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.

Yosemite Profile: Chuck Carter – Badger Pass Ski School Director

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If you’ve taken a ski or snowboard lesson at Badger Pass, odds are you’ve met Badger Pass Ski School Director, Chuck Carter. Soft-spoken, efficient and friendly, Chuck has been a fixture at Badger Pass for 46 winters, introducing new skiers and snowboarders to the slopes. That experience has given him a unique perspective on the ski area.

Chuck first fell in love with Badger Pass when he was in high school in Mariposa – sneaking up for a day on the slopes even though his football coach at the time prohibited it. The warm sierra sun gave him away when he and his teammates would show up back at practice with a tell-tale goggle tan, a tanned face, minus the area covered by ski goggles, but that still didn’t stop him.

Chuck Carter is celebrating his 46th winter at Badger Pass. Pictured here organizing ski and snowboard lessons.

Chuck Carter is celebrating his 46th winter at Badger Pass. Pictured here organizing ski and snowboard lessons.

Soon he met the legendary Nic Fiore. “Everybody knew Nic. He had such a big personality.” Nic arrived at Badger Pass just for the 1947-48 season but as he says, “Yosemite made such an impact on me. I fell in love with the place.” He ended up working at Badger Pass for more than 50 years, teaching more than an estimated 100,000 people how to ski, becoming a leader in the Professional Ski Instructors Association, and writing a book titled “So You Want to Ski”.

Chuck carries on Nic’s focus on teaching, and seems to be shooting for the same longevity. He started working as a part-time ski instructor for Nic Fiore in the winter of 1969-70, when he was in college, making the drive to Badger Pass every weekend and as many weekdays as possible.

Enjoying sunshine and a snack on the deck at Badger Pass.

Enjoying sunshine and a snack on the deck at Badger Pass.

What keeps him coming back year after year? First, it’s the people. Chuck enthusiastically mentions not only the instructors and Badger Pass staff from all the different departments, but also guests. “People come up every year for decades. It’s like seeing a bunch of old friends.” Plus, he loves being outside in Yosemite. Regulars to Badger Pass have fond memories of soaking in the bright Sierra sunshine from the deck.

When asked about what has changed during his time at Badger Pass, his answer is consistent with his focus on people — Nic’s retirement. Of course, there have been other changes as well, new lifts, and most recently a refresh that upgraded the deck and lodge, but according to Chuck, part of the beauty of Badger Pass is how faithful it has been to its roots. “The idea of it has stayed the same. It’s the same atmosphere as many years ago.”

Lessons at Badger Pass "It’s the same atmosphere as many years ago."

Lessons at Badger Pass “It’s the same atmosphere as many years ago.”

Badger Pass Ski Area Celebrates 80 Years in Yosemite National Park

Did you know that we’re celebrating the 80th anniversary of Badger Pass Ski Area in 2015? Since 1935, California’s first ski resort has taught generations of families to enjoy winter sports. Offering rental equipment and ski instruction – now including snowboarding – visitors to Yosemite National Park of all ages can learn new winter sport skills at Badger Pass Ski Area. Legendary Badger Pass ski instructor and U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame member Nic Fiore once said, “Come to Yosemite. We have a ski school which really teaches people to ski and focuses on beginner and family. You can have a really lovely day here.”(2) Nic arrived in Yosemite in 1948 and never left. It is estimated that he taught over 100,000 people to ski during his time in Yosemite. Things haven’t really changed at Badger Pass since Nic’s days as head of the Yosemite Ski School. The Badger Pups program – one of the first children’s ski programs in the country – still teaches Yosemite’s youngest visitors to ski and snowboard.

Nic Fiore was director of the Yosemite Ski School from 1956 to 2001

Nic Fiore was director of the Yosemite Ski School from 1956 to 2001

Always modest in size, Badger Pass Ski Area doesn’t compare to the large ski resorts at Lake Tahoe or in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. At an elevation of 7300 feet, Badger Pass Ski Area’s longest run is only 800 feet, but the impact that Badger Pass had on the growing popularity of skiing looms large. Though ski touring was always a popular sport for the Yosemite community and winter visitors, the idea of a resort with lifts and groomed slopes occurred to the head of concessionaire Yosemite Park & Curry Company, Donald Tressider, in 1934. The opening of the Glacier Point Road and Wawona Tunnel in 1933 made it possible for the YP & CC to create Badger Pass Ski Area 23 miles from Yosemite Valley in 1934 with the Badger Pass Ski House completed in 1935. Competitive ski races and contests and the addition of experienced European ski instructors to the Yosemite Ski School contributed to the popularity of Badger Pass in California and skiing as a winter sport in the United States. By 1936, the world’s greatest skiers were practicing for the Winter Olympics, and by 1937, state skiing championship races were being held at Badger Pass. By the 1940s, Badger Pass was welcoming over 70,000 skiers during the winter season and Donald Tressider had become vice president of the California Ski Association.

