Saturday, October 19, 2013

Rain and Cold

Journal Entry

Today is a day of rest for my body.  The physical exertions of yesterday's dawn-to-dusk hike were considerable.  Generally the day after any long hike is a rest day, or a day of several short hikes, time to let the body recoup and stretch its muscles.  So far I detect no serious tightness in my legs or hot spots on my feet.  Although my mind wants to go on another long hike, today’s sporadic rain dilutes my drive and encourages me to saunter around and observe nature.  This is also a good time to catch up on housekeeping chores—especially cleaning up the tent, as I tend to dump things in when I return from one hike and reset my backpack for the next day’s activity so that I can take off at daybreak.

The impact of weather on camping and hiking is brought home as I encounter changing weather conditions in mid October.  When it's rainy, much of my attention is focused on staying relatively dry.  My first concern is for the inside of the tent.  When my tent and sleeping bag get wet, the trip is over.  Once the tent is secure, then I resign myself to sloshing around all day, with parts of me perpetually wet.  I can endure a day of wet feet and half-wet pants, wet hands and a wet face, as long as I have a dry place to return home to at night. After yesterday's late rain, when I had to deal with a little seepage under the tent, I moved my tent to a spot under a tree that stayed dry during the storm.  Cold, wet weather is a different creature.

Hiking in the mountains when it's raining isn't fun because the trails are always going up or down and will be slippery and potentially dangerous in spots.  The added weight and layers of rain gear slow me down, making long hikes cumbersome, and blisters are more likely to form on soggy toes.  Hiking over flat ground in the rain is fine because there's not much friction put on the bottom of my feet.  Yet the sights of the valley in the rain are filled with wonder, and it's tempting to risk hiking up to specific spots on the mountainside just to take photographs.

As I come out of Tenaya Canyon in Yosemite after a short hike, the skies darken and it begins to sprinkle.  Then thunder cracks and bangs through the sky. I love rolling thunder, especially the type that I can feel rumbling deep in my chest.  The wind increases and blows camp chairs, branches, and pieces of small sailing ships across the path. I make it back to camp and grab my rain gear.

With the gear on, I head for the open meadows so I can see what the storm is doing to the surrounding mountains.  Of particular interest is the white cloud floating just below the lip of Upper Yosemite Fall.  It's the only cloud that is this low.  The color of the water in the fall matches the white of the cloud so it looks like the fall is pouring into the cloud like a basin.  I wonder if it’s possible that the fall is creating the cloud?  Maybe the cool air flowing down the Yosemite Creek canyon behind the fall is mixing with the humid, warmer air rising from the valley floor and forming a cloud at the junction. Lightning flashes and unleashes a thunderstorm that unhitches the cloud from the fall to float down the valley towards Curry Village.

Why does walking through the rain in a wilderness place move my deeper emotions? What is it about fog that seems to erase the boundaries of time?  Why does a storm make even mountains seem vulnerable?

I walk through the pouring rain from Leidig to Sentinel and down to Stoneman and Ahwahnee Meadows.  As I return to camp the rain stops and I introduce myself to Tim and Dave who arrived today and discover that as I was watching that cloud form below Yosemite Falls, they were at the top of the Falls photographing it from above as lightning started zipping around their heads.  Later I learn from a ranger that it snowed so much at Tioga Pass they had to close the road.

I turn in early at 8:30 p.m. to get some sleep in case the storm intensifies overnight and I have to battle it to keep my tent upright.  I sleep fitfully for ten hours as the rain resumes, waking repeatedly to listen to the sounds of the storm echoing off the valley walls, and to check the tent for leaks.

The storm makes it clear that I’m not in control here.  The weather, wild animals, and the exposure to the elemental forces of the earth tell me that I am visiting a world where life and death go on and nothing is assured except this moment.

Overnight the air gets colder as the freeze in the highlands moves down into the valley.  Temperatures have fallen into the 20s.  The carrots in my cooler are frozen.  The car won’t start, and I may have to break out the insulated winter coat that makes me look like a blue Michelin man.  It's supposed to warm up a few degrees today and a few more tomorrow, but the sun won't rise over the south rim of the valley and reach Camp 4 until 10 a.m. keeping camp cold, and we’re on the sunny side of the valley.  At noon, I'm still getting the last of the chill out of my bones.  Today being a rest day between long hikes, I don’t have anything scheduled on the docket, other than to get warm, and I walk around the valley floor trying to do just that.

Last night, to my great delight, I found out that the hood to my new sleeping bag works great in cold weather.  Called a "mummy bag,” I can either leave the hood flat, or pull the drawstring so that it comes all the way around my head and keeps it warm.  I can draw it so tight that only my nose sticks out.  This allows me to breathe fresh air and expel moist breath outside the bag, while I stay warm and dry inside.  I used to wear a stocking cap and duck inside my old bag, but by morning I was cool and slightly moist, so this is an improvement.

If I know that I have a warm place to come back to, I find have a great time tromping around in the cold.  If I'm cold and wet and know that this isn't going to change, I don't enjoy being outside as much.  But I confess, it's a growing edge—to enjoy nature’s beauty whether I am warm, cold, or wet.  I am not Cuthbert who intentionally sits in the cold water off Lindesfarne.

-- Mark Liebenow

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Church Bowl and Ahwahnee Meadow

            Walking on the upper trail going through the talus by the Church Bowl one morning in October, trying to find Gold cup oaks, I begin to notice little things.  Usually I'm busy looking up to see how the massive peaks and domes look from different places in the valley and at different times of the day.  But today it’s the little things.

            The sun is in exactly the right place to reveal a crevice in what I thought was a perfectly smooth dome.  And I notice that even though the sun is shining brightly and there are no clouds, the valley seems to be partially lit, its luminosity cut back by twenty percent, and I wonder if this is similar to the unique lighting that draws painters to the south of France.

            Coming down to the valley floor, I walk through the Church Bowl where worship services used to be held.  There’s a stone pulpit to one side broad, an open area for the congregation to stand, and a few rows of leveled ground, perhaps for the choir.  There’s also a memorial to the pastor who was here during World War Two when the valley was taken over by the military for R & R and the Ahwahnee Hotel was converted into a hospital. 

            It hasn’t rained much over the last two months and the valley has dried.  I peek into a small hollow in the woods and find it surprisingly green and filled with water-dependent plants like horsetails and rushes.

            Wanting to linger, I sit in the southwest corner of Ahwahnee Meadow.  The only tree in the meadow is what I call "Mother's Tree" because she is surrounded by her offspring.  I estimate there are sixty first-generation children and at least twenty second-generation grandchildren in a tight circle around her.  It's hard to be accurate because she’s in the middle of a restored meadow, which means that I can’t walk over to her to count.  The afternoon is warming nicely from the morning's lingering cold as I lazily watch the Royal Arches, Half Dome, and the meadow.  The openness of the meadow provides a clear view of the splendor that is Half Dome, which is probably why a webcam has been set up here on the top of a wooden fence.

            Above the Church Bowl, a number of climbers are making their way up the swirling rocks.  About 250 feet to the left of the Royal Arches, a broad horizontal band of scratches goes across the rock.  They’re on a bend in the canyon wall and I figure that they are either the result of a glacier sliding by scratching the wall or of geological layering.  I walk over for a closer look but even when I’m looking up from directly below, I can't tell which it is.  But standing here, I see about the scratches a ruler-straight fault line coming down from the front peak that is almost at perfect right angles to the fault line.  How this was created befuddles me.  It seems too straight to be natural, and almost everything around it is expressed in molten rock that cooled into rounded domes and curves. I'm simply at a right place to see the straight lines.  

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Old Wawona Stagecoach Road

There are a number of special areas in Yosemite that I treasure because of experiences I’ve had there.  These places continue to resonate in me, and I return to them whenever I can. This is my journal entry for one hike on the old Wawona Road.

