Elizabeth Falkner Brings the Heat to Yosemite’s Chefs’ Holidays

Elizabeth Falkner has been a longtime participant in Chefs’ Holidays and graces the cover of this year’s brochure. We caught up with her this summer to talk about Chefs’ Holidays, her culinary career, and her love for the park.

Before Falkner became a world-famous chef, she was living in San Francisco with a degree in fine art film. But she was always drawn to food and cooking, especially as California was going through what she called a “food revolution.”

“I loved to cook but I didn’t go to culinary school, I just wanted to work in a restaurant,” she said. “It’s so different from film making, which is quite a long process. People were doing really cool things with food. It was a whole scene. It was like an art movement. I couldn’t not get involved with it.”

Falkner worked in a handful of restaurants before opening her own San Francisco pastry shop and restaurant, Citizen Cake. For years she has been an innovative player in fine dining and culinary events across the country. Falkner said she loves culinary travel through food and meeting and working with new chefs.

“I love that environment of cooking with other people to see how they put it together for a really cohesive menu.”

She now lives and works in New York, and after opening nine restaurants in San Francisco and New York City, she’s not attached to a restaurant at the moment. She said she enjoys the freedom this gives her to cook at food and wine events while working on a memoir and other projects.

Over the years that she’s been featured in Chefs’ Holidays, Falkner said she has enjoyed meeting fans, friends and family of the other chefs, and repeat attendees to Chefs’ Holidays. But she said it’s especially fun seeing people experience Yosemite and Chefs’ Holidays for the first time.

“There’s the bonus of being in this beautiful place and getting to have some fun food and chat with chefs. [Chefs’ Holidays] is more intimate than some other cooking events. It’s much more like a getaway or a holiday. It’s a special environment. We all wake up and look outside and go ‘oh my god, I can’t wait to go out there.’ Everyone has conversations about going out later or what they’ve already done. It’s not 24 hours of food and wine.”

Having visited the park as a child and as an adult, Falkner is no stranger to Yosemite, but the park still carries a sense of awe for her when she visits for Chefs’ Holidays.

“It’s just always been really magical and such a beautiful, amazing part of the planet and an amazing part of California. It’s amazing how many Californians haven’t been here. It’s so, so grand and spiritual in the deepest sense. It’s not like anything else.”

Chefs’ Holidays sessions run between January 10 and February 4, 2016. Elizabeth Falkner is the headliner chef for Session 4 on January 20 and 21. Visit our website to learn more or book a package.

Renovated Cottages at The Ahwahnee in Yosemite

Delaware North at Yosemite recently completed a $650,000 refurbishment to 24 cottage rooms at The Ahwahnee hotel in Yosemite Valley. Funded and managed by Delaware North in collaboration with the National Park Service, the renovation enhanced guest room functionality while at the same time, restored historic integrity.

Richard Kollath and Edward McCann of Kollath-McCann Creative Services, designers for The Ahwahnee since 1998, referenced archival images and other historic documents to guide their selection of textiles, colors and accessory items to update the historic cottages. The cottages were built in 1928, one year after the hotel’s grand opening. The furnishings and materials selected reflect those used in the hotel between 1925 and 1942, which was established by National Park Service historians as the hotel’s “period of historic significance.” The designers’ research steered them toward simple wooden furniture and hand-crafted textiles that echo a western Arts & Crafts style. Highlights of the cottage guest rooms include custom-made Mission Style credenzas and night stands with integrated power outlets and USB ports. The bold, cheerful pattern of the drapery fabric reflects a 1930s design aesthetic, and the texture of the striped broadloom carpet evokes the original hooked rugs that once covered the floors. Linoleum prints of pine cones from local artist Kim Young Min feature exquisite details of indigenous flora found in Yosemite while watercolors of early artist-in-residence Gunnar Widforss capture the incredible grandeur and majesty of Yosemite waterfalls.

“We are proud to unveil the refurbished cottages to our guests,” said General Manager Brett Archer. “The essence of these cottages has been restored and the modern upgrades enhances the guest experience while allowing visitors to appreciate the landscape of Yosemite.

