Ranger Ned’s Big Adventure in Yosemite

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On a sunny summer day, tucked back in the little amphitheater in Curry Village, there’s a good chance you’ll find a quirky “ranger” captivating an audience of wide-eyed kids with stories of Yosemite.

Ranger Ned is no ordinary ranger – he’s a time traveler, an educator, and a passionate Yosemite guest. Played by different actors over the years, Ranger Ned weaves together Yosemite history, campsite rules, bear safety, and environmental conservation alongside another actor who plays a handful of supporting characters – John Muir, Ansel Adams, and Bob the Bear, to name a few.

“The kids learn so much in such a fun and energetic way,” said KB Mercer, co-owner of Traveling Lantern Theater Company, who created and still runs Ranger Ned’s Big Adventure with her husband, Doren Elias. “It really contributes to their understanding and appreciation of what they see around them in the park during their visit.”

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Mercer and Elias visited in 2007 and noticed the park didn’t have any plays specifically for children. After meeting with park staff and partners, they developed a script that has stayed the same since then. Over the years, the play has been performed at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls and the amphitheater near Housekeeping Camp, but Curry Village is its primary home. According to Renee Santiago, administrative assistant at Curry Village, it’s a cherished and helpful part of Curry Village’s summer programs.

“I’ve often heard a child reprimanding their parent after the show for improper food storage, saying something like, ‘Mom! We have to get the cooler out of the car so the bears don’t break in,” Santiago said. With over 500 tents and cabins, proper food storage is extremely important at Curry Village.

The program is almost always held outside, which makes the script feel more applicable.

“When ‘John Muir’ is describing a ‘puzzle-piece Ponderosa Pine,’ he can actually run up to a giant Ponderosa and show the audience what it looks like,” Santiago said.

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But it’s not all education – it’s fun and engaging and a “labor of love,” Mercer said. “Doren and I want young people to learn to care for the park on a personal level. We do, and we want to pass that magic along.”

Although the script doesn’t change, some guests return year after year. Tricia Guyot and her family visit Yosemite from Southern California each year, and they always attend a Ranger Ned show.

“It has become a huge part of our family’s yearly tradition,” Guyot said. “We’ve come to know and love the fabulous actors who have worked so hard to bring the characters to life.”

The interactive nature of the show gets kids involved – “demonstrating sounds of thunder, galloping onto the stage riding a ‘pony,’ or prancing around like one of the parks’ many mule deer,” Guyot described.

“Theatre is a unique tool for teaching children,” Mercer said. “There is nothing else like it for impacting a young mind.”

In addition to Ranger Ned’s Big Adventure, young visitors to Yosemite can check out our other programs for kids and families. What are your favorite family programs in Yosemite?

By jrskennedy Posted in Misc.

Little Known Facts About the History of Curry Village in Yosemite

Curry Village after a spring snowstorm 2015

Curry Village after a spring snowstorm 2015. Photo by Marta Czajkowska.

Did you know that Curry Village in Yosemite National Park is a National Historic District? Designated on the National Historic Landmark register as Camp Curry Historic District, Curry Village was originally established as Camp Curry by the Curry family in 1899. Over one hundred years later, this rustic resort in Yosemite Valley is still serving thousands of park visitors each year with a mix of lodging consisting of hotel rooms, cabins and tent cabins set at the east end of the valley just under Glacier Point with a commanding view of Half Dome. Curry Village is by far the largest lodging property in the park with 503 accommodations. With restaurants, stores, a swimming pool and a guest lounge, Curry Village maintains the legacy of Camp Curry with comforts established by the Curry family and their passion for Yosemite.

1.  The original rate was $1.50 per day. This rate included lodging and meals.

2. The camp once housed a bowling alley and dance hall.

3. Early refrigeration consisted of carving blocks of ice from Mirror Lake in winter and storing them in sawdust for summer.

4. There was one heck of a toboggan run at Curry Village from 1927 to 1952.

5. After Camp Curry, the Curry family built The Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite Valley and became the Yosemite Park & Curry Company.

6. A children’s park at Camp Curry was known as Kiddie Kamp, and housed a petting zoo.  It also included a mini train ride.

7. At Camp Curry, the song “Indian Love Call” was sung during the Firefall, which took place every summer night at 9:00 pm.

8. The Curry Village Ice Rink once hosted a Winter Carnival where a King and Queen were crowned during an elaborate pageant.

Mark Gallagher – Looking Back: More Than Three Decades of Love for Yosemite

Resource Manager Mark Gallagher has been at the forefront of conservation efforts in Yosemite since the late 70s. A quiet and humble person by nature, Mark has an incredible capacity to share the spotlight. When you talk to him, you’re more likely to find out about the amazing efforts of the people around him rather than his own substantial accomplishments. However, that doesn’t stop him from quietly and humbly making a big difference in Yosemite.

When he isn’t out enjoying the park in his personal time, Mark and Assistant Resource Manager, Debora Sanches, are involved in a wide array of environmental projects and programs within the park, from managing recycling and composting programs, to investigating alternative fuels and transportation options, or setting up green-purchasing guidelines.

Here’s a chance to get to know Mark a little better:


Mark in 2010 with some of the recycling crew.

Mark (front) in 2010 with some of the recycling crew.

YIF: What first brought you to Yosemite? When did you first visit? When did you move to the area?

Mark: I first came to Yosemite in 1977 on a road trip after college. I heard it was a beautiful place and wanted to see it myself. Oddly enough on the day we were leaving the park we stopped at El Cap Meadow to take some photos and I remember saying that this would be a great place to live! I came back for a summer job in 1979 and never left.

YIF: What different jobs have you done in the park over the years?

Mark: I started out as Supervisor of Recycling and “picked up” additional duties throughout the years. I’d like to think I built my “empire” taking on jobs that others did not want.

Mark working at the recycling stand

Mark working behind the counter at the original recycling stand

YIF: What inspired you to focus on conservation?

Mark: Garrett DeBell influenced me early in my career to get involved with resource issues in Yosemite. Garrett was passionate about the environment and worked a great deal with the prominent environmentalist David Brower before and after his tenure as a Yosemite Park & Curry Co. Environmental Consultant. That really gave me my start.

YIF: GreenPath, the environmental management program for concession company Delaware North at Yosemite got its start in the park. Tell us about how you got started with GreenPath.

Mark: Simple… I was asked by management to get involved. It made sense, as Resource Manager the work I was doing fit right into what we were trying to accomplish with GreenPath. There were many of us that were originally involved with starting GreenPath in Yosemite, and several are still here (Yolanda Cheley, Dan Lyle, Brett Archer, Vicki McMichael). I saw early on that with a larger diverse group you could get more accomplished than with a few individuals pushing for change. Vicki McMichael & John Huey deserve the credit for developing our environmental management system we call GreenPath.

Mark with Julie Miller celebrating Earth Day

Mark with then-Manager of Interpretation Julie Miller celebrating Earth Day

YIF: During your time in the park, Yosemite has taken some big strides toward protecting the environment. What are some of the steps that you have felt most proud of, or which have been most meaningful to you?

Mark: Being part of Yosemite National Park’s Bear Council & working with National Park Service Wildlife staff has been meaningful to me. There were some grim years for bears between 1996 & 1998. It took an intense effort by NPS, Delaware North, Yosemite Association & many others to turn the tide on bear incidents. Together they made huge strides towards protecting Yosemite’s bears.

YIF: Which jobs stand out in your mind as being particularly interesting/fun/rewarding? Why?

Mark: Integrated pest management (IPM) and working with trees is most interesting to me, because the people I work with share their knowledge, and there is so much to know about these subjects. The restoration projects that we have done in the High Sierra Camps and different areas in Yosemite Valley to define trails and rehabilitate areas that have been trampled have been the most fun and rewarding at the same time. It’s satisfying because of the volunteers I work with and knowing that the restoration work that was accomplished will probably outlive me.

YIF: From a personal perspective, what are some of your favorite things to do in the park?

Mark: I enjoy hiking, fishing and X-C skiing.

What first drew you to fly fishing? Is it the same thing that keeps you excited about it now?

Mark: I always enjoyed fishing. As far as fly fishing. My wife, Noreen, bought me my first rod. She likes to think she taught me how to fish. She says that I’m passionate about the sport. Don’t tell her…. it really is an addiction! I like fly fishing because you never master all aspects of the sport. There is always something to learn.

YIF: Do you have a favorite spot that you’re willing to share with us? Where is it and why is it your favorite?

Mark: The Merced River is a beautiful place to fish, and was one of my favorites in Yosemite. Unfortunately, with the last few years of drought, the water temperature has gotten much warmer and it’s really impacted the fish and the fishing. Right now, my favorite spot to fish is the Pit River in Northern California. When I dream of fishing I dream of fishing “The Pit”!

