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25 May 2018 / leggypeggy

Plenty to do in Yosemite National Park

Bridalveil Fall, Yosemite

Strolling up for a closer look at Bridalveil Fall

River from Bridalveil Fall, Yosemite

A river gushes below Bridalveil Fall

Our few days in Yosemite covered an array of activities, virtually all in the valley, which represents only about 1 per cent of the entire park.

After visiting the giant sequoias in the Tuolumne Grove, our next stop was Bridalveil Fall. This area is an important nesting site for black swifts and peregrine falcons. It’s also home to Mount Lyell salamanders. Of course, we didn’t see any of these. But we did have a lovely walk along the river created by the fall. Bridalveil is also slated for restoration, including new access paths, improved signage, upgrades to parking and restrooms, and improved viewing options.

From there, our next stop was the famous El Capitan, a prominent granite cliff that looms 3000 feet over Yosemite Valley. It is one of the most popular rock climbing destinations in the world because of its diverse range of climbing routes in addition to its year-round accessibility. Jordan, our guide and driver, pointed out a cluster of climbers who had most likely spent the night on the wall of El Capitan. Not my idea of comfy accommodation. 

El Capitan, Yosemite

El Capitan, a granite cliff, looms 3000 feet over Yosemite Valley

Climbers at El Capitan, Yosemite

Can you see the climbers on the ledge in the upper right of the pic?

Many in the group were keen to hike the Half Dome, which proved impossible. The hiking cables weren’t out because of poor weather conditions. So they had to settle on hiking to Vernal and Nevada Falls. My hip said it would rather spend time at the visitor’s centre and doing some less strenuous walks.

I decided to save my energy for the next day with hikes around Cook’s Meadow Loop and to Mirror Lake (coming soon).

Half Dome, Yosemite

Although it looks like half the dome (on the right) fell off, it is virtually complete

How Yosemite came to be a park
There’s a small group of people we all should be thanking for getting the USA’s national park system going. Some were famous while others were doing their job or following their passions.

A few years after the first tourists first rode into Yosemite Valley, a group of concerned citizens lobbied to spare Yosemite, and especially the giant sequoias, from exploitation.

In response, California Senator John Conness introduced a bill to set aside the valley and the Mariposa Grove of sequoias for ‘public use, resort, and recreation…inalienable forever.’

That helped to kick things along and, in 1864 and in the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln took time out to sign the Yosemite Grant into law. The concept of national parks was born.

President Roosevelt and John Muir

President Roosevelt and John Muir

In 1890, Congress set aside more than 1500 square miles of ‘reserved forest lands’, which soon became known as Yosemite National Park. Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove were added in 1906.

But creating a park was just the beginning. Someone had to look after it.

Galen Clark, who had explored Yosemite extensively, was appointed as the first guardian in 1866. He and his sub-guardian (I don’t know the name) worked tirelessly to protect, maintain and administer the grant, all on a combined annual salary of $500, which I learned was often not paid.

Revered as a host, guide and park protector, Clark was repeatedly appointed to this important position by different Boards of Commissioners. He was also a charter member of the Sierra Club.

Another figure was Frederick Law Olmsted. When the grant was sign in 1864, the governor of California appointed a volunteer board of directors to administer the park. Olmsted, a member of that board and a noted landscape architect, wrote a groundbreaking report setting out how the government should manage and protect the land for the benefit of the people. Considered too far ahead of its time, Olmsted’s report was quietly suppressed. Still today, his early guidelines serve as a model for national parks management and policy.

Buffalo Soldier, photo from Wikipedia

Buffalo Soldier, photo from Wikipedia

The Buffalo Soldiers played another important role. When Yosemite became a national park in 1890, there was no such thing as the National Park Service. Instead each summer from 1891 through 1913, the Presidio of San Francisco sent the US Cavalry to patrol three national parks—Yosemite, General Grant and Sequoia.

In the summers of 1899, 1903 and 1904, more than 400 Buffalo soldiers (African–Americans serving in the 24th Infantry and 9th Cavalry) were the sole protectors of these parks. They constructed the road to the top of Mt Whitney in Sequoia National Park and the park system’s first museum (an arboretum) in Yosemite.