Vintners’ Holidays in Yosemite: Managing the Wining & Dining at The Ahwahnee

If you have ever attended Vintners’ Holidays at The Ahwahnee in Yosemite, pat yourself on the back for choosing one of California’s most treasured landscapes to do your wine tasting. Napa Valley notwithstanding, Yosemite Valley offers the National Historic Landmark Ahwahnee hotel as one of the premier venues to taste California wines. Each fall for the past 35 years, California vintners have gathered in Yosemite National Park to share their knowledge (and their wine!) with park visitors. For the past four years, Kathy Langley has managed the Vintners’ Holidays event for The Ahwahnee, and as you may imagine, she really enjoys her work! Kathy shared her views on the event in the interview below.

Q1: How many years have you been involved in planning the event?
A1: Four years as the Food & Wine Events Manager [Kathy worked many years as a concierge at The Ahwahnee involved in the events prior to becoming the manager].

Q2:What makes The Ahwahnee a venue that a wine lover must check out at least once?
A2: Enjoying wine is a good thing. Enjoying wine in Yosemite is a great thing!

Q3:What do you look for when looking for speakers to present their wines?
A3: A variety of wines, grape-growing regions, and personalities

Q4: Do you have a certain session you are looking forward to and what do each have to offer guests?
A4: That’s really a difficult question to answer as each session has something unique to offer. However, at Session 4, Joy Sterling of Iron Horse Vineyards will be pouring their Summit Cuvee in honor of Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson’s ascent of the Dawn Wall on El Capitan in Yosemite. Kevin is a Sonoma County boy, born and raised.

Q5: What is your favorite part of the event?
A5: Getting the first of six sessions started. That’s really seeing the fruits of my labor come to life!

Q6: Do you have a certain wine that is your favorite?
A6: The one in my glass!

Q7: What special memories do you have attending and help organizing the event? A7: Getting to know the vintners and their families. I’ve had the privilege of seeing their children grow up over the years of their visits to Yosemite for Vintners’ Holidays.

Q8: How does the executive chef at The Ahwahnee make it over-the-top when pairing food and wine?
A8: Chef Percy Whatley has an amazing palate and is a real wizard at pairing. The vintners agree, in that their comments with regard to the pairing of the wine is typically, “He nailed it!”

Q9: What makes Vintners’ Holidays different from other wine events?
A9: The opportunity to meet the actual winemakers and proprietors of the wineries. There are very few events that feature the actual winemakers.

Q10: How does the scenery and The Ahwahnee’s history add to the venue?
A10: Tasting seminars are held in the Great Lounge – what a spectacular place to sip wine! Most events of this type are held in hotel banquet rooms – not exactly a warm and fuzzy place to be! Here you sip…look at Half Dome…sip again…look at Yosemite Falls.

Q11: Why do you think it has continued all these years?
A11: The combination of wine and Yosemite with The Ahwahnee as the event venue is pretty hard to beat. Over the course of two or three days, guests run into the vintners in the bar, elevator, hallways, etc. That kind of access is not common at wine events.

Q12: What do you have to say about the judges and speakers this year?
A12: With Peter Marks, Evan Goldstein and Dan Berger, there is plenty of history in Yosemite. They have all participated for a number of years. Fred Dame, who some may recognize from the film “Somm“, was a moderator in the early years of Vintners’ Holidays and returns this year, as he did in 2014.

Q13: And anything else you would like to add?
A13: I can’t wait for the event!

Cocktails at Wawona Hotel in Yosemite

One of Yosemite’s most genteel pleasures is surveying the landscape from a wicker chair on the verandah of the historic Wawona Hotel – cocktail in hand. Not only does the slower pace of Wawona lend itself to reflection, it also lends itself to libation, particularly on a warm summer afternoon. Cocktail service begins in the lobby of this beloved old hotel every afternoon, with plenty of outdoor seating for those inclined to lovely views. This summer season, Wawona Hotel has created some charming additions to the cocktail menu – including appetizers for nibbling prior to dinner in the dining room.

Two tasty cheese plates featuring almond-crusted Brie and a sampler assortment are traditional shared plate offerings, but this summer menu also features crispy fried Brussels sprouts(!) and a generous smoked salmon fillet to share. To accompany your apps, choose from Wawona namesake cocktails such as the Wawona Julep or the Washburn’s Old-Fashioned. New this year is the Greens Keeper – a refreshing cucumber and lemon flavored gin-based drink. The season’s best specialty martini may be the PomeGranite Dome (get it?) with Patron Silver tequila and pomeganate juice.

In addition to sipping and snacking, Wawona provides the best old-fashioned entertainment this side of the Yosemite entrance gate, as Tom Bopp plays piano and sings about life in Wawona. Join him for an evening of Wawona history show-tune-style, in the lobby of the hotel.

If cocktail hour is not on your Yosemite agenda, lunch in the Wawona Dining Room may provide a restful break in an adventure-filled day. Lunch specialties include salads, hot & cold sandwiches and burgers along with spaghetti pomodoro and fish & chips.

Favorite Yosemite Spots: Wawona

As part of an ongoing series, we’re featuring the favorite places of Yosemite community members and park visitors. The Wawona Hotel grounds are a favorite place for Jessica Kennedy, who lives and works in Yosemite Valley.

“Like many Yosemite visitors, I drove past Wawona often without giving it much thought. Yosemite is full of incredible vistas, huge waterfalls, and jagged peaks, and I didn’t see how Wawona’s forests and rolling hills fit into that. It’s not the Yosemite that first comes to mind, but Wawona has its own special charm.

Summer in Yosemite is marked by hot, sunny days and crowds of tourists. But tucked away on the southern end of the park, the Wawona area reminds me of a peaceful visit to my southern grandmother’s home. The hotel’s façade is wooden and painted white, just as it was in the hotel’s early days when guests arrived by stagecoach. When I last visited on an afternoon in June, a cool breeze was blowing through the old sequoia trees on the property and groups of families and friends were sitting outside in lawn chairs reading or reminiscing together.

My favorite hidden treasure in Wawona is the golf course. I’m not a golfer and never plan to be, but this is the first golf course I’d ever spend an afternoon visiting. The atmosphere is so casual and welcoming that I’d even consider giving golf a shot. The edge of the course is lined with wildflowers, and the thick forest of trees along each hole makes it feel like your own private retreat. And then there’s the chorus of ever-chirping birds. I don’t need to be homesick for the South — the bright, warm afternoon, the tall pine trees, and the cold iced tea are all right here.

There’s no internet, not much phone signal, and no television, so Wawona is the perfect place to be fully present in Yosemite. The hotel prides itself on allowing guests to step back in time, and it really feels that way. I watch the YARTS bus pull up and can almost hear the stomping hooves and jingling rig of the stagecoach pulling up in the same spot in the early 1900s. With no phone or computer to distract myself, when the sun sets, my only option is to head inside, find a cozy seat in the parlor, and listen to Tom Bopp welcome the evening on the piano as he has for many, many years. As it turns out, there’s nothing I’d rather be doing.”

On your way into the park, stop by Wawona to look around, sip on an iced tea, or grab a meal. You don’t need a reservation to check out the golf course or admire the giant sequoias. If you want to know more about the Wawona area, sign up for our mailing list and look out for our August Yosemite in Focus newsletter all about Wawona.

By jrskennedy Posted in Misc.

Mules: A Key Part of Yosemite’s Past and Present

IOA 1

Mules have a long history in Yosemite National Park. In Yosemite’s early days, mules were responsible for getting people and supplies into the park and were crucial in early road building efforts in Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon National Parks. In 1864, James Hutching brought in a pack train of 100 horses and mules, starting the tradition of tourist stables in Yosemite Valley. In the late 1800s, Wawona was developed and became the largest stage stop in Yosemite. Stagecoaches would often stop at Wawona Hotel for the night before the final eight-hour push to Yosemite Valley the next day.

IMG_2419

With their reputation as sure-footed, reliable animals, mules have long reigned supreme to horses for packing and riding on Yosemite’s rocky terrain and steep trails. Compared to horses, they also endure heat better, eat less, more rarely have hoof problems, do better in groups, and tend to have a higher sense of self-preservation.