In the morning I leave the Wawona Tunnel parking lot and head up the Pohono Trail. Twenty minutes later I reach the junction with the Old Wawona Stagecoach Road. Normally I would turn left and follow that trail to Stanford Point, Taft Point, Sentinel Dome, and Glacier Point.  Today I turn right and continue uphill on what used to be the road that came in from Wawona.  The road was built in 1875 over an old horse trail and the road was closed in 1933. 

Half an hour later, a bend in the road brings me back for a moment to the Pohono Trail at true Inspiration Point.  I continue on the Old Wawona Road.  It's less congested with fallen trees and wash outs than the Old Big Oak Flat Stagecoach Road on the north side of the valley.   In places I walk across soft, crunching carpets five inches deep of pine needles and cones that have accumulated over the years.   A pileated woodpecker, lean and about a foot long, flies by and lands a short distance away.  It looks at me as if I have disturbed its solitude, and I probably have.  By the looks of the road not many people ever walk through here.  In the middle of the road a coleus-type plant grows by itself; the only one of its kind that I see around.

After an hour and a half I reach the overlook near the end of the abandoned road with a magnificent view of the Big Meadow, Foresta, its two restored barns, and I feel a connection with history.  The original barns were the place where early travelers loaded up on supplies before entering the valley.  Turtleback Dome is directly below me, on the bend of the current road as it comes out of the tunnel from Discovery View.  Elephant Rock is out of sight.  A short ways beyond here the Old Wawona Road dissipates into the forest on its way to Wawona.

Walking back down the trail, all is quiet.  There haven't been many scenic moments along the road, but at Inspiration Point, where the early travelers got their first look at the valley and saw El Capitan is in full glory.  According to recent research, Lafayette Bunnell and the Mariposa Battalion probably first saw the valley from this spot, rather than from Old Inspiration Point.

I leave the road and take the Pohono Trail back down toward the parking lot.  A side trail leads to a spring with an old stoned-in basin that was used perhaps by thirsty passengers from stagecoach days.  Two and a half hours after starting out I'm back where I started.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Yosemite Valley Place Names, A-G

Locations, who named it, when, and sometimes why.

Arrowhead Spire-- between Yosemite Point & Indian Canyon, Sierra Club 1930s
Artist Point--west end site where Hill made early sketches of the valley
Basket Dome-- North Rim, up canyon from North Dome, Native legend
Beatitude, Mt.—the place where the Mariposa Battalion first saw the valley (Old Inspiration Point)
Black Spring--north side of Bridalveil Meadow
Bridalveil Fall/Meadow-- west end, Hutchings 1855
Broderick, Mt.-- by Nevada Fall, named for US Senator from California,
Bunnell Point-- in Little Yosemite Valley, for Lafayette Bunnell 1920
Castle Cliffs- under Yosemite Point, 1907
Cathedral Rocks—to the left of Bridalveil Fall
Cathedral Spires—on the south side of El Capitan Meadow, Hutchings 1862
Clark Point--south wall near Vernal Fall, for Galen Clark 1891
Columbia Rock-- overlook on Yosemite Falls Trail, 1/3 the way up, 1873
Curry Village—east end of the valley, David & Jennie Curry started with 7 tents in 1899
Dewey Point-- on Pohono Trail, for Admiral Dewey
Discovery View--the view from the east end of the Wawona Tunnel
Diving Board--south of Half Dome
Emerald Pool--just above Vernal Fall, 1856
Fern Spring--foot of Mariposa Trail, by Pohono Bridge, 1871
Fissures-- by Taft Point, Eadweard Muybridge, photographer, 1867
Four Mile Trail—goes from base of Sentinel Rock to Glacier Point, built by John Conway 1871
Glacier Point--east end of the valley, south wall, 1864
Grizzly Peak-- overlooks Vernal Fall on the north side, Charles Bailey 1885
Gunsight--Leaning Tower as seen between the Cathedral Rocks

Monday, May 27, 2013

People's Names in Yosemite

Part Two
with date of first visit

Matthes, Francois--1930s, wrote the definitive geological study of Yosemite, The Incomparable Valley, published in 1950.

