Monday, December 9, 2013

Yosemite: Summer VS. Autumn; A Scientific Experiment

TITLE: Summer or Autumn: When is the best time to visit Yosemite?

"A thing of beauty is a joy forever," declared John Keats in the opening line of his poem Endymion (1818). But come now. Was this declaration really true? Was a beautiful thing beautiful all the time, 365 days a year, forever and ever, into infinity? I had my doubts. Case in point, when I get my hair cut it looks, if not beautiful at least pretty good, I'd even say "above average". But six weeks later it's an unruly mess that doesn't register on the scale of "pretty", "good" or even "below average".

No, my fellow scientists! I had to test Keats' belief with my own scientific test.

This fall Mr. Wonderful and I visited Yosemite National Park and between the fall colors and sunny weather we found it a thing of beauty. However, everywhere we hiked in the park--Bridalveil Fall, Yosemite Fall, just around the "fall" air--everyone kept telling us to come back in the summer when the waterfalls would be running, the weather would be warm and it would be super beautiful.

QUESTION:  Were they right? In Yosemite, was summer more beautiful than fall? I had to know and the way I would discover this was not by blindly accepting what they said as truth. What a concept! Rather I would determine this myself by examining the cold, hard facts of science. A-ha!

First, I had to determine how I would test my Question. The most scientific way would be by taking a scientific sampling of the scientific subjects. In other words, ask people their opinions. During our autumn trip, I posed my question to Mr.Wonderful, the Ahwahnee Hotel Clerk and the chipmunk I saw on a rock. They all agreed that fall was the prettiest time to visit Yosemite. However being caught up in the moment, were people--and chipmunks--just saying that fall was the most beautiful time because it was here and now? What if I returned in the summer and put forward the same question? Would people--and Chip and Dale--say the same thing about summer then? Hmmm.

I determined that my first method was tainted by personal opinions. No, fellow scientific thinkers, I needed to use solid facts to determine if fall was more beautiful in Yosemite than summer and the best way to do that was by playing Rock, Paper, Scissors with Mr.Wonderful. After several games where I rocked his scissors and he papered my rock, I discovered that this method was creating skewed data because Mr. Wonderful was still voting for "fall" whenever he won. Hmmm.

Because of Mr. Wonderful's commitment to the beauty of fall, this second technique wouldn't work either. No, my fellow, hard science thinkers, I needed a new method to collect unbiased data to compare these seasons visually. Eureka! I could use my pictures! Since I'd been to Yosemite both in the summer and the fall I could use my own photographs to compare that one special place in two different seasons to determine if beautiful Yosemite was beautiful all year long. Or not.

In the summer deer were present eating green grasses and leaves. Although they were a bit skittish since their food was as plentiful as shopping at CostCo.

In the fall, deer were abundant along the hiking trails where they had come out of the forests to graze. Busy eating what they could find in the proverbial couch cushions, they were completely unperturbed by us visitors.

The summer meadows were lush with sylvan green hues.

The fall meadows were painted in colors of steel, amber and gold.

In the summer the falls--Yosemite and Bridalveil--gushed thousands of gallons of water a minute.  

In the autumn the falls--Yosemite and Bridalveil--were trickles of water, as if someone forgot to shut off the tap.

The Merced River was warm enough to paddle down in a raft wearing a bikini.

The Merced River was too narrow, shallow and frigid for anything except gazing at it.

In summer, El Capitan was grand but a little foggy.

In the fall, El Capitan was just grand.
Hmmm, hmmm, hmmm.

CONCLUSION: Each season had its high peaks and low valleys. The summer had the water and fog but the fall had little water but all those rich colors. Taken together however, Yosemite, was a thing of beauty in the summer and the fall. Yes, Mr. Keats, I agree!

There was one hitch to my method: I only looked at two of the four seasons. Therefore, I was unable to discuss the park in the winter or the spring. Hmmm. Never fear, fellow scientists! That just means I have to make two more trips--in winter and spring--to Yosemite National Park--all in the name of science and beauty!