I wrote recently about people feeling free to scratch their names into the salt beds at Badwater in Death Valley National Park and whether we should be ambivalent toward this “temporary” graffiti. Even if nature can eventually erase it, doesn’t it just encourage others to mark more areas of our national parks with their names where it’s not nearly as easy for nature to remove the graffiti?
Here is another one of those questions that I recently began to wonder about with a recent trip to Yosemite National Park. Just beyond Mirror Lake to the left is a large area that has been completely taken over by rock stacking. There are literally thousands of rocks which have been stacked and balanced by people completely transforming this are from its natural state:
The first reaction from most of the people who stumbled across it was the thought it might be a cemetery of some type, but it quickly becomes apparent that people simply decided to begin stacking rocks and continue to do so. While many would not consider this being nearly as disruptive as people scratching their name into sandstone or spray painting their name on walls, isn’t rock stacking nothing more than another way of leaving a type of graffiti in our national parks by moving nature into unnatural arrangements? Just because it looks better than a name written on a rock, does that make it OK to do?
What do you think? Is rock stacking fundamentally different from other types of graffiti and therefore OK, or is it something that should be discouraged just as much as what we would consider typical graffiti?
I stopped by to visit Yosemite National Park a couple of weeks ago, and for the first time, I ran into a dry Yosemite. When you see all those spectacular photos of Yosemite Falls, you might forget that the beautiful scene isn’t constant. Depending on the amount of snowfall the region receives during the winter, it’s not uncommon for Yosemite Falls to go dry in the late summer or early autumn. While the valley is still spectacular, for anyone who has visited when the falls is flowing (or for anyone that was expecting to see the falls not realizing that it sometimes stops), there seems to be something missing.
While there is a bit of water in the river, it is far less than I had ever seen in my previous visits. Normally you would see the upper falls flowing over the ledge in the above photo adding one more piece of beauty to it. Instead, all you can see is the stain on the rocks from where the falls normally flows:
Yosemite Falls isn’t the only natural wonder which is affected. Most of the water falls coming into Yosemite valley were completely dry or just a trickle of water. The rivers and streams that flow through the valley are greatly diminished or completely dry. And a hike to see Mirror Lake found that when the lake isn’t there, it’s a lot harder for it to reflect like a mirror:
A storm just went through California and I suspect that the falls, lakes and rivers are now once again flowing (or should be very soon). I often get asked whether I get bored visiting National Parks again and again, and the answer is a resounding “No.” National Parks aren’t stagnant like the photos in books or the picture postcards. They are always changing and can look dramatically different depending on the time of year that you visit. That makes them exciting to visit each and every time, but it also means that if there is a particular natural wonder that you want to see, you need to take the time to make sure that it’s there when you plan to go. While I prefer Yosemite when the water is flowing, I am glad that I had the opportunity to see it dry — and get a new perspective of this spectacular valley.
I was looking at some videos of national parks when I stumbled across this video of a German man who apparently decided that it would be a good idea to tightrope across the top of Upper Yosemite Falls a couple of summers ago. Luckily he had the sanity to place a safety line to the tightrope which he ended up needing. Even with the safety line, my teeth were clinched the entire time watching this…
I just can’t imagine how anyone could do this without totally freaking out. 60 Minutes cameras were rolling when Alex Honnold free-solo climbed Sentinel (a 1,600-foot rock wall at Yosemite National Park) using nothing more than his hands and feet. That’s right — he is up there on that rock face without any ropes to complete a feat never done before. Just watching makes me dizzy:
As you drive along Tioga Road from Crane Flat toward the Tuolumne Meadows at Yosemite National Park, there will be a small, unmarked turn out a few hundred feet before you reach Olmsted Point. The turnout only fits a few cars at most and it’s easy to pass. Trees block the view until you are already directly in front of the turnout, but by that time most cars are traveling too fast to make the stop. If you do manage to stop, you will be rewarded with a beautiful view of Half Dome with a pine forest in front:
There are so many beautiful views in Yosemite that it’s simply not possible to stop at every one, so most people end up going for the main ones. While you’ll definitely want to stop at Olmsted Point where there is also a spectacular view of Half Dome, it’s worthwhile to try and make this stop. The view of Half Dome with a pine forest in front is one that not many people see or get the chance to take photos of making it one of those unmarked turnouts you want to add to your list.
I received an email asking me “what are the 10 oldest national parks?” The first National Park was Yellowstone created in 1872. Number two was Sequoia National Park in 1890 along with Yosemite National Park the same year. While Kings Canyon National Park was established in 1940, it’s included with Sequoia National Park (they are connected) because Kings Canyon National Park incorporated General Grant National Park when it was created. General Grant National Park was established in 1890 to protect the General Grant Grove of giant sequoias, the same year as Sequoia National Park.
Yosemite National Park established in 1890
Here is a list of the 10 oldest National Parks in the National Park system:
1. Yellowstone National Park (1872)
2. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park (Sequoia 1890)
2. Yosemite National Park (1890)
4. Mount Rainier National Park (1899)
5. Crater Lake National Park (1902)
6. Wind Cave National Park (1903)
7. Mesa Verde National Park (1906)
8. Glacier National Park (1910)
9. Rocky Mountain National Park (1915)
10. Haleakala National Park (1916)
10. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (1916)
10. Lassen Volcanic National Park (1916)
There has been a fire nicknamed the Motor Fire (because it started when a motorhome caught on fire. The motorhome ended up catching the roadside foliage on fire which spread out of control into the current fire) burning just outside Yosemite National Park which has closed down highway 140 (the main entrance into Yosemite).
I happened to drive through Yosemite today coming in from highway 120. The entire ride up you could see forest fire haze hanging in the air and the smell of burnt material. I assume from the beginning that this was all from the Motor Fire, but as I approached the Yosemite Big Oak Flat entrance, there were fire crews setting managed fires in that area, so all the smoke was likely a combination of the two.
Heading along Big Oak Flat Road, you could see the smoke billowing up on the left and I took these photos of the Motor Fire at one of the view stops:
The wind was blowing in a direction that the smoke and haze wasn’t heading toward Yosemite Valley or Tioga Road, so it was a beautiful day to visit (although a wind change could quickly change that). Since the main entrance is closed, there were far less people than would usually be there on a Sunday which made it rather nice. I was just passing through, but the views from Olmsted Point gave crystal clear views of Half Dome.
If you go to Yosemite, one of the highlights of the trip will be seeing Yosemite Falls. It’s highest measured waterfall in North America with a drop of 2,425 feet (739 meters) and the sixth (sometimes now listed as seventh with the discovery of Gocta Cataracts) highest measured waterfall in the world. While it appears from Yosemite Valley that Yosemite Falls consist of a two-stage drop of Upper Yosemite Falls and Lower Yosemite Falls, there is actually a Yosemite Falls Middle Cascades which consists of five smaller plunges. These are rarely mentioned because they can’t be seen from Yosemite Valley (although they can be seen when hiking the Yosemite Falls trail up to the Upper Yosemite Falls). The Middle Cascades plunge 675 feet (206 meters) which is more than double the drop of Lower Yosemite Falls.
There are a number of vantage points in Yosemite Valley where it’s possible to get a photo of the entire Yosemite Falls which make a spectacular sight.