The last time I was at Yosemite National Park was about a month or so before the Big Rim Fire.
The third largest wildfire in California history and the largest on record in the Sierra Nevada began on Aug. 17, 2013. It took over two months before the fire was fully contained.
By then, 257,314 acres were consumed by this disaster caused by an illegal campfire.
Wildfires are Mother Nature’s way of revitalizing the ecosystem. But that often it comes at a cost to human development.
Every visit to Yosemite should be considered precious and memorable. Over a century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt was guided into the Yosemite wildlife by none other than naturalist John Muir.
Ansel Adams also made famous Yosemite with his black-and-white landscape photographs as seen to this day in books, posters, and calendars.
Like those before, “my” Yosemite is captured in memories and personal photos.
It was about staying two nights at Housekeeping Camp near Curry Village, cooking hotdogs on the open fire while waking up to the sound of a family next door to our otherwise flimsy abode, with sounds of kids eating breakfast cereal at about 6 a.m. Couple that with the cold air nipping at your face after a tough night of trying to catch some shut eye prior to making that long trek to Nevada Falls.
The hikes are what make “my” Yosemite memorable.
My first hike – along the popular Happy Isle Trail to Vernal Falls and up the Mist Trail – was also part of my visit to the national park located some 61 miles from Fresno. That’s where I attended college and where I made my first Yosemite visit about week or two after graduation.
It was along Highway 41 in my friend Debbie’s two-seater car. She was surprised that I had never been to Yosemite despite growing up nearby.
As we approached the tunnel leading to the Yosemite Valley, Debbie uttered something to the extent: “Be prepared for a spectacular view.”
No way, I thought. But that part was quickly erased after emerging from that dark tunnel only to catch sight of this breathtaking view of waterfalls spilling off of these monolithic granites.
About a year and half later, I did the ultimate day hike to Half Dome. This time, I went with another college friend, Angela, up 8,842 feet elevation and 4,800 feet gain from Yosemite Valley. Those were the days before we knew the importance of hiking sticks, hiking shoes, proper nutritional foods and supplements, and staying hydrated.
For example, I wore high-top basketball shoes and used a Boys Scout-type of canteen filled with not-enough-water for this 10-hour roundtrip hike.
I also recalled several memorable hikes up the Mist Trail to Vernal Falls. One included my wife when she was in her third trimester, our son Josh when he was age 2, and our two previous trips en route to Nevada Falls.
In addition, I managed to do the Four Mile Trail from the valley floor to Glacier Point, took a ride around the valley on rented bikes, encountered bears in Tuolumne Meadows, and learned how to snow ski at Badger Pass.
As the park celebrates its 150th anniversary, we’re left with plenty of our own memories.
So here’s a toast to Yosemite while looking forward to adding to that experience with more hikes in the future.