Friday, July 11, 2008

Wawona & Glacier Point 7.11.08

We started off the day in Wawona, at the south end of the park, for a 9:30am ranger guided ‘Wawona History Walk’ with Ranger Alex. Michael’s dad used to work at Wawona so we were especially interested in the history of the Hotel & the men who owned it. We were treated with that & more of the history of the area. The pioneer of the area was Galen Clark who came to the valley in the 1850’s while in his 40’s and just diagnosed with Tuberculosis & given one year to live. He figured while he was here, waiting to die, he would help the area & the people traveling through. He built the first Wawona hotel, which was a mere shack for people to stay, a bridge to Yosemite Valley which he charged a toll to cross, and was instrumental in the first road to Yosemite Valley. Interestingly enough, the 1st year he charged a toll, 36 visitors came through the park. That number continued to grow to today’s visitors – a whopping 3.7 million. Wow!! Clark had the vision of the first hotel in the area but it was a businessman, Washburn, who purchased it from Clark and built it into the welcoming place it is now. By the way Galen Clark lived to be 95! I guess Yosemite agreed with him.

While in Wawona we happened upon a presentation by a blacksmith who was making trivets & bottle openers. It was fascinating to watch her take a dull piece of steel & mold it into a beautiful piece.

We drove up to the Taft Point/Sentinel Dome trailhead as there was a 2pm Ranger guided hike to Sentinel Dome. We ate lunch on the back bumper of the Jeep and still had an hour to kill so we took off for Taft Point, a 2.2 mile hike up to the top of an overlook & drop-off at the edge of a sheer 3000 ft cliff.

Again, it was incredible!! If only it was smoke free. The view down was mind boggling. You could look straight down and not see below you.

The fissures in the rocks all around the peak were insane with huge boulders that seemed to hold them apart.

The hike was incredible – lots of wildflowers growing everywhere that were beautiful.

We high-tailed it back to the trailhead just in time to meet up with Ranger Shannon for the tour of Sentinel Dome, another 2.2 mile hike. We stopped all along the way to identify pines & ingenious ways to remember their names. The white pine has needles of 5, and white has 5 letters in the name. The yellow pine has needles of 3 and you can make a Y out of the needles, and the Lodgepole Pine has only 2 needles and you can either make an L out of the needles, or make a teepee, which is the wood that the Indians made their teepees out of.

Once at the top of Sentinel Dome we were treated to a 360 degree view of the park & all its peaks. Unfortunately, it was smoky so it wasn’t as spectacular as it should have been but o-well…it was still pretty amazing.

Back at camp, we had an amazing filet mignon dinner (yeah, we’re roughing it…) and put everything away for the night. We took off for Glacier Point as there was a Ranger talk at 7:45 about fire & a stargazing session we were interested in.

On our way to Glacier Point, we came around a bend in the road to find cars everywhere! It was like an accident just happened & everyone was jumping out of their cars to help. As we drove by trying to figure out the commotion, a man in a car told us there were bears over there. BEARS!!! I grabbed the camera & hopped out & sure enough…there were two bears. All I could see at first was the larger one lumbering around the trees but a friendly observer pointed out a cub up in the trees. It was dusk & there were lots of trees and brush in the area so I only took one bad photo before the Park Rangers came by & made us all leave. But it was phenomenal! The larger one was on the ground around the trees and the young cub was up in the tree. I hope he didn’t tree himself to get away from us!

At Glacier Point, the same Ranger that did the Sentinel Dome hike with us gave the evening talk. She spoke about fire – the status of the fires in the park currently (all have been extinguished except for one, the Hill fire which was expected to be contained by 6pm), the benefits of fire & the firefalls. I found it interesting that the Park Service for the last 100 years has believed that fire is bad and have gone to great lengths to prevent or extinguish fires immediately. ‘Only you can prevent forest fires’… But what they have come to realize is that fire is essential for the health of the forests & now they are trying to right the wrong and fix 100 years of misuse. I wonder how long it will take to restore the area to what it should be.

Oh & the firefalls!! Have you heard of these? Well, from 1872 to 1968 they would build a fire at the top of Glacier Point & would push the burning embers over the cliff nightly creating a ‘firefall’. Glacier Point is at 7214ft elevation and has quite a magnificent view of the area. Michael’s great uncle told us about them the day we chatted with him & how on the final one he was told to ‘make it a good one as it would be the last’. They typically only lasted 15-20 seconds…the last one lasted for minutes. Turns out it was discontinued because it was a man-made attraction not a natural one & was ordered to be stopped. I would have loved to have seen it! It sounds amazing. Check out for more stories.

After the ranger talk, the San Francisco Amateur Astronomers Association setup their personal telescopes on Glacier Point & gave a great presentation about the stars, moon, & milky way. There were about 20 telescopes ranging from huge to small & manual to fully computerized. We saw the moon, Jupiter with its rings & 4 moons, & a star called Alberio, in the Summer Triangle, which is actually a ‘true double’ - 2 stars, one blue & one gold that revolve around each other. It was not a perfect night for stargazing as the smoke & clouds obscured the view a bit, but the astronomers were incredibly informative & friendly answering any dumb questions we threw at them. They also allowed everyone to look through their personal telescopes & were incredibly informative. We had a great time chatting with them all & enjoyed the evening immensely. Some of the things I like the most about camping is meeting all of the folks camping or hiking around us. Alex & his family were one of the Astronomers we met & chatted with that evening and it turned out, were camping right across the way from us. We left around 10:30 or so and they stayed there until almost midnight! What a wonderful volunteer service they give the park.

More to follow…


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