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Taken from Medlicott Dome in Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park, on June 12th, 2015

Granite is pretty tough stuff. You can walk on it, climb on it, and drive steel spikes into it that will hold the weight of an elephant. It juts from the earth in stately monolith form, and bulldozes forests in rock slide form. In landscape form it shapes the course of rivers, and in mountain form it even creates its own weather. At first glance granite seems to be imperturbable, invincible stuff.

But all it takes is a little perspective to see that is not necessarily true. On a summertime adventure in Tuolumne Meadows, my friend and I scrambled to the top of massive Medlicott Dome. Along the way we passed endless chasms, cracks, slabs, and flakes of rock. We saw places where the rock was fissured by countless years of freeze and thaw, and where the unending march of weather and time had produced house-sized boulders. Reaching the top of the dome we looked out on a landscape dotted with huge granite forms scoured and scraped by an ancient procession of ice.

More striking than the physical rock we could see was the telltale evidence left behind by something we couldn’t: water. The granite spires and ridges were certainly vast and impressive, but it was clear that this was a landscape shaped by water. And while the rock we were standing on seemed impossibly tough, it was clear that over time, water is the stronger of the two.

View more beautiful Yosemite photos.

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