Yosemite National Park turns 125!

2015 marks the 125 anniversary of Yosemite National Park. 2014 marked the 150 anniversary of the Yosemite Grant. One year later we claim to be 25 years younger?  Yes. Well, not exactly. Yosemite has a long and interesting story and sometimes it takes a couple tries to get things right.

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Lets try to get the story figured out. In 2014 we commemorated the 150 anniversary of Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Groove of Big Trees protected as California’s first State Park. Not only was it California’s first state park, it was the World’s first state park. This, ladies and gentleman, was the seed planted that would sprout into America’s best idea, the National Park idea. Although Yellowstone can take credit as the nation’s first National Park in 1872, Yosemite can take credit as providing the first glimpse of this idea, protection for future generations.

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Yosemite’s first form of protection was created under a grant that transferred land from the federal government to the state of California. This ground-breaking piece of legislation was signed by Abraham Lincoln on June 30th 1864, during the heat of the civil war.  However, the Yosemite Grant’s protection was limited. Very little beyond the stretches of Yosemite Valley’s granite cliffs would have the same protection.

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This map shows the arbitrary lines drawn to “protect” Yosemite Valley . These lines left the Yosemite Valley vulnerable.  Not long after, alarms were sounded and  work started to protect the lands found beyond the stretches of Yosemite Valley. What happened outside the walls of Yosemite Valley would undoubtedly shape what flowed into it.

John Muir below Royal Arches and Washington Column

Although it took 26 years and public outcry by people like John Muir and the Sierra Club, further protection was eventually secured. On October 1, 1890 the third national park was created, Yosemite National Park. President, Benjamin Harris, signed legislation protecting 1500 square miles of land surrounding Yosemite Valley. This newly formed National Park would help protect the watersheds from being polluted, the high meadows from being grazed, and from other threats, such as mining prospects.

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The boundaries drawn did not include Yosemite Valley or the Mariposa Grove of Big Trees, those places would remain protected as a State Park until 1906. The boundaries drawn in yellow were the ones created in 1890, boundaries that are actually larger than Yosemite’s current park boundaries, which are drawn in red. Yosemite National Park protected Tuolumne Meadows, the Tuolumne and Merced Grove of Giant Sequoias, Hetch Hetchy Valley and countless streams, granitic domes and peaks. The 1890 park boundaries even included the Devil’s Postpile, which is now a National Monument on the Eastern side of the Sierra. If you are wondering where Teddy Roosevelt fits in this picture, that is a later part of the story. In 1906 Teddy Roosevelt transferred Yosemite Valley as a State Park into Yosemite National Park, helping to make all the pieces fit together. This was also the time Yosemite’s boundaries were redrawn once again. The red boundaries were created in 1906, which follows the spine of the Sierra Nevada.

Cathedral Peak. Yosemite National Park Photo by David Jefferson

150 years ago, we tried our best to protect Yosemite. 125 years ago we were still trying to figure out how to better protect Yosemite’s landscapes. This is something that continues today and into our future. Next year, Yosemite and the entire National Park Service will commemorate a different anniversary, the centennial of the National Park Service! To learn more about Yosemite’s anniversaries, visit http://www.nps.gov/featurecontent/yose/anniversary/events/index.html

Playing Piano in Yosemite

2015 Ahwahnee Steinway Piano Brett ArcherVisiting at The Ahwahnee or Wawona Hotel in Yosemite National Park, you may have been treated to the strains of piano music during your dinner in the Ahwahnee Dining Room or while relaxing in the lobby with cocktails at Wawona Hotel. Few people forget the pianist at Wawona Hotel, as he has a style and personality suited to the tales he tells and the songs he sings on summer evenings in Yosemite. Tom Bopp has been playing piano at Wawona Hotel since 1983 (and at The Ahwahnee since 1985) and is quite steeped in the area’s history. Not only does Tom have many tales to tell and songs to sing about Wawona history but he also knows a thing or two about the pianos he plays – including the three Steinway pianos at The Ahwahnee.

From Tom Bopp:

“The story goes that in 1927, decorators working out last details for the interior of a brand new hotel called The Ahwahnee were familiar with a talented young man who’d been spending his summers in Yosemite, dividing his time between practicing the piano and wandering about taking pictures. He was clearly a short step away from becoming a fine concert pianist, and perhaps that’s why it’s said he was recruited to find a piano suitable for the world-class hotel. The pianist’s name was Ansel Adams, who was just then deciding whether to change his career path. ”

“Two other fine pianos grace The Ahwahnee. Currently in the Great Lounge is the ornate tiger-mahogany 1902 Steinway Model “C” measuring 7’4” (Number 102266). It was shipped from Steinway in New York to the M. Steinert & Sons store in Boston on July 26, 1902; a piano resembling it appears in a fuzzy photo of the Camp Curry evening outdoor concert circa 1918, but its provenance remains undiscovered. The other piano, Mason & Hamlin Number 32500 dates to 1924 and measures 6’2″. It is remembered to have lived in The Ahwahnee Bar (formerly “The Indian Room”) as early as the 1960s (Dudley Kendall remembers jazz pianist/composer Vince Guaraldi dropping in to play on it one night).”

Along with Christer Norden and Dr. Ted Long, Tom plays piano for patrons of the Ahwahnee Dining Room during nightly dinner service and at gala dinners for Vintners’ Holidays and Chefs’ Holidays at The Ahwahnee. Tom provided the following details about the piano in the dining room:

BLACK STEINWAY Serial #247305
Model: “D” Ebony
Length: 8′ 11-3/4″ 274 cm (according to modern specifications per the Steinway website)
Manufactured: December 13, 1926
Sold To: Sherman Clay (Authorized Steinway Dealer), San Francisco
Shipped: April 11, 1927

Additional Notes:  The Steinway company representative said their records noted that this Steinway currently resided in the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite — and that this information was entered in 1995.  The number “E2937” stamped on the bottom of the keyslip is an internal manufacturing number used by the makers of the piano, according to the Steinway representative.  Inside the Steinway a massive and intricately designed metal plate supports the several tons of tension created by the strings; on that plate, near the music rack, is preserved the signature of Frederick T. Steinway (1860 – 1927), inscribed by him in the last year of his life, probably at the New York factory. According to Ansel Adams’ son, Michael, Ansel played on this piano on occasion, but not regularly or for pay.

Visit Tom Bopp’s blog for more information about the pianos in Yosemite.

 

Yosemite Waterfalls 101

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“A waterfall is water that has awakened… That awakening in the water seems to wake up something in us too.” – Shelton Johnson, National Park Service in Yosemite

Yosemite’s waterfalls are diverse and dramatic. They draw visitors to the park from around the world, and spring is the best time to witness their full power. Between March and May, the waterfalls reach their peak flow and put on a spectacular show. If you can’t marvel upon them in person today, build your excitement with a few Yosemite waterfall facts.

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Yosemite’s waterfalls are a force of…

AWE

  • The highest, the tallest…: Yosemite waterfalls claim some impressive records. At 1,612 feet tall, Ribbon Fall is the highest single drop of water in North America. The combined cascades of Yosemite Falls make it the tallest waterfall in North America and the 5th tallest in the world. This famous 2,425-feet-tall waterfall sends 135,000 gallons of water over its edge every minute during its peak season.
  • Horsetail Fall phenomenon: Under the right circumstances, a small waterfall pouring over El Capitan appears to catch fire during the sunset. Drawing photographers and visitors from around the world, the Horsetail Fall phenomenon only occurs in years with enough snow or rain for a waterfall to flow during mid- or late-February where the sun’s angle hits it perfectly. The earliest known photograph of the firefall was taken by Ansel Adams sometime in the 1930s, but it was black and white. The first known orange glow photograph was taken by Galen Rowell in 1973.

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NATURE

  • Two types of waterfall formation: There are two types of waterfalls in Yosemite Valley. In “hanging” waterfalls, the water appears to drop from the sky at the top of steep cliff faces. Bridalveil Fall (as well as Yosemite Falls, Sentinel Falls and Ribbon Fall) was formed when one side of the Sierra block rose faster than the other and the Merced River barreled down into Yosemite Valley, leaving Bridalveil Creek stranded far above the valley. The Ice Age and years of water wear have left Bridalveil Creek with an even steeper drop today. Vernal and Nevada Falls were formed differently. Glaciers from the High Sierra came down and trimmed away rock only in portions of the stairway. The tougher rocks were left behind and formed the Giant Staircase that Vernal and Nevada Falls now pour down.
  • Why some waterfalls dry up: Bridalveil Fall almost never goes dry, but Yosemite Falls only flows for part of each year. Yosemite Creek, which feeds Yosemite Falls, was almost entirely glaciated about 20,000 years ago and is now bare bedrock. During big storms, Yosemite Falls quickly swells and the water runs straight into the falls, but it doesn’t stick around for long. And since it’s largely fed by melted snow, its season typically ends when the snow is gone. Bridalveil Fall, on the other hand, has a smaller basin but has many meadows, lakes and patches of soil near the basin that contribute to a more constant flow regardless of rainfall.

