A Guide to Yosemite by SJ Kincaid

SJ Kincaid, author of the epic ‘The Diabolic’ gives us a tour of Yosemite. 

Yosemite National Park is one of my favourite places, and it’s inspired a few different things in my novels. In two of my manuscripts, one unpublished, one published, I had the bad guys do what I believed to be the most profoundly selfish thing anyone could do: they owned the park. They kept it all to themselves and forbade others to venture inside. Why? Because hogging Yosemite for oneself is the greatest act of greed I can conceive of and the act cast their villainy in the appropriate, repugnant light.

So here you get my brief, scant, far from comprehensive rundown of a few of my favourite things about Yosemite:

Yosemite Falls


A really tall waterfall that can completely disappear in the dry season, but either way, yields some pretty awesome climbing rocks if you’re into that. I am, depending on my mood. Plus, there’s usually a rainbow.

Vernal Falls (technically Vernal Fall)


This is the bottom part of the paired waterfalls, Vernal and Nevada Falls. Vernal Falls is amazing. At the right time of year (May-June if there’s no drought), you need to walk straight up over jagged rocks slick with mist to reach this waterfall. And as you near it, the granite under your feet thunders with the power of the waterfall. You get to the top, stand beside it (but not too close – a lot of unwary people stepped on rocks that were surprisingly slick and were immediately swept down to their death) and then marvel at the angry white water foaming over jagged boulders and maybe play a vivid scenario in your head of the calamity that would ensue if you were insane enough to try swimming there.

(In my first series, ‘Insignia’, one my minor villains for the aforementioned evil company that owned Yosemite built his mansion straddling this waterfall so he’d have a lovely view. Needless to say, he had a rather appropriate death…)

Nevada Falls


This is the higher waterfall you walk to if you keep hiking after Vernal Falls, but I am too lazy to do this. It’s a lot of uphill and no awesome/precarious mist trail.

Bridal Veil Falls


The first waterfall you see when you drive into the park. A lot of time is wasted stopping, taking photos of it, and ooh-ing and ahh-ing because people don’t realize every other waterfall they’re about to see is much more awesome. This just has the advantage of being the first you see.

High Country


A place you have to drive or be a hardcore hiker to reach. Pretty meadows, gurgling rivers, no huge waterfalls.

Mirror Lake


Somewhere even further. Pretty sure I was driven there. I guess it’s mirror-like?

Half Dome


This rock is a massive, half-circle shaped towering mountain, and it’s amazing to behold. Some madmen like to climb it, but as far as I’m concerned, if there’s no waterfall, I’m happy just to see it from afar. Once back in the olden days, I heard companies wanted to mine it and risk destroying it, which inspired the national park act.  It was that anecdote that first put the appalling idea of a privately owned Yosemite in my head, leading to many writing ventures.

(Note: in an unpublished manuscript written just before ‘Insignia’, I killed an invincible guy by having Half Dome blown at the base by bunker busters so it toppled over onto him. It was really a tragic victory in a way because that meant Half Dome was no more… But it did kill the baddie in that book who happened to own Yosemite, so it was very fitting).

Glacier Point


The amazing view that you will probably never match again in your lifetime. It requires miles of driving up perilous, windy mountains, yet once you’re at the top, you gaze out and see (depending on the time of year) an array of waterfalls, the massive beast that is Half Dome, and this magnificent wonder of a valley thousands of feet below you.

(Coincidentally: this is where the evil company that owned the park in ‘Insignia’ had their building for fancy corporate gatherings, and where one of my characters told my main character what an idiot he was.)

And lastly, most tragically:

Hetch Hetchy


This was once comparable in beauty to Yosemite Valley, but then it was ruined by a dam. It’s tragic – and I am also a hypocrite for finding it so, since I grew up drinking water thanks to this dam. But look it up. It’s sad. It would have been a sister valley for Yosemite, as magnificent in its own way as the one above.

There are lots of other things to see in and around Yosemite – I have barely touched on the wonders of the place. The point is, go there and discover it for yourself. Maybe some writerly inspiration will strike you, too.

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Written by Sophie Waters

Sophie is the Head of Commercial at Maximum Pop! Having studied English Lit and Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, she came to MP! to satisfy her passion for books. Sophie is a diehard Hufflepuff and feminist. She's also a huge cat lover, and can often be found rocking her socks off at a gig.

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