Two other important figures were John Muir, a passionate advocate for national parks, and President Theodore Roosevelt. In 1903, Muir convinced President Roosevelt to visit and camp with him in Yosemite. At that time, Muir pushed to have control of Yosemite and the Mariposa Grove shifted from state to federal control. In 1906, President Roosevelt signed a bill that did exactly that.

Learn more
Yosemite has a much more diverse history than I can cover here. If you’re interested, use the internet or books to find out more about the geology of the region, how the indigenous natives (the Ahwahneechee) were displaced, the wildlife and habitats, management issues today, the affects of climate change and so on.

El Capitan, Yosemite

A more scenic view of El Capitan


Leave a Comment
  1. paolsoren / May 25 2018 3:58 pm

    If I were young and over there I would love to attempt a climb up El Capitan. What a great experience just looking from here.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Eliza Ayres / May 25 2018 4:11 pm

    Reblogged this on Blue Dragon Journal.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Sharon Bonin-Pratt / May 25 2018 4:25 pm

    I’ll never forget the first time we drove through the Tunnel and stopped at the parking area to view Half Dome and El Capitan, Yosemite Valley between the two. It’s a classic scene and absolutely breathtaking, as I’m sure you found. We hiked from the floor of Bridal Veil to Vernal Falls then to Nevada Falls where we met our teenage sons who had spent the last 10 days hiking from Mammoth all the way to Half Dome, up which they climbed on the cables. I was so happy to see them at Nevada Falls. Many people travel every year to the park. I can’t wait to go again.

    Liked by 4 people

    • leggypeggy / May 25 2018 10:51 pm

      I can certainly see why people visit every year. This was only our second time. All so breathtaking.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Frank Prem / May 25 2018 5:03 pm

    Great read and pics, Peggy. I hope you’re having a wonderful time.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Emma Cownie / May 25 2018 5:03 pm

    Totally stunning. Looks a beautiful and majestic park. El Captain is particularly impressive.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Andrew Petcher / May 25 2018 5:17 pm

    A place that I would like to visit. Thanks for reminding me.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. beetleypete / May 25 2018 6:09 pm

    Looks strangely familiar from all the photos I have seen over the decades. Must be wonderful to actually be there. I hope your hip feels better soon, Peggy.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. ksbeth / May 25 2018 6:48 pm

    looks like you are having the best trip ever )

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Miriam / May 25 2018 7:15 pm

    Fascinating history on the park. And so incredibly beautiful. Enjoy.

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / May 25 2018 10:56 pm

      I thought the history was worth sharing. I can see why people campaigned early to have it spared.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. a mindful traveler / May 25 2018 9:07 pm

    Such a beautiful place, enjoy your time there Peggy.:)

    Liked by 1 person

  11. sidilbradipo1 / May 25 2018 9:19 pm

    Interesting story, wonderful photos 😀😍
    Happy Climbing Friday!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Vicki / May 25 2018 9:31 pm

    What a great place to visit. I’ve often read about El Capitan in my Rock & Mountain Climbing books.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / May 25 2018 10:57 pm

      There were climbers scattered all over the walls of El Capitan. Fascinating to see.

      Liked by 2 people

  13. gizzylaw / May 26 2018 1:54 am

    My parents went to Yosemite every April. Right after tax season! (Father was an accountant) They took his entire office staff and stayed for several days. It was my Mother’s happy place. I have been there many times and love it. Thank you for writing about it and giving a bit of the history. I had no idea that the Buffalo Soldiers were involved.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / May 26 2018 2:08 am

      Oh wow, what a great place to go after the tax season. I thought the Buffalo Soldiers were some of the best information.

      Liked by 2 people

  14. dfolstad58 / May 26 2018 2:53 am

    Thanks for adding the history I really enjoyed it

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / May 26 2018 9:56 am

      I thought a bit of history was important, especially because Yosemite was where it all started.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Laurie Decker / May 26 2018 2:56 am

    Speaking as a native Californian, welcome to my state! I’m so happy you’re enjoying your visit. Thank you for the history lesson as I had not remembered some of the facts. Wonderful pictures that are bringing back many fond memories,

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / May 26 2018 9:58 am

      Thank you for the warm welcome. We’ve had a wonderful time. Glad the history was useful and the pictures brought good memories.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Osyth / May 26 2018 7:37 am

    As ever your post is tantalizing, informative and compelling. One of the things that I have been particularly impressed with in this country is it’s network of national parks and the stories behind how they became such. I haven’t been to Yosemite yet (and it seems that in a lifetime one can only scratch the surface of this majestic place) but now that I know the history I am even more determined that I will.