Even Staircase Falls made an appearance today over Curry Village in #Yosemite!

A photo posted by Delaware North at Yosemite (@yosemite_dn) on

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DESTRUCTION

  • Frazil ice: In winter, the mist coming off the waterfalls freezes into small crystals of frazil ice. This ice moves downstream in a slurry mixture that flows like lava. Frazil ice can become thick and act like cement, causing channels to clog up and changing the flow of the stream. Yosemite Creek at full force can flow up to 100 cubic feet per second, and when frazil ice is involved, buildings and foot bridges can be easily damaged or destroyed by the strong flow. Frazil ice has been observed in all of the valley waterfalls.
  • Danger: Sixteen water-related fatalities occurred in the park between 2002 and 2011. Waterfalls and rivers in the park draw visitors to their beauty but they can be extremely strong and unpredictable. Most fatalities occur when visitors leave the trail to take photos, wade in shallow water, attempt to cross streams or try to swim. The rocks around the rivers in Yosemite are not only water-polished but glacier-polished, so they’re especially slick.

Closeup view of #YosemiteFalls from the footpaths near #TheAhwahnee on this sunny #spring day. #Yosemite #California #NationalParks

A photo posted by Delaware North at Yosemite (@yosemite_dn) on

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LORE

  • Poloti witches in Yosemite Falls: An old Ahwahneechee tale warned that the pool at the bottom of Yosemite Falls was inhabited by the spirits of Poloti witches. In the tale, a woman went to fetch a bucket of water from the creek. When she pulled it up, she found it full of snakes. Each time she scooped out water, she found more snakes. Eventually a sudden gust of wind blew her into the pool.
  • Pohono’s evil spirit: Another Native American myth tells of Pohono, an angry spirit who cursed Bridalveil Fall. Pohono is felt in the cold wind that blows around the waterfall. In the legend, a woman at the top of the fall went close to the edge to gather grass to weave a basket. Pohono placed a mossy rock near the fall to lure her near and then sent her down the falls. No one found the woman, and legend says Pohono imprisoned her spirit until she lured another victim down.

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Do you have a favorite Yosemite waterfall or story? Share with us in the comments!

Information gathered from Yosemite National Park’s Nature Notes, an interview with Greg Stock (NPS geologist), Oh Ranger, Domes, Cliffs and Waterfalls, The Waterfalls of Yosemite brochure by Steven Medley/Yosemite Association, and yosemite.ca.us.

Room With a View: La Casa Nevada in Yosemite

 Casa Nevada at the base of Nevada Fall in Yosemite.

Hotel La Casa Nevada at the base of Nevada Fall in Yosemite.

Imagine waking up to the thunderous roar of Nevada Fall – one of Yosemite Valley’s famous waterfalls – just outside your window before you start your day of exploring the Sierra Nevada. In 1870, you could do that by claiming a room at the Alpine House located at the base of Nevada Fall. Operated by Albert and Emily Snow, the simple Alpine House also became a favorite lunch stopover for riders and hikers in Yosemite, where Emily Snow was known equally for her good cooking and her bad jokes. With the addition of another building and expansion of the original one over the years, in 1875 the Alpine House became La Casa Nevada – “The Snow House” in Spanish.

“Well, you folks would hardly think it,” said Emily Snow, “but there is eleven feet of snow here all summer. My husband is near 6 feet tall and I’m a little over five. Ain’t that eleven?”*

Emily Snow would round out a traveler’s lunch with house-baked doughnuts, bread and elderberry pie. The Snow House was always known as a place where you could eat well and drink well in Yosemite. Though the Sierra Nevada snow melt water is particularly sweet in Yosemite’s high country, the most popular beverages involved liquor. A memorable quote from the hotel register – still housed in the collection of the Yosemite Museum today – read “Be sure to try the Snow water.”