The first mechanical ski lift at Badger Pass was also the first mechanical lift not only in California but in the American west. Known as the Up-ski, the lift had sleds (with nicknames like “Big Bertha” and “Queen Mary”) that carried 8 people at a time to “Ski-Top”, the start of the Rail Creek, Bishop Creek and Strawberry Creek runs. Today, only Rail Creek is marked as a ski run, accessible from Badger Pass for experienced backcountry skiers, but the lift is long gone after it’s thirteen years of service beginning in 1935. After World War II, the ski industry had grown and lured skiers to places like Aspen, Colorado and Sun Valley Idaho. With so many options for skiers across the nation, Badger Pass Ski Area had to distinguish itself with one of the ski industry’s first all-inclusive packages, called the “Mid-Week Ski Special”. This special included lodging, dining, equipment rental, lift ticket, lesson and transportation from Yosemite Valley all for $25 dollars a day!

The Up-Ski was the first mechanical ski lift in the American west

The Up-Ski was the first mechanical ski lift in the American west

The Badger Pass Ski House (today’s day lodge) was designed by architect Eldridge T. Spencer and opened on December  17th in 1935. In 1954, the day lodge was enlarged by adding another building with a breezeway in between. The lounge area originally contained a large open fireplace with cast iron panels of skiing figures mounted above. The panels were designed by Robert Howard Boardman, who also designed the wildlife mural in the Mural Room at The Ahwahnee. The fireplace has since been removed, but the panels are now installed around the fireplace in the Mountain Room Lounge at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls in Yosemite Valley. Ski races continued to be hosted at Badger Pass during the 1950s and 1960s, though today only the Silver Ski race is hosted by the Yosemite Winter Club. In 1965, National Park Service approved the installation of chair lifts for the first time and the Badger Pass Ski House was renamed the Snowflake Day Lodge.

With all of it’s storied history, today’s winter visitor still finds Badger Pass Ski Area an uncomplicated place to take the family for a day of snowy fun in Yosemite. Snowboarders join skiers on the slopes and and a snow tubing hill has been added for the park’s youngest visitors. Equipment rental is available at the rental shop along with souvenirs and apparel at the ski shop. The free shuttle bus from Yosemite Valley provides daily transportation for lodging guests and private vehicles will find plenty of parking. Dine on the sun deck or inside the day lodge at the Skiers Grill or upstairs in the Snowflake Room. Rent lockers for your gear by the day or the season. Cross-country skiing is an option, along with snowshoeing, and rental equipment is available at the Cross-Country/Nordic Center. Groomed cross-country trails originate at Badger Pass and continue down the Glacier Point Road to the terminus at Glacier Point – one of Yosemite’s most spectacular views now covered with snow! If the 10 mile ski to Glacier Point is enough for one day, you can opt to stay overnight at the Glacier Point Ski Hut and cozy up to the fireplace while the hutkeeper prepares dinner. You won’t need to ski to earn your keep and enjoy winter in Yosemite Valley at The Ahwahnee, Yosemite Lodge at the Falls and Curry Village. Take advantage of great winter lodging deals like Stay Two Ski FREE and Stay ‘N Play.

 

 References:

1. Magic Yosemite Winters by Gene Rose

2. Mountain Dreamers: Visionaries of Sierra Nevada Skiing by Robert Frohlich

3. Yosemite’s Innkeepers: The Story of a Great Park and it’s Chief Concessionaires by Shirley Sargent

6 Ways to Enjoy Winter in Yosemite

1. Ice Skating

Where: Curry Village Ice Rink in Yosemite Valley
When: November through early March
How: Skate rentals available – and don’t forget the s’mores kits for the fire pit!

You can't see Half Dome, but evening ice skating sessions in #Yosemite are the best!

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

2. Skiing, Snowboarding and Snowtubing

Where: Badger Pass Ski Area
When: Mid-December through March
How: Lessons, rentals, and dining available

Ski instructor Harry gives Badger Pass Ski Area a thumbs-up this holiday week in #Yosemite.

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

3. Chefs’ Holidays

Where: The Ahwahnee
When: January and February
How: Dine with famous chefs and attend cooking demos in an historic national park lodge

Chefs' Holidays cooking demonstration in #Yosemite with Chef Cal Stamenov. Amazing!

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

4. Ostrander Ski Hut or Glacier Point Ski Hut:

Where: Backcountry lodging along the Glacier Point Road
When: Mid-December through March
How: Not accessible by vehicle in winter, you can snowshoe or cross-country ski to Yosemite’s ski huts

Cross country skiing on the Glacier Point Road today in #Yosemite.

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

5. Snowshoeing

Where: Badger Pass Ski Area
When: Every day when enough snow covers the ground, evenings during the full moon
How: Rent snowshoes at Badger Pass Ski Area on your own, join park rangers or Delaware North at Yosemite interpretive naturalists on guided walks (snowshoes included)

#BadgerPassSkiArea in #Yosemite. Did you know it's California's original #ski area?