Mules are used in a variety of ways in the park today. On a trail ride from the stables in Yosemite Valley, Tuolumne, or Wawona, you’ll probably be assigned a mule instead of a horse. Mules are great animals for riders of all levels. Because mules stick with their horse mothers when they’re young, they naturally follow horses, the preferred animal for guides to ride. When you take a trail ride, you’ll see that the mules are quite good at following each other in a line.

C_KK_Merced River Canyon Trail 3

Mules are responsible for getting all five of Yosemite’s High Sierra Camps running. Every part of each High Sierra Camp – the tent canvas and frames, wood stoves, mattresses, and more – was originally brought in by mules. Pack mule trains deliver food and supplies to each camp twice a week on a set schedule in the summer. If you’re hiking on trails near the high camps, you may cross paths with pack trains. If you do, say hello, step to the side of the trail, and wait for the mules to pass.

C_KK_John Muir Trail SM_09-05-06

If you’re dying to ditch your heavy backpack or skip the hiking, consider a custom or standard saddle trip. Most trips allow you to spend a few days with a professional guide packer learning about Yosemite and traveling from one High Sierra Camp to another. Custom pack trips are available from all three of our stables. These trips book up far in advance, but you can call the stable at (209) 372-8348 and check for availability.

Donkeys

In Yosemite and other parks across the country, mules are essential tools for trail crews, wilderness rangers, backcountry utilities, fire suppression, and search and rescue efforts. To top it all off, mules are spunky, mohawked animals full of lovable personality.

This is the last year to take a trail ride at the stables in Tuolumne and Yosemite Valley, but there are no planned changes to trail rides at Wawona Stable. If you’d like to go on a trail ride, find more information online.

*Black and white photos are from Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America books about Yosemite Valley and Yosemite National Park and Vicinity.

By jrskennedy Posted in Misc.

High Sierra Cooking Camp in Yosemite


If you have ever stayed at a High Sierra Camp in Yosemite National Park, you have been fortunate enough to experience one of the most unique dining experiences in California. Yosemite’s High Sierra Camps provide the backcountry experience without the burdens of backpacking by providing tent cabins with bunk beds, linens, and meals cooked on-site with great care by High Sierra Camp cooks. Five camps: Glen Aulin, May Lake, Vogelsang, Sunrise and Merced Lake, provide access to some of Yosemite’s most breathtaking landscapes during the short summer season in the high country.

Each year, the High Sierra Camp cooks attend a High Sierra Cooking Camp before the summer season begins and guests begin arriving for their backcountry experience. All five camps have their own cooking staff comprised of two camp cooks who split the week for the entire season. With three and a half days on and three and a half days off, the cooks prepare breakfast and dinner meals every day until the camps close down in September. Glen Aulin is the first camp to open each summer and though it has the smallest kitchen, it is usually the site of Cooking Camp. All camp chefs gather at in the camp kitchen during setup and spend time with Ahwahnee Executive Chef Percy Whatley in a communal cooking atmosphere meant to foster ideas, camaraderie and good cooking. Chef Percy has been conducting Cooking Camp since 2002 and prior to that, Delaware North Master Chef Roland Henin conducted the very first Cooking Camp. This year Cooking Camp took place on June 9 and 10, 2015 at Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp.

Cooking Camp Dinner Menu #1
Trout with Caper Brown Butter
Potato & Corn Chowder
Green Salad
Green Beans with almonds
House made dinner rolls
Cream puffs with lemon curd & strawberries for dessert