Though the Snows survived an earthquake in the spring of 1872 that moved the original Alpine House two inches to the east and stopped the flow of Nevada Fall for almost a minute, La Casa Nevada would not last into the 20th Century. The hotel served many park visitors until the hotel was foreclosed on in 1897. The buildings fell into disrepair after they were abandoned and were eventually dismantled by the State of California in 1900. For a hundred years after La Casa Nevada shuttered its views of Nevada Fall, park visitors could find broken glass in the vicinity of the hotel’s location resulting from the consumption of “Snow Water”.

* Quote from The Yosemite Grant 1864 – 1906: A Pictorial History by Hank Johnston

Favorite Yosemite Spots: Climbing the Leaning Tower

As part of an ongoing series, we feature the favorite places of Yosemite community members and park visitors. The Leaning Tower, a granite feature located next to Bridalveil Fall in Yosemite Valley is a favorite spot of Marta Czajkowska, who lives and works as a photographer in Yosemite Valley.

“One of my most favorite places in Yosemite Valley is the Leaning Tower. Frequently overlooked, the Leaning Tower rises to the right of Bridalveil Fall. A stupendous overhanging tower of flawless granite. The tower is known to climbers as the “The steepest wall in North America”. That steepness is what makes it so remote. There is no hiking trail and advanced technical rock craft is required and tested if you want to conquer it. The lower part of the Tower overhangs an average of 110 degrees, while the upper section averages about 95 degrees – making it one of the world’s most continuously overhanging granite cliffs. It’s just a little too steep and a little too long to be an easy day climb.

Climbing a rock that’s that overhanging means three things:

1. Exposure. More often than not when you are climbing the Leaning Tower you are hanging in space. There is little below you but air.

2. Hard work. The less contact with the rock, the more physical it is to climb. This is when we start talking about Gravity with a capital G. You can REALLY feel it.

3. Safe Falls. If you happen to be falling down, it’s best not to encounter anything on your way. Overhanging cliffs are the safest for falling.

The magic of climbing the Leaning Tower is that the route starts already half way up the face. It’s like a shortcut. The other thing is that these extremely hard and overhanging sections are interspersed with huge and lavish ledges. One of them is so big and comfy, that it was christened “Ahwahnee Ledge” – encountering a ledge that size feels as luxurious as staying at The Ahwahnee. Right before the real summit there is another huge ledge, called “Dano Ledge” after Dan Osman, a climber known for his boldness and vision. Hanging out on Dano Ledge, watching a sunset – life does not get any better!”

The Leaning Tower has been named since 1883. At 6500 feet elevation, the tower rises 2500 feet above the floor of Yosemite Valley. Across the valley from Yosemite’s giant stone monolith, El Capitan, the tower was also known as “Tu-tock-ah-nu-lah’s Citadel”, based on the Native American name for El Capitan.

Marta also wrote about her climbing experience at the Leaning Tower on The Cleanest Line blog for Patagonia in 2013.

#YosemiteSocial!

Have you ever attended a social media event? Originally formed as part of the Twitter community and known as as “Tweet-Ups” (a play on meet-up, get it?), social media events have evolved to include users of all social media channels in what are often referred to as “Socials”. This week, Delaware North at Yosemite hosted Yosemite National Park’s first “Yosemite Social”. By invitation, social media influencers and social media representatives of park partners gathered in Yosemite Valley February 1 – 3, 2015 to talk about Yosemite in winter. The original event itinerary centered around winter sports at Badger Pass Ski Area – California’s original ski resort and one of only two located in a national park. Unfortunately, Mother Nature has chosen to withhold snow from the Sierra Nevada this winter and Badger Pass has closed temporarily due to lack of it. So what to do in the Yosemite winter without snow? Yosemite Social learned about activities such as hiking, biking, and ice skating in a snow-free Yosemite winter. Social media users on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram can check out the experience by searching for the #YosemiteSocial hashtag on each channel.

In addition to activities, Yosemite Social was hosted at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls with a welcome dinner at The Mountain Room. After dinner entertainment consisted of a Starry Skies Over Yosemite Program, led by Delaware North at Yosemite interpretive guide Cory. Taking Yosemite Social on a cosmic tour of the universe, Cory shared his extensive knowledge of astronomy on a walking tour under the dark night sky of Leidig Meadow. The next day, Yosemite Social took a Bike-to-Hike Tour with Yosemite Mountaineering School Guide Allissa. Using the cruisers from the bike rental operation at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls is an easy way to explore Yosemite Valley with occasional stops for short hikes and iconic vistas. Yosemite Social stopped mid-tour for lunch with freshly-made sandwiches at Degnan’s Deli in Yosemite Village and a meet & greet with Yosemite National Park Service staff. With grand views of Half Dome and Yosemite Falls as a backdrop, Ranger Paul provided insight into the methods and goals of social media for the National Park Service in Yosemite.

