Native Americans Yosemite Paiutes Christmas Tree

There is currently a Christmas tree display being hosted at Fresno Yosemite International Airport with the trees being decorated under the theme “celebrating our national parks.” There are thirteen trees in the exhibition in all, and anyone can “like” their favorite tree by going to the airport’s Facebook Page. Voting gives you a chance to win some carry-on luggage in a random drawing at the end of the exhibition. The third tree in the series of thirteen is called “Native Americans: Yosemite Paiutes” which was decorated by Cindy Ainsworth. This was her description of the tree:

“My tree tells the legend of coyote and the sun. For whatever reason, coyote wanted to travel the path that the sun took each day, so he made his way to where the sun came up and rode on the sun all day. By the time the sun was heading down into the trees, coyote was ready to get off and so he climbed off onto a tree.”

Yosemite Paiute Indian Xmas tree

Yosemite native american Xmas tree

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.

Tightrope Over Yosemite Falls

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…

Rock Climbing Sentinel With No Ropes Video Yosemite National Park

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:

Bear Cubs Wrestling at Yosemite National Park

In July 2011, hikers returning from a hike in Hetch Hetchy suddenly stumbled on two bear cubs in the middle of the road and their mother off to the side. The caught the action on video:

While seeing bears is not a usual occurrence at Yosemite, there is always the possibility as the road signs warn:

speeding kills bears sign Yosemite national park

Half Dome View Yosemite National Park

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:

Half Dome behind forest

Half Dome from Tioga Road at Yosemite National Park

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.

10 Oldest National Parks

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)

Yosemite Lower Falls Photo

Submitted by: Deepti

Impressions: Beautiful — a glimpse of Heaven!

My must-sees: The Tunnel View Outlook, The Mirror Lake Trail, Lower Yosemite Falls Trail.

Yosemite Lower Falls

Deepti also had this to say: The Tunnel View Outlook is extremely beautiful! The interesting thing about it is that no two views are same. It keeps changing as the clouds & fog keep drifting around.

Yosemite Wildlife

As you walk around the Yosemite Valley, there is a fairly good chance that you will come across some wildlife. Squirrels are plentiful and there is also a good possibility of seeing mule deer if you keep your eyes open. There are a wide variety of birds flying around. While much less common to spot, there are black bears, coyotes and mountain lions. Yosemite wildlife makes the beautiful scenery all that more enjoyable:

mule deer at Yosemite National Park

Yosemite wildlife: mule deer

Yosemite Wildlife List

Black Bears: If you’re lucky, you might spy a black bear. The black bear isn’t always “black — its fur can also be brown, blond, cinnamon and even white.

Mule Deer: Quite common on the Yosemite valley floor and in meadows, they are one of the easiest big animals to find in Yosemite. Mule deer are also called “Black-Tailed Deer”.

Coyotes: You are more likely to hear the yelps of coyotes than actually see them, but coyotes do roam Yosemite valley. Coyotes are sometimes mistaken for wolves, but wolf packs have never been part of Yosemite.

California Ground Squirrel: You are not likely to see them in the winter when they hibernate, but are likely to during the warmer months. They have a grey/white mottled fur which helps you tell them apart from the Western Grey squirrel.

Western Grey Squirrel: If you see a squirrel during the winter season, chances are it is a Western Grey squirrel. They are known for their quite bushy tails.

Mountain Lions: The chances are that you will never see a mountain lion while visiting Yosemite due to their secretive nature, but they do live in the park. Mountain lions are an important predator which help control the deer, raccoon and squirrel populations.

Marmots: If you happen to be in the Olmstead Point to Tuolumne Meadows area of Yosemite, you might see these large brown rodents sunbathing in the meadows and among the rocky crevices of the high mountain peaks.