California’s Yosemite National Park offers unparalleled scenery and seemingly endless riding options for horseback explorers.

The pearly-white granite crown of the mountain is bathed in sunlight as we top the trail summit. Scattered about, wind-gnarled, stunted Jeffery pines grow out of fissures in ancient rock. Below us, diminutive alpine plants hug the ground, grasping for what little soil they can find.

As I get off my horse to rest atop the barren knob, the day’s heat slowly radiates through the rock, coaxing my weary muscles to relax. Far below, the winding Merced River shimmers as it meanders through Yosemite Valley. In spring, the river’s floodwaters nourish a rich and biologically diverse meadow habitat. When snowmelt engorges the Merced, its waters tumble and plunge 2,000 feet as it continues to sculpt the rocky backbone of California.

As the late afternoon sun lies gently upon the land, I know why writer and conservationist John Muir called the Sierra Nevada Mountains the “range of light.” The sun’s rays reflect off the granite peaks to rest softly on the valleys and turn rivers into glittering ribbons.

My horse softly nuzzles me on the ear, breaking me out of my reverie. I reluctantly climb into the saddle for our ride back to camp. The spell has been cast and I find myself caught in the web of Yosemite’s magic.

To read the complete story, pick up the June 2007 Issue of Western Horseman.

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