Is Rock Stacking Graffiti?

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:

rock stacking near mirror lake

rock stacking mirror lake

rock stacking Yosemite

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?

Dry Yosemite National Park

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.

missing Yosemite falls

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 dry at Yosemite National Park

Yosemite Upper falls not flowing

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:

Mirror Lake Yosemite without water

Yosemite Mirror Lake dry

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.