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

6. Camera Walks

Where: Yosemite Valley
When: Several days a week in winter, find the schedule in the Yosemite Guide
How: With instructors from the Ansel Adams Gallery

Good news! With this week's snowfall in #Yosemite, Badger Pass Ski Area opens tomorrow, Sunday December 14th!

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

When It Rains, It Spores! Mushrooms in Yosemite

Boletes

My name is Gena Wood. I work as a naturalist and historic guide for Delaware North at Yosemite. Part of my job is helping people understand the natural world (and hopefully fall more in love with it).  In my short time on this planet I’ve realized one of the most misunderstood (and feared) life forms is fungus. I’ve also realized one of the most of important and exciting life forms also happens to be fungus!

Now that rain (and snow!!) has started falling in Yosemite National Park we are not only seeing Yosemite Falls flowing again, we are seeing the  fungus among us: mushrooms!

What are mushrooms? Mushrooms are the fruiting body of mycelium, found underground. Imagine mycelium being the tree and the mushroom as the fruit growing on this tree. But don’t be fooled; mushrooms are not plants.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Similarly to humans, mushrooms cannot make food from the sun. Mushrooms are often parasitic, breaking down plant material, like rotting wood. Mushrooms play a very important role ecologically as our decomposers, keeping our forests healthy. But that is not all! Most plants actually depend on that underground mycelium to help their roots get water and nutrients.

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Turkey Tails

Mushrooms wait until the right conditions to show their fruit, those conditions are usually from rain. The rain can be a promising sign for mushroom activity. Rain also helps mushrooms spread their spores. Spores are similar to seeds, helping the mushrooms disperse. Each species of mushroom has a different time of year you can find them, which makes mushroom hunting a year-round activity!

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Oyster Mushrooms growing on a dead Cottonwood, along the Merced River

Most mushrooms grow on rotting wood or in the soil. What they grow on is helpful for learning how to identify mushrooms. Identifying mushrooms can be a challenging, yet rewarding experience. Many mushrooms are not edible, most of them won’t kill you either. If you aren’t 100% positive, then don’t eat them. Learning what mushrooms you can and cannot eat takes time and experience.

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Honey Mushrooms- found only on wood.

Walking around the woods to find mushrooms isn’t just for those who eat mushrooms, but also for those that appreciate their beauty. Many times I walk away empty handed after a mushroom hunt. I never walk away disappointed though. Some of the most beautiful mushrooms are just for looks. I am always amazed at the variety of colors, shapes, smells, and sizes.

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Yosemite Valley is full big things to look up at, sometimes you need a reminder to slow down and notice the small things. Have you noticed mushrooms growing in Yosemite?

All photos were taken in Yosemite Valley on December 9th and 10th by Gena Wood.

Though visitors are not allowed to take anything from Yosemite National Park, they are welcome to forage for mushrooms strictly for personal consumption – similar to fishing. However, we discourage any but the most knowledgeable from eating mushrooms foraged in the park.

The Four Seasons of Yosemite in Stained Glass

Tissiack Stained Glass at Yosemite Lodge 2014

“Tissiack” stained glass mural by Bill Poulson at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls

Guests at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls this summer may have noticed Yosemite’s autumn splendor well before the season began. Taking the form of a large stained glass mural, “Tissiack” is a work of art created by stained glass artist Bill Poulson. Featuring Half Dome surrounded by the flora and fauna of fall in Yosemite, the mural measures 8 feet high by 14 feet long. Displayed in the windows of the Cliff Room at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls, “Tissiack” (the Native American name for Half Dome), was replaced this week by “The Chief” featuring El Capitan and the full moon on a winter night in Yosemite Valley.

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Artist Bill Poulson installing the “Tissiack” mural.

Stained Galss Mural Yosemite Lodge 2014

The transition from fall to winter as the new mural is installed

Artist Bill Poulson, a California native, maintains a studio in the town of Arnold. Inspired by a trip to Yosemite in 1985, Poulson opened a studio the next year and the plans for the Yosemite Mural Project as the “4 Seasons of Yosemite” began to take shape. Two murals have been completed – fall and winter – and the design for spring is complete. Once the design and composition is completed, it can take up to two years to perfect the full-scale drawings along with the actual glass cutting and assembly.  There are over 2200 pieces of glass in “Tissiack”.  The murals are created in the traditional method of creating stained glass with leaded glass and copperfoil, reinforced with steel. “Tissiack” was completed in 1989 and the winter mural, “The Chief”, was completed in 2008. Poulson hopes to complete the spring mural in 2015. Until then, visitors can view “The Chief” for a view of winter in Yosemite that continues throughout the season. Look for the display in the courtyard of Yosemite Lodge at the Falls next to the gift shop.

Winter Bill Poulson

“The Chief” stained glass mural by Bill Poulson

For more information about artist Bill Poulson and the Yosemite Mural Project, visit his website: www.williampoulson.com