Muir, John—1868, born in Scotland and raised in Wisconsin, his essays and books on Yosemite brought people to the valley.  Founder of the Sierra Club and regarded as the founder of the American Conservation movement.

Muybridge, Eadweard--1867, early photographer of Yosemite, realistic style.

Obata, Chiura--1930s, watercolor painter.

Olmsted, Frederick Law--1863, a landscape architect who early on saw the need to protect the valley, and pushed Sen. Conness to make it a State Park.

Orland, Ted--1966, photographer with wit, i.e. see his photo "One & a Half Domes."

Rockefeller, John D. Jr.--1930, with the U.S. Government, he bought out the logging interests, especially in the area above Bridalveil Fall.

Rowell, Galen--1970s, ground-breaking mountaineering photographer.

Russell, Carl--20th Century, Field Naturalist for the Park Service, wrote 100 Years in Yosemite.

Savage, James--1851, an attack on his trading post on the Merced River outside the valley spurred the formation of the Mariposa Battalion, which he led.

Snyder, Gary--1955, discovered his poetic voice in Yosemite working on a trail crew.

Watkins, Carleton E.--1859, early photographer of the valley.

Weed, Charles Leander--1859, first photographer, hired by Hutchings to take photographs he could use in his magazine.

Whitney, Josiah—California state geologist who disagreed with Muir over what forces created Yosemite.  He felt the valley floor dropped thousands of feet and that glaciers were not involved.  He was wrong.

Yosemite Sam--I haven't seen the crazy varmint yet, but I suspect he lives over by the Wawona Pioneer Village.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

People's Names in Yosemite

Part One
with date of first visit

Ayres, Thomas--1855, was in the first tourist group.  He sketched the first drawings of the valley, which Hutchings used in his magazine.

Bunnell, Lafayette – 1851, a doctor was with the Mariposa Battalion when it entered the valley in pursuit of the Ahwahnechee.  He was overcome with awe and thought the valley was called "Yosemite."

Cleenewerck, Henry--1880s, landscape painter.

Conness, John--the U.S. Senator from California who put the Yosemite park bill before Congress in 1864.  Abraham Lincoln signed the release.

Conway, John--In 1871 he built the Four Mile Trail; in 1873 he built the Upper Yosemite Falls Trail.

Curry, David & Jennie--1899, they started a new concept in tourist travel by setting up seven tents for summer travelers at Camp Curry.

Hill, Thomas--1862, early realist painter.

Hutchings, James--Organized the first tourist group in 1855, set up a hotel in the valley, and extolled its wonders through his magazine, Hutchings' Illustrated California Magazine.  He owned the sawmill where Muir worked. 

Johnson, Robert Underwood--1880s, working with Muir through his Century Magazine, he helped get the areas around Yosemite Valley made a National Park in 1890.

Keith, William--1868, after a trip with Muir, he began painting in the grand realism style.

King, Clarence--1860s, wrote Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada, 1872, a great example of early frontier literature.

King, Thomas Starr, Rev.--1860, a Unitarian pastor, he was the first person with a national audience to push to make Yosemite a public park.                                                                                                                                         
Lamon, JC--1859, first settler to live in the valley year round, planted apple trees that can still be seen in the area of the Curry parking lot.

Lebrado, Maria--20th century, often referred to as the last of the Ahwahnechee.

LeConte, Joseph--1870, early geologist, contemporary of Muir who also saw a need to preserve the wilderness, although for utilitarian reasons.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Prayer in the Wilderness

Prayer is waking up at dawn and listening to nature as you cook breakfast over a fire.

Prayer is a conversation we have with the mountains and rivers, with ravens and coyotes.  We share and as we listen to the Other, our perceptions about ourselves and the world deepen.  We grow in compassion for all creatures.

Prayer is an adventure because on the trail we don’t know what we will encounter around the next bend.  There could be a mother bear with her cubs, a mountain lion, or the trail may open to a stunning view over a river canyon.

Prayer is a cool breeze on a hot day when we’re hiking up the steep ridge behind North Dome.

