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

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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.”

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.

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.

mariposa_grove

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.