Though Curry Village operates seasonally and is often closed during the winter months, Yosemite Social had a special pizza party dinner in the Curry Village Dining Pavilion featuring Pizza Deck pies – a tradition for summer visitors. Along with local beers and a green salad, dinner provided an opportunity to learn about operations at Curry Village – originally established in 1899 by the Curry family – from General Manager Dan Cornforth and Guest Recreation Manager Sean Costello. A short walk from the pavilion provided a winter evening’s activity: ice skating at Curry Village Ice Rink. Not only are rental skates available to circle the ice under Half Dome and Glacier Point during the day, take a break to gather around the fire pit during evening skate sessions with a S’mores Kit for dessert. Ice rink staff will even loan you long-handled forks for marshmallow toasting.

On the last day of the event Yosemite Social joined The Ahwahnee‘s General Manager, Brett Archer, for breakfast in the Ahwahnee Dining Room. Since Chefs’ Holidays at The Ahwahnee was still in full swing for its last sessions, Yosemite Social also participated in an exclusive Ahwahnee Kitchen Tour for a close up look at baked bread, desserts and the hardworking kitchen staff in this historic hotel. Many architectural elements are original to the hotel opening in 1927, including giant Hobart stand mixers haven’t been available in decades. Each winter in January and February, Chefs’ Holidays hosts famous chefs from around the country for cooking demonstrations, historic kitchen tours and a gala dinner in the Ahwahnee Dining Room.

Sincere thanks goes to the participants of the first ever Yosemite Social: Annie from NatureBridge, Amber and Noel from Yosemite/Mariposa County Tourism Bureau, Trevor from Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite, Annie from Outdoorsy Mama, Kim from Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau and travel photographer Zach Glassman. Would you like to attend a Yosemite Social? Look for future event announcements on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Yosemite Wedding Photography Spotlight: Johnny Stafford Photography

Yosemite Winter Wedding

Based in central California, Johnny Stafford Photography is comprised of Johnny and Cindy Stafford, an award-winning husband-and-wife team that has been photographing weddings in Yosemite and other California destinations for over 10 years. With their wealth of experience, we decided to ask them all about photography and weddings in Yosemite. Here’s what they had to say.

Why is Yosemite a great place to get married?
When people dream of their weddings, they often visualize historical cathedrals or tropical beaches. We think Yosemite is the most beautiful “cathedral” on the planet and has gorgeous rivers and beaches of its own.  For couples with a love of nature and beauty, Yosemite is such an ideal and meaningful wedding destination.

Yosemite Wedding Smiling Couple

Why do you enjoy taking photos in Yosemite?
There are so many reasons we enjoy taking wedding photographs in Yosemite. In addition to capturing the beauty of the landscape, we are honored to document the love and joy between couples on such a special day in their lives. For many, the celebration is not just a wedding day, but a true destination wedding experience where family and friends gather from around the country (and sometimes around the world) to spend a week exploring and enjoying the splendor of Yosemite National Park. For some, it’s their first (and hopefully not last) visit to the area. Capturing images of a couple and their family and friends during the event of a lifetime is really an incredible experience.

We often ask couples what brings them to Yosemite for their wedding day. Each couple has a reason close to their heart for exchanging vows in Yosemite. Some were engaged in Yosemite or have parents who married here. Some grew up camping here in summers or own a cabin that has been in the family for generations. Some are avid climbers or trekkers who have hiked Half Dome multiple times or backpacked all over the high country. Others have never visited before, but chose a beautiful place they have always dreamed of seeing. The one common tie, though, does seem to be an absolute love of nature and the outdoors.

Yosemite Wedding Rings

What is your favorite Yosemite location for wedding photos and why?
It is so hard to pick our favorite Yosemite wedding location for photography, since the seasons, weather, light and landscape provide a different experience throughout the Park at different times. There are so many breathtaking photo settings including the winter snow blanketing Yosemite Valley, rich golden colors of the Black Oaks in the fall and spring runoff filling the waterfalls. With over 10 years of experience photographing Yosemite weddings, you might think that we see the same locations week to week, but we always love discovering new locations and perspectives every time we pick up our cameras.

