Everyone knows Half Dome and El Capitan. These spectacular stand alone in the eyes of the world as icons of Yosemite, made world-famous by the brilliant photography of Ansel Adams.
But there are others—stony needles, razors, sawteeth, and cliffs with precisely vertical smooth-as-glass faces reaching 1,000 feet, 2,000 feet, 3,000 feet from earth to summit. These are not so well known.
Sentinel Peak is one of these. It’s not an icon, but that isn’t necessary to be altogether as spectacular as Half Dome and El Cap. There is kind of a ridiculous story behind this painting of Sentinel Peak. I painted it from a photo I made on one of those quickie turn-off-the-road latish-afternoon trips I sometimes make into the park on my way home from skiing. This particular day was just a few days after a big snowstorm, and the waterfalls were FLOWING and wonderful to see! The road that follows the Merced River revealed a marvel around every corner. The right side of the river was deep enough in shadow that I had my headlights on, but the left side was absolutely aglow with the golden and rosy colors of oncoming dusk. I was stopping every two minutes to run down to the river and get a clear look and a photo. And as the sun lowered, the scenes just got better and better. I got so taken up with all this stopping and looking and shooting that I totally lost track of where I was. There’s a point on that river road where you have to make a right turn to get back to the main road. I was so busy looking LEFT, across the river, at all those peaks and cliffs, that I had no clue that I had sailed right by the turn-off, and at some point, I realized nothing was looking familiar. “Where the heck am I?” I thought. I wondered whether I should turn back but decided to keep on. BAD MOVE! It was miles and miles before I even saw a wide spot in the road, but eventually I came to a little teeny settlement with a small complex of buildings, among which was a restaurant. I had gotten very hungry by then, so food was a good idea, but more than that, I wanted to know where I was! Turned out to be El Portal (never heard of it). But the young lady that waited on me was smiling and sweet. She gave me some fish and chips, plus all the intel I needed. Unfortunately I was an hour, at least, on a curvy two-lane road, from Merced, where I could pick up Highway 99, and then another LO-O-ONG drive to the road that would take me home. I should have been home before 8pm…didn’t make it till after midnight! BUT I GOT THAT SHOT!