show of hands. How many of us first heard of Yosemite from
Looney Tunes? C’mon, reach fer the sky fragnabbit!
On those childhood Saturday mornings Yosemite Sam introduced
us to the name but he
had nothing to do with the National Park.
Friz Freleng just liked
the plumb western sound of California’s premier park for his loud-mouthed,
sourdough, going-off-all-half-cocked, six-shootin’ little fella.
Fifty-odd years of Saturdays later yer flea bitten GypsyNestin’
varmints finally met Sam’s namesake.
|Coming into America’s second National Park from the south,
on route 41, offers a sensational entrance to the valley.Our first glimpse of Yosemite was from the famous Tunnel View.
laid out the tunnel when building the road to create an incredible
scene framing the Yosemite Valley to perfection. Almost looks as
if the view was painted on the
mountainside by a rascally rabbit.
we descended into the valley, the 3,593 feet of El Capitan
filled our field of vision with it’s sheer cliff of solid
granite. A profusion
of perpendicular precipices is what Yosemite is all about.
mere million years ago, snow and ice piled up in this area
in a manner that made a Buffalo, New York winter look like
a vacation in Hawaii. We’re talking deep. Like four thousand
When all of that ice commenced to head downhill, even solid
granite was no match for its scouring power. The ice carved
out the Yosemite Valley and left vertigo-inducting vertical
cliffs behind. Quite a dizzying display.
|As a classic example of the U shaped erosion that glaciers
create, the valley is a haven for waterfalls. In the spring
— when the snow melts — literally hundreds of them cascade
over the cliffs. These ephemeral waterfalls disappear, then
reappear after a big rain but many permanent falls remain
The most famous in the park and the highest in North America,
Yosemite Falls drops 2,425 feet in a double cascade to the
Ribbon Falls has the highest single vertical drop, coming in at
a whopping 1,612 feet.
Park provides trails that lead to fantastic viewing spots
at most of the major waterfalls. We partook of the Yosemite Falls
and the Bridalveil trails. Both are relatively easy hikes that most
any tenderfoot can handle and well worth the spectacular vistas
and Bridalveil was a blast…
of icy water that is. Yes, be prepared
to get yer carcass wet in the spray as the wind twists and waves
the water like fabric, making it look like, oh, I don’t know, let’s
say a veil. On our sunny autumn afternoon
the spray felt great on our faces as we enjoyed one of nature’s
oldest and finest waterparks.
up the valley the landscape is dominated by Half Dome. The
name says it all, it is an enormous granite dome that has
been sawed in half by a titanic river of ice. The carving left a
1,360 foot vertical face that wasn’t scaled until 1957. For those
not inclined to go
straight up, there is a trail that follows an
earlier route up the round part of the dome, but is an all day affair
that requires climbing the last four hundred feet hanging on for
dear life between two steel cables.
Choosing to view the dome from safely below we could almost hear
Sam bellowing, “Haul your flea-bittin’ carcasses up that mountain,
ya long-eared galoots!”
watching the setting sun light up Half Dome –from gold to
red — with the full moon rising behind the mountain had to
be as good as the view from the top. How could anything
be better than as good as it gets?
Maybe we should
have tried to scale the dome though, since luck seemed to be with
us. Not only was the
weather perfect, but it was a full moon on
Halloween. Could there be a better time to hang out in a graveyard?
We thought not, so graveyard, ho!
honor of the holiday, The National Park Service presented
an historical tour of Yosemite’s cemetery. We searched the
graveyard for jack-o’-lanterns marking the final resting places
of important early residents of the valley. At each
grave our witch hat wearin’ interpretative naturalist, Emily Jacobs,
gave us a brief history of its occupant
and stories of the beginnings
of the park.
introduced us to folks like Lucy Brown, George Anderson
and Galen Clark.
Anderson, came to Yosemite from Scotland in 1867 and was
the first person known to climb Half Dome back in eighteen
and seventy-five. He left his ropes in place for the daredevils
that followed and they’re still
a-climbing that dad-blame chunk o’ rock today.
Galen Clark came
months. He became Yosemite’s first superintendent and discovered
the park’s Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias while exploring in 1857,
loving and caring for them from that day forward. Expecting an early
grave he chose his final resting place, planted Sequoia seedlings
around the edges and began digging. The doctors were right, tuberculosis
took ol’ Galen down much too young… America’s first tree hugger
passed on at age 96.
The stories weren’t meant to be spooky and of course, we were never
shaking in our boots, but then, we did have a couple dozen other
people with us.
in the All Hallow’s Eve moonglow by campfire a little later,
we heard something stirring in the woods. What could it be?
Ghosts, goblins? Sam? It certainly was something that goes
bump in the night.
The lunar light revealed a large black furry creature lumbering
through the camps. Great gallopin’ horny-toads!
That ornery fur-bearin’ critter was one of them bears we’d been
warned about constantly throughout the park. They’re real and a
bit scary in person.
alarm went out. Shouting, banging on pots and pans and the
waving of torches (that’s Brit for flashlights in this case)
drove the creature from our midst. We were much like the villagers
in a cheesy old horror flick sending the poor
monster back to his lair.
was restored and the village
safe once more, we reckoned that
this Halloween we had our trick AND our treat.
David & Veronica,
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