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Whether I like it or not, some songs have the power to transport me to a specific place in my life. When I hear Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance,” I’m sitting in the wheel seat, again, of a stinky school bus on my way to a cross country meet, trying to summon the adrenaline needed to compete. The opening swell of “The Simpsons” theme song (a childhood staple show) brings me to my spot at my parent’s kitchen table, with a microwaved Marie Callender’s frozen chicken pot pie (another childhood staple, the only thing I could gnaw on after getting my braces tightened). Also, when I hear Black Bear’s eponymous song “Black Bear,” I think of a Yosemite camping trip with my friend in 2019. Like many great things in life, we initially liked this song ironically, and then by the end of the weekend, we were sincerely requesting it on aux.
This is the last chance to see many of Yosemite’s regular in-season hotspots before 2023, as weather-sensitive park areas tend to start closing in November. It’s also the last chance to see water flowing in the park’s Vernal, Nevada, and Bridalveil falls. If you’d rather see the Ahwahnee region during the frosty months, you might not be able to hike as many trails as you would in the summer, but you get the park all to yourself. You won’t have to elbow your way through thousands and thousands of park visitors for a parking spot or place to stay. Bonus: You can gaze up at the granite monoliths as snow falls gently around you, which is a level of enchantment that Hallmark movies can’t even muster.
Obviously, taste is subjective. But to me, these songs embody the experience of visiting Yosemite. Listening to them is like brushing your hands against the bark of the ancient sequoias, watching Horsetail Fall turn into the iconic Firefall every February, and hiking through the land that helped make John Muir the naturalist he became known to be.