablers ejected from Congress and the State Legislatures. We must return this country to a position of enlightened leadership in a world that is in desperate need of it.


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Water Birds, Alameda CA, Fall 2019

Migratory seabirds abound in the Bay Area in the winter months. And they are much more approachable than the migratory seabirds we get along the Rio Grande, in New Mexico. It must be that they are exposed to so many people, in that very populous area.

The following photos were taken along a waterway that runs through a fancy subdivision on Bay Island, Alameda.


Black-necked stilts


same as above







Below are photos from San Leandro Bay.


Black-necked stilts and willets



Buffleheads, in the channel leading to San Leandro Bay




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Southwest Airlines, ABQ to Oakland, 9-26-2019

On September 26, I flew Southwest Airlines from Albuquerque to Oakland. This route usually provides views of the Grand Canyon and the Sierras,  but the vagaries of seating in the plane, the clarity of the windows, the time of day  and the presence or absence of clouds determines what kind of photos I get.


Leaving Albuquerque, view to the north. The Sandia Mountains are seen in upper right. The Rio Grande runs through the center of the photo, and lava flows are seen on the left. View to the NE.

Clouds covered most of the rest of New Mexico and Arizona, including all of the Grand Canyon. But, I did get this view of the gorge of the Little Colorado, which here runs right to left through the center of the photo.


Gorge of the Little Colorado River, view to the N

And, west of the Grand Canyon, Lake Mead showed up.


At the head of Lake Mead, where the brown water of the Colorado River is brought to a complete halt against the blue water of the lake.  A distinct boundary is encountered at this point. Due to a continuing drought, the lake has been shrinking, and, thus, the end of current has been advancing downstream. Since 2008, it has advanced about four miles downstream. View to the N.

I spotted the following two sights in western Nevada, which I later ID’ed with Google Earth.

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Silver Peak Mine settling ponds

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Mt. Dubois (13,565 feet), in the White Mountains, view to the NE

Then, with mostly clear skies. we crossed into California, flying to the south of Mono Lake, and over Yosemite NP.


Mono Lake and Yosemite NP, view to the NE

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Yosemite NP, view to the NE


Yosemite NP, view to the N


Northern Yosemite NP, view to the N

The plane passed directly over Yosemite Valley,  and then left the High Sierra behind. We then flew over the Tuolomne River.


Cherry Lake and Lake Eleanor are on tributaries of the Tuolomne River, view to the N


Built to provide drinking water to San Francisco, Hetch hetchy Dam drowns the Grand Canyon of the Tuolomne River. View to the NE.

New Melones Dam floods the Stanislaus River. This is where, in 1973, the river conservationist, Mark Dubois, chained himself to a rock, to protest the dam.


New Melones Dam floods the Stanislaus River, view to the NE


The Central Valley


Oakland Airport


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Rio Grande Winter, #1, Dec. 2019,

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Bald eagle, Rio Grande, Pilar, 12-10-19


Mallards, Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, 12-10-19


Barranco Blanco, Embudo, 12-11-19


Toreva block, Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, 12-13-19. Toreva blocks are seen throughout the Rio Grande Gorge, which is cut predominately through basalt. They are large blocks of basalt that have broken away from the canyon rims and remained intact as they slid down and away. In most cases, they have rotated in a counter-clockwise direction as they slid, thus ending up tilted backwards. Numerous very large blocks form terraces in the gorge. This tilted block  slid away from the cliff face seen behind.


Bighorn ram and truck, Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, 12-13-19


Bighorn sheep, Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, 12-13-19


Bighorn ewe, Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, 12-13-19


Bighorn ewe and ram, Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, 12-13-19


The big guy, who allowed me to drive right up to him, and take photos from the driver’s seat. Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, 12-13-19.

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15 bighorn sheep graze on the canyon slope, Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, 12-13-19


Northern flicker, Pilar, 12-14-19



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