Cooks are very passionate about their jobs at the High Sierra Camps. They treasure the freedom and creativity of running each kitchen independently as a High Sierra version of Executive Chef. Though the camps have a set menu for the main dish ingredient, how the dish is prepared and which side dishes accompany the main is up to each cook, and they embrace this flexibility wholeheartedly. Food orders are placed a week in advance and fulfilled by mule train delivery from the Tuolumne Meadows Stable (or Yosemite Valley Stable in the case of Merced Lake), so creative menu planning is a must. If, for some reason, the requested menu items don’t make on the mule train, camp cooks test their creative cooking skills by improvising from the pantry. Camp cooks begin their day at 5:45 am to prepare breakfast and continue cooking throughout the day, including making bread from scratch and providing a hot drink service prior to dinner.  Dinner prep begins in the afternoon before finishing the day with final cleanup by 10:00 pm. Box lunches for guests are sandwiches prepared and snacks assembled by camp helpers. With three and a half days off each week, camp cooks make the most of their location in Yosemite’s high country. Next to cooking in the High Sierra, every camp cook expressed a love of Yosemite as the most compelling reason to accept the challenge of preparing meals in such a remote location.

Guests of the High Sierra Camps are guaranteed meals as part of their camp reservation. Hikers and backpackers can also tent camp next to the High Sierra Camps in campgrounds operated by the National Park Service and still be served a hearty backcountry meal. Tent campers may take advantage of the proximity to camp by purchasing a Meals Only High Sierra Camp reservation. To tent camp, you must have a wilderness permit issued by Yosemite National Park. Please note that in the past, a Meals Only reservation purchase guaranteed a wilderness permit for the holder and this is no longer accepted. You must already have a permit in order to make a Meals Only purchase.

Make a Meals Only reservation this summer: http://www.yosemitepark.com/high-sierra-camp-lodging.aspx

Learn more about wilderness permits in Yosemite: http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/wildpermits.htm

High Sierra Camp Cooks 2015:

Ryan Cobble at Glen Aulin since 2001
Caitlin Rea at Sunrise for her third season
John Corry at Sunrise for 13 years, also fill-in cook who has cooked at all camps!
Cody Freeman at Merced Lake for his 2nd season
Zach Jones at May Lake for his 3rd season
Robbie Zukowski at Vogelsang for her 3rd season
Jennifer Shoor at May Lake since 2001 with Brian Schoor her husband and Camp Manager
Paul Lebourgeois at Merced Lake for his 5th season
Mitchell Williams at Glen Aulin for his 3rd season
Lucas Banks at Vogelsang for his 3rd season

 

Top 10 Secrets of Summer in Yosemite

Summer vacation fun in Yosemite is not a secret. This busy season accommodates families, students, international travelers and casual daytrippers with warm sunny weather, activities for all ages such as hiking and biking, and access to Yosemite’s backcountry for backpacking under the stars. Sharing Yosemite with so many people may seem inevitable, but visitors can still find places to call their own with unique experiences that are worthy of an Instagram or two. Unless, of course, you want to keep it all to yourself!

1. Hike in Wawona. Yosemite Valley’s iconic trails are crowded for a reason. In Wawona, you can experience the same Sierra Nevada landscape with less company at a more leisurely pace. The Chilnualna Falls Trail and the Swinging Bridge Trail put visitors face-to-face with Yosemite’s magnificent waterworks in the form of waterfalls and the south fork of the Merced River. One of Wawona’s best kept secrets? The Swinging Bridge is perched above one of Yosemite’s coolest summer swimming holes. After a day in the sun, have dinner on the lawn of the Wawona Hotel during the Saturday BBQ.
http://www.yosemitepark.com/wawona-dining-room.aspx

2. Swim laps in the pool at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls. Then have an ice cream cone. River swimming isn’t for everyone, and parents may feel more comfortable swimming with small children in a pool environment. One of the best kept secrets at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls? The Cone Stand located at the entrance to the pool provides old-fashioned summer fun with ice cream cones for extra cooling after a dip. And the pool really is limited to lap swimming only at the beginning and end of each day.
http://www.yosemitepark.com/yosemite-lodge-guest-services.aspx

3. Stargaze at Glacier Point. No doubt about it, Glacier Point is one of the most popular sights in Yosemite and on a summer day it may feel like every single visitor in the park has congregated there to goggle at Yosemite Valley 3000 feet below. But what is magnificent during the day is just as striking – and much less crowded – at night. Watching the sun set from Glacier Point is truly wonderful, but just wait until night falls and Yosemite’s night sky fills with millions of stars. Star Parties are hosted on select summer weekends with regional astronomy clubs where park visitors are welcome to take a look through club telescopes after dark. Yosemite Valley lodging guests will enjoy catching the Stargazing Tour – a bus tour that departs and returns to Yosemite Lodge at the Falls after a stargazing program at Glacier Point.
http://www.yosemitepark.com/stargazing-tour.aspx