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / May 26 2018 10:01 am

      The national park system here is incredible and so widespread. Hope you can manage to get here soon but, as you said, even in a lifetime you would only scratch the surface.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Osyth / May 26 2018 10:52 am

        In 2016 on visiting Acadia National Park in Maine, my husband was asked in the visitor centre if he was a) a US citizen (yes) and b) a ‘senior’ (yes). He was duly given a remarkable pass. It lets him (and all the passengers in his car on a given day) free of charge into any National Park in the USA. The scheme had just started. Too good to be true? Well they clearly had second thoughts because last year they stopped giving them out. Fortunately for us, they are not taking away any existing passes. Will we be making use over the next however long we are here? You bet and Yosemite has to be on the list, surface scratching notwithstanding!!

        Liked by 2 people

      • leggypeggy / May 26 2018 11:03 am

        Osyth, I am a senior and a US citizen (as well as an Australian). I picked up my lifetime pass two weeks ago as we entered Bryce Canyon National Park. Just had to show my US passport. Passes used to cost $10, but now they are $80.


  17. theorangutanlibrarian / May 26 2018 11:14 am

    So beautiful!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Sheryl / May 27 2018 1:08 pm

    This post brought back nice memories of our visit to Yosemite a number of years ago.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. shawnthompsonart / May 28 2018 6:54 am

    Nice photos.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Chris Riley / May 28 2018 9:38 pm

    El Capitan looks absolutely amazing. I’d love to see it, but have no desire to climb it, not in this lifetime anyway, nor likely any future lifetimes if there are any. Loved the history lesson too. I never knew what a Buffalo soldier was. Hope your hip doesn’t hamper you too much.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / May 30 2018 2:44 am

      Hip is still a bit stiff but I’m still soldiering on. It was a good excuse not to attempt El Capitan.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Phil Huston / May 30 2018 1:47 am

    The truth is, even under the black and white eye of Ansel Adams, when you’re in Yosemite territory all you can do is recall that line about no matter how you can imagine it, God has imagined it far greater than man will ever understand. If there is testament to the cosmic river that flows through everything, it is made obvious in Yosemite. Great pictures. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / May 30 2018 2:49 am

      The perfect line, Phil. Yosemite really is a testament to the cosmic river that flows through everything. So blessed that we got there.


  22. Christie / May 31 2018 12:15 am

    El Capitan reminds me of Devil Tower, Wyoming. Named in 1906 the first US National Monument, by T Roosevelt. Famous for climbing as well. Great pictures. Have a wonderful trip Peggy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / May 31 2018 12:49 am

      Thanks Christie. I’ve never heard of Devil Tower. Maybe we can check it out.


  23. Curt Mekemson / May 31 2018 10:59 am

    What’s not to love about Yosemite and its towering cliffs, Peggy. Great captures. There are trails going up those cliffs that I hiked up and down years ago when I used to lead treks in and out of Yosemite. I’ll be hiking through the backcountry this summer on my 1000 mile backpack trek. It is a beautiful and treasured park. –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 2 2018 3:21 am

      We feel so lucky to have visited Yosemite twice over the last six or seven years. It’s a remarkable and cherished park.


      • Curt Mekemson / Jun 6 2018 7:37 am

        I am always excited to visit again, Peggy, no matter how many times I have walked its trails! –Curt

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Jun 6 2018 11:39 am

        I agree completely.


  24. EXPLORE WITH ERIK / Jun 16 2018 8:00 pm

    Nice pictures! its on my bucket list!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 16 2018 10:23 pm

      Thanks. It’s a great destination. Should be on everyone’s bucket list.

      Liked by 1 person

  25. tony / Aug 30 2018 12:53 pm

    Another on the bucket list! I’d also like to go to Yellowstone before the magma takes it over, preferably before rather than during. But probably too much for one trip with all the other parks you’ve recommended.

    I really liked your description of the development of the USAs NP system. those people were really important.


    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 30 2018 3:14 pm

      Thanks Tony. We made it to Yellowstone and I’ll write about that soon.


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