Jan 062017

It was a place that had languished on my “someday” list for decades. I finally got there last April: Yosemite! Home to that very big cliff, El Capitan, that I had stared at in photographs since my teens, and my longtime heart’s desire, the hovering, split mountain known as Half Dome.

Yosemite is so famous, I was afraid I’d be impatient with the way it has to be managed to protect it from the hordes. But my experience was impressive, overall. To be honest, I was happy just to see people getting outdoors and enjoying themselves. How forward-thinking, those early advocates were who pressed to protect this iconic place from development and commercialization. It was 1864 when citizen Galen Clark and Senator John Conness got Congress to pass the “Yosemite Grant” and President Abraham Lincoln to sign it. Then in 1903, conservationist John Muir went camping in Yosemite valley with then-president Teddy Roosevelt, and he was inspired to return the park to federal protection as a harbinger to 1916’s formation of the U.S. national park system.

Those visionaries did this for me! And you! And the other four million people who visit Yosemite every year! Thank you, I say. Thank you, those with the gumption not to let the natural world be messed up irreparably. Despite the huge numbers, it’s all still there. The “Tunnel View” – that iconic bend in the road where El Capitan comes into view on the lefthand side of the frame and Half Dome on the right. Bridal Veil Falls. Tuolumne Meadows. Ancient sequoia groves. Wild rivers. Water falls, everywhere, including Yosemite Falls, whose 2,425-foot drop is the highest in North America. Stunning.

And the night sky. Oh, how well-worth missing a couple of hours in a cozy bed it is, to see it. At that magical hour of three a.m., my friend and I went out and photographed that sky. Well, she did—she’s a professional. I sort of got horizontally comfy nearby, the better to see the celestial view (when I wasn’t scanning for night-time critters, such as bears). It went well. And we were rewarded by the sight of  someone high on El Capitan climbing at night with headlamps. Intrepid, that.

Although the seven square miles of Yosemite Valley comprise just one percent of the park area, it is where the vast majority of visitors come and stay. Beyond the valley is so much more, a wilderness the size of Rhode Island. It’s enough for a lifetime of exploration. Adjacent to it are three more wilderness areas, making it one of the most comprehensive wildlife habitat areas in east-central California.

With the completion of the centennial of the national parks last year, it’s possible that the focus on conservation of important natural areas such as Yosemite (and the lesser known) will get fuzzy, especially given the changing political climate. But seeing Yosemite reminded me how vital it remains to watchdog our natural legacies. Wildernesses everywhere are at risk. As we know, once it’s gone, it’s….gone. I plan to do my part to be a voice of support for them, and urge you to do so as well. That way, when your turn comes to travel to see these places, there’s a chance they will still be there.

[source: wikipedia.org/wiki/Yosemite_National_Park on January 4, 2017]

  5 Responses to “Yosemite”

  1. My visit was during the fires. We had the park to ourselves and the Bears. I should go back when the forest is at peace. But I shall never forget the experience I had working there during the fire.

  2. Another good writing, Kate, this time about one of my favorite parks.I’ve been to Yosemite both in the summer and then also in the fall…think fall is my favorite time…far fewer people, magnificent gold and green colors against the backdrop of the granite mountains and waterfalls, etc. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on conservation/ preservation….we can only hope that we continue in the vein of Roosevelt, Muir and other visionaries.

  3. Such foresight in ‘caretaking’ is a gift to us all. Yes, every last one of us. And what a gift!
    Thanks, Kate.

  4. Thanks, Kate. You are so right. We need to watch carefully and work to keep our wild public lands public, and wild. In this political climate, our voices need to be raised loudly. Phone calls, emails, petitions… we need to do it all, plus watch the news coming out of Washington.. We need to be connected more now than ever. Do you have particular groups that you either donate to or that you watch for action alerts? I watch SUWA (Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance), GOBS (Great Old Broads for Wilderness), Union of Concerned Scientists, Montana Wilderness Association.. these are a few organizations that I think do good work.. I’d like to see what organizations you follow.

    • Kate Dernocoeur

      I keep it relatively local: Sierra Club (the Michigan chapter especially) and various conservancies, but also Vital Ground (preserving habitat corridors for brown bears in the west and Canada – google it!), and any of the many land trusts. Thanks for your reply & interest! And ONWARD, all of us!

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