The location that takes our breath away the most, though, is Glacier Point. Every time we drive up Glacier Point Road, we feel a thrill of excitement when we make the hairpin turn at Washburn Point. It seems like you can almost grab Half Dome, because it appears so close. The views at 7,000 feet rival any photo location we can think of.

Glacier Point at Sunset

What was the most memorable wedding you’ve shot in Yosemite?
Yosemite weddings are so unique and every couple makes their wedding memorable in their own special way. One of the most memorable moments for us was a small intimate wedding at Glacier Point. The couple was sweet, quiet and reserved and they had family that had traveled from Asia to celebrate their marriage. Everyone was completely blown away when the groom broke out into song to serenade his bride during the vows. The bride was so touched and had tears rolling down her face. During the serenade, the Best Man grabbed hidden signs that had the lyrics to “Can’t Help Falling in Love with You” on them and held them up so the guests could sing along. It was amazing and so emotional.

Yosemite Wedding Couple

What are the key components for a great wedding photo?
What we look for in a great wedding photograph is a combination of lighting, composition, and the capturing of special moments of the day. Moments like the bride in beautiful light when her father sees her for the first time on her wedding day, or seeing light cascade across the granite walls of Yosemite when photographing a ceremony at The Ahwahnee, or just noticing the smile on Grandmas’s face when the couple dances for the first time; these are the priceless moments that couples are going to want to look back on many years from now in their wedding album. It’s really about finding or creating that perfect light, framing the action within that light, and letting the moments unfold. It’s the participants themselves, their family, friends, loved ones, that provide the magic.

We also love capturing the natural moments between a couple…their laughs, their emotion, their smiles, etc. So often, the best photo is a candid moment that happens between poses, or during a part of the day where people are not aware of the camera. Our goal is to have people comfortable enough with us that they forget the camera is there. That is when their true emotion comes out.

Yosemite Wedding Shoes and Flowers

Why do you think wedding photos are important?
The most important thing at a wedding are the couple, their vows, and love for each other. Photography is an an important way to capture their love and celebration for future generations. We love looking through Cindy’s parents’ wedding album from 1960 and cherish having that heirloom as a window to our family history. Cindy’s Grandmother passed away a week after our own wedding. We will treasure forever the images we have with her from our wedding day. As photographers we are not just capturing the wedding, but also the legacy of family and friends.

Yosemite Wedding Groom

Do you have advice for couples that would like to have their wedding in Yosemite?
Our advice for couples marrying in Yosemite (especially those planning from afar) is to rely on the expertise of experienced area professionals to assist and advise on the wedding logistics and free yourself up to enjoy your day. The Delaware North professionals at every venue are excellent and go over and above to help guide couples through the event planning stages. There are also wonderful area vendors including florists, beauty stylists, planners, officiants, musicians, DJs (and your photographer, of course), who know the details about Yosemite and can help couples navigate timing, schedules and logistics within the National Park to make the day perfect and stress-free!

Yosemite Bridge at Sentinel Beach

What has your experience as wedding photographers taught you?
From wedding photography, we have learned so much about different types of people, families, customs, etc. It is such a special thing to document a glimpse of a couple’s lives, love, and relationships. Weddings are a landmark event.. one in which people look back on for generations. It has taught us the importance of true love and cherishing its pricelessness. Maybe the Beatles said it best, “Love is all you need.”

The Stafford Family

The Stafford Family

Johnny Stafford Photography is the award-winning, husband-and-wife team of Johnny and Cindy Stafford. The Staffords have been photographing weddings in Yosemite and other California destinations for over 10 years. They met in college when Johnny sent Cindy a secret-admirer note. They have been together ever since… for over 20 years.

One of Johnny’s first loves was photography, which he discovered as a teenager. The beauty and power of image-making led him to pursue it as a career. He has taught photography for over 20 years at a high school in Fresno, California. This allows him to give back the passion for image-making that captivated him years ago. When not teaching or photographing weddings, Johnny enjoys fly-fishing.

After working for several years as a graphic designer, Cindy left the advertising world to join Johnny in starting their photography business in 2004. In addition to photography, she manages the studio operations, editing, design and customer service. She enjoys working with couples from the wedding planning stage all the way through designing their custom albums. Soccer is her favorite hobby. The Staffords also love to go camping with their kids and friends.