Prayer is watching the Creator walk by in thunderstorms that rush and boom through the valley.

As we hike into unknown territory, we trust the spirituality of nature to guide us where to go.  We travel with holy intention on a search that may take years, but prayer is not an answer. 

Prayer is a journey, and prayer is our companion along the way.

Prayer is the beauty of white granite mountains and canyons colored by rose and purple alpenglow at sunset.

Prayer is falling asleep watching the stars overhead and joining their pilgrimage through the cosmos.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

John Muir

I grew up in Wisconsin playing in the woods in all seasons and reading about John Muir, as well as about Aldo Leopold and Sigurd Olson, nature writers in Wisconsin and Minnesota. I lived near Muir’s home, we both went to the University of Wisconsin, and one side of my family is Scottish, so there are those connections. Then he headed west and found himself entranced and delighted by Yosemite’s grandeur.

When I moved to California, I wanted to experience the place that Muir raves about in his books, the place that nurtured his soul, so I went to Yosemite.  I was, and still am, amazed that such a place can exist – a valley with granite walls that go straight up for almost a mile, waterfalls that flow into the valley from every direction, mountain peaks that stretch to 13,000 feet, and giant sequoias that are 300 feet tall and 3000 years old. I continue to use Muir’s words to guide me around the valley and draw closer to nature.  He also liked to hike by himself, and by doing so I find solitude that nourishes me.

John Muir was instrumental in saving Yosemite from development and founded the Sierra Club in the late 1800s.  He realized the importance of taking care of not just the valley but also the watershed, for if the source of water in the mountains was diverted for irrigation, then the valley and its creatures would die. 

Like Muir, when I’m in Yosemite I feel surrounded by something much greater than my individual life.  I feel awe and wonder, as if I’m touching something eternal.  I feel a spiritual presence. When I stand on the top of Clouds Rest at 10,000 feet and look down at the forests, canyons and rivers that have looked this way for thousands of years, I am profoundly moved.  Nothing else affects me this way.  Nothing else inspires me like the wilderness. Nothing else gives me such hope.  

Monday, April 22, 2013

Tree Branches

Earth Day

Spring is late this year.  It actually was about to start early, then a snow storm came in, followed by a warm day, then a cold front with days of rain.  Now it seems that spring might finally stay longer, although lows in the 30s are expected later this week.  Tiny buds that I can’t see on trees in the distance are giving the woods behind my house a light green sheen as if some light is always shining on them.

I noticed a beautiful bare tree last week.  Without any leaves, everything was exposed from the trunk and main branches to the smaller branches as they tapered out thinner and thinner until they reached the twigs.  It was so symmetrical that I gazed at it in admiration.

And I had the thought that we are like trees and the branches are aspects of our lives – our relationships, projects, work, and all of our interests over the years.  As some of our interests end, those branches die and fall off.  As people we knew in high school move away, those branches never grow any further.  When we take on new interests and relationships, new branches grow.  What we were provides the support for our ventures now.

A few days ago I went into the woods and found a tree that did not survive the winter.  The bark on my old friend was beginning to come off in places.  I’ve enjoyed the beauty of this tree as I sat under it when it was full and glorious with its summer green, and I’ve watched it sway back and forth as it endured the strong driving wind and rain of thunderstorms.  Soon its branches will break under their own weight, and the tree will eventually fall.  Then it will become a home for insects and bugs, and attract a new set of birds. This is part of the life cycle, too.

(In honor of his birthday, California declared yesterday to be John Muir Day.)

Friday, April 5, 2013

Kathleen Norris essay published by Antler Journal

Antler Journal has just published my essay on Kathleen Norris and the spirituality of landscape.  You can read it online at:

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Trail Markers, part 3 (the not-so-well-known places)

Cataract of Diamonds – below Nevada Fall and above the Emerald Pool

Cave of Spirit Voice – This is the cave at the base of Upper Yosemite Fall.  From the valley floor it looks like a dark gap, but it is large enough to stand up inside.  Muir spent a night here.  I spent half an hour one October and collected Yosemite Falls in my cup.  It had been a dry year.  From the cave, the Lost Arrow is off to your left.