4. Check last minute availability at the High Sierra Camps. If you are a spontaneous traveler with a yearning to experience the High Sierra, last minute availability at Yosemite’s High Sierra Camps may be just the lodging for you. Open for a short summer season, the first reservations are acquired by entering a lottery in November the year prior. Once the lottery dates have been awarded over the winter, any leftover dates are posted on yosemitepark.com in spring. The available dates are often sporadic, but they do exist. If you can throw your backpack in the car for a last-minute hiking trip, you may be in for the experience of a lifetime.
http://www.yosemitepark.com/high-sierra-camps-availability.aspx

5. Visit the Merced and Tuolumne Groves of Giant Sequoias. Yosemite is home to three groves of Giant Sequoias, though Mariposa Grove is by far the most famous. Due to the restoration of the Mariposa Grove in 2015 and 2016, these giants may not be accessible at this location. Luckily, both the Merced Grove and Tuolumne Grove require only a moderate 2 mile round-trip hike to view Giant Sequoias – which are found only in California’s Sierra Nevada. Both groves are located near the Crane Flat junction of CA 120 in Yosemite.

6. Order a sandwich at Degnan’s Deli in the AM and hike to the El Capitan picnic area. The made-to-order sandwiches at Degnan’s Deli in Yosemite Village are deservedly popular at lunchtime, but did you know that sandwiches are made at Degnan’s all day long? Arrive in the morning and order your sandwich wrapped to go for a day hike to the west end of Yosemite Valley following the Valley Loop trail. Sights along this route that follows the flat terrain of Yosemite Valley include Yosemite Falls, Camp 4 rock climbers campground, a stretch along the Merced River, and of course, El Capitan. Once you’ve arrived at Yosemite’s most famous granite monolith, look for the Ask-a-Climber program on the El Capitan Bridge. Equipped with a telescope, one of Yosemite’s local rock climbers will give you the scoop on climbers currently ascending El Capitan.
http://www.yosemiteconservancy.org/visitor-services/ask-a-climber-1

7. Take Part in the Great Yosemite Family Adventure. Visitors will find a wide range of family activities in Yosemite, but only one activity gives your family a chance to demonstrate their love for Yosemite as a team! Using a GPS unit and information about history, nature and geology, this scavenger-hunt-style program traverses roughly 3 miles of Yosemite Valley with clues, puzzles and riddles to solve for family members of all ages.
http://www.yosemitepark.com/yosemite-family-adventure.aspx

8. Buy a Fishing License in Yosemite. California’s fishing season gets underway in April, but summer allows access to all of Yosemite’s prime fishing environment – including High Sierra lakes. California fishing licenses are sold in Yosemite Valley at the Village Sport Shop, and in Tuolumne Meadows at the Tuolumne Meadows Store. You can purchase a license for the season or just for the day or week during your visit to Yosemite.
http://www.yosemitepark.com/yosemite-sport-shops.aspx

9. Kayak the Merced River in Yosemite Valley New designations have opened a much larger stretch of the Merced to non-motorized vessels, though the river conditions may make this trip feasible only for kayaks. As of April 2015, kayakers can run the Merced from Stoneman Bridge near Curry Village to Pohono Bridge at the west end of Yosemite Valley. http://www.adventure-journal.com/2014/04/yosemites-merced-river-opens-to-kayaking-and-rafting/

10. Take a guided hike, bike and rock climb with the Yosemite Mountaineering School. Yosemite’s local guides do it all: day hikes, bike-to-hike-tours, overnight backpacking trips, and of course, rock climbing lessons.
http://www.yosemitepark.com/hiking-camping.aspx
http://www.yosemitepark.com/rock-climbing.aspx

Ranger Ned’s Big Adventure in Yosemite

ranger ned website shot

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.”

ned tent

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.

ned beard

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.