Alcatraz, a small island in the bay of San Francisco. Famous for housing the nation’s first super max prison, dubbed “the Rock”, these 22 acres of cold stone and gulls nests are much more than pop culture would have you believing. Established in 1847 as a defensive position after California bought it from the Spanish, Alcatraz saw the first steps of its transformation into the place it is today about 15 years later, at the start of the civil war. It was built up along with fort point, known as the guardian of the gate, and filled with high range cannons, thus a single building now stood on the island.
The first thing you notice about Yosemite is the smell. You’ll travel for miles through the Sierras, narrowly avoiding car and cliffs alike, every so often spotting a hint of the valley along the road; a colossal boulder, a winding river chocked with granite, a patch of sequoias sticking out of a cliff at 30 degrees. The anticipation builds as much at the tension, the road would be amazing if it weren’t so terrifying, switchback hairpin turns on an 8% downhill grade, a fatal drop lying only feet away, waiting anxiously for you to make your one final mistake. Then, after your ears pop for the hundredth time, you level out. A magnificent shunt of granite juts out over the road, a natural tunnel heralding your arrival into the valley. You open the windows, craning your neck to see the trees that time forgot, ancient relics from the Cenozoic era; the Giant Sequoia, one of only 3 remaining species, stands almost 300 feet tall, and is responsible for the first and most notable aspect of Yosemite you will encounter. The smell.