Contemplation Rock – one of two overhanging rocks at Glacier Point.  It is more commonly known as Photographer’s Rock.  You will see people dancing on it occasionally, although not legally.

Devil’s Elbow – a loop in the Merced River opposite El Capitan.  Its course was rearranged by the massive flood in 1997.

Diamond Flume – one name for the narrow canyon above the Nevada Fall bridge that is particularly glittery at dawn.

Enchantment Point – one of the early names for Valley View.  I like Enchantment better.

Fern Ledge – This is a ledge 450 feet up from the base of Upper Yosemite Fall.  The falling water arches away from the rock at this point, and Muir once tried to walk across it and got into trouble when the wind shifted the water back into the wall.

Ledge Trail – This was an early trail that went from Curry Village to Glacier Point.  It was only a mile long but really steep.  Much of it was wiped out by a rockslide in 1984.  After the rockslide, I tried to hike up from Curry on remnants of the trail until the trail disappeared and I began slipping on piles of loose gravel.  So I stepped off the trail and enjoyed a controlled slide back down to camp.

Horseshoe Grotto – At the top of Illilouette Falls.  If you hike the Panorama Trail between Nevada Fall and Glacier Point, spend time here rather than hiking through.  It’s a lovely, open setting, and some people have been known to camp here overnight.

Overhanging Rock – the other hanging rock at Glacier Point, east of Contemplation/Photographer’s Rock.

Sunnyside Bench – east of the top of Lower Yosemite Fall.  Every time I hear it called a bench I think of giants sitting on it with their legs hanging over.  Muir liked to hike up here for its unique view over the valley.  He got to it by hiking up Indian Canyon.  When I went up Indian Canyon to get on the Bench, I discovered that a gap existed that I could not get across.  I’m thinking that rockslides over the years took out the connection because I went up and down and did not see any way over.

Table Rock – on the flat area between Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall where Snow’s La Casa Nevada Hotel stood in the late 1800s.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Alone in Nature

We aren’t alone when we hike by ourselves.  If we respect nature, it will be a companion who walks alongside us.  It will share itself with us, sometimes conversing so loudly in a waterfall that we can’t hear ourselves think, and sometimes murmuring so quietly in a creek that we have to get down on our knees to hear what it is saying.

We don’t have to hike very far to feel nature’s presence.  We can sit and let nature come to us.  After half an hour, the birds and animals will set their caution aside and resume what they were doing.  As we watch them go about their daily lives, we discover the many ways that we are kin. And when I am tired and silent, I lean back into nature’s arms and listen to the world we share.

We can also hike on and on without ever stopping until our senses overload from all the beauty and the endless discoveries and we fall mute in ecstasy.

When we begin to hike, we head off on a trail eager to discover what it will show us.  When the trail starts to head up a mountain, we take another trail to stay under the trees, or along the river, or in the meadow, unless, of course, we want the challenge of going up the steep side of the mountain.  We pause when we want to linger in a setting where we feel a presence, then move until we feel drawn to stop again.

Nature meets us where we are and guides us further down the path into our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs.  Nature also challenges us by bringing mysteries for us to ponder by the campfire at night.

When we listen to nature, we hear our own wilderness respond.   

Thursday, February 28, 2013


It’s zero degrees this morning, as if there was no temperature outside.  The world is postcard still.  Nothing moves.  The air is crisp and I breathe it in slow, not wanting to freeze my lungs or disturb the presence.

Steam curls from rooftops in the neighborhood as if I’m living in a small village and everyone is cooking breakfast over fires. Thick snow covers the road and my mailbox.  Black tree trunks brush haiku across the white canvas.

The heavy snow blankets the woods behind my house with silence.  No birds are at the feeder of sunflower seeds. No deer have followed the creek’s path up to paw through the white crust looking for green plants to eat.  No owls meditate on the branches. Beneath the snow, mice and woodchucks sleep.

Zero is a door between death and the living.  What will be born in me today?  What will die?

The dawn rises pink on the frozen horizon, shifts to yellow, and slowly warms the air from nothing to eight degrees.  The crystalline world sparkles in the sunlight. Crows slide across the sky, their black wings glide on the frosted air. 

A cardinal sweeps to the feeder, his red feathers bright against the white background.  Another cardinal.  One drops into the snow to retrieve a seed and is buried for a moment to its neck.  Wrens come, then chickadees, and a Downey woodpecker.  Their sounds return life to the brittle woods.

I shiver in my coat and gloves until the stillness moves inside, along with the quiet of the beautiful cold, then follow the calligraphy tracks of birds into the wilderness inside.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Wilderness Questions

When I sit on the side of a mountain in the Sierra Nevada watching clouds journey across the sky, I ponder thoughts and questions that come to mind:

Skyscrapers have been compared to mountain peaks, and when we first see them, we look at them with awe.  But if we keep looking, they begin to seem common, one-dimensional, and uninteresting.  Unlike mountains.

Can great city parks like Central Park in New York City and Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, which were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, a big fan of Yosemite, ever be a replacement for natural forests?
A temporary substitute, maybe.  Replacement, no. 

Is any other large tree as impressive as a Giant Sequoia? 

Do people need the wilderness to remain wild?

The wilderness was formerly thought of as a forsaken place.  Why?  Because no humans were around to give it value?  Because the wilderness had no material value that humans could exploit?  Because any humans that were there were specks in comparison to something enormous?

What unfulfilled needs do national parks address?  Did national parks only become good when humans needed an escape from what cities had become?

Today many people find spirituality in nature.  Is this because of something that is in nature or because of something that is lacking at home?  Are natural landscapes that are untouched by humans sacred?

Does affinity for the wilderness stem from the landscape in which one was born?  Do people who grow up with four distinct seasons like to camp more than, say, people from San Diego?

If an environment can kill you, does that make it more real?

Does waiting for the sun to rise over the hill, cooking over a campfire, and watching the stars at midnight make you dream of matters more ancient than your birth?

When you stand on the bank of a river, do you feel lonely, thoughtful, or renewed?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Trail Markers 2

Signs that you wish were at the viewing points around the valley to tell you why so much sweat and toil were spent on building a trail there.

Half Dome  elevation 8842
Named by Champion Spencer of the Mariposa Battalion in 1851.  It was called “Rock of Ages” by Wm. Abrams in 1849, who said it looked like a sliced loaf of bread.  Native name:  Tissaack, or Cleft Rock.  It was also briefly known as South Dome, which was also a name that Sentinel Dome had for a brief time and causes some confusion when reading the accounts of the early pioneers.  On October 12, 1875 George Anderson, a Scotsman, climbed it by wedging single nails into cracks, pulling himself up, and attaching a line.  The dome has also been known as “Goddess of Liberty,”  “Mt. Abraham Lincoln,” and  “Spirit of the Valley.”  The front half looks sliced due to exfoliation in a zone of vertical joints.

Mist Trail
George Anderson may have built most of the current trail up to the wall of Vernal Fall.  The rest was probably built by Conway.  In the beginning, in 1857, wooden ladders were placed at the upper part of the trail to help hikers get up to Vernal Fall.  Wooden steps replaced them.  A stone walkway appeared in 1897.  Although it’s an old name, it didn’t appear on maps until 1958.

Stanford Point
Leland Stanford, one of the “Big Four” who built the Central Pacific Railroad that spanned the United States, was governor of California, and founder of Stanford University.  This name was in use by 1907.

Taft Point
The point was named by RB Marshall, of the USGS, before 1918, for Pres. William Taft.  Taft visited the park in 1909.

Yosemite Falls Trail
John Conway built it over the period of 1873 to 1877.  It was a toll road until 1885, when it was sold to the state for $1500.  The native way of getting to the top of the north rim was to climb up Indian Canyon.  Rock falls over the decades have made Indian Canyon a difficult hike.