Favorite Spots: Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne

As part of an ongoing series, we feature the favorite places of Yosemite community members and park visitors. Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, a deep canyon in the northern section of Yosemite National Park, is a favorite spot of Jeanne Haegele, who lives in Yosemite and works in the marketing department.

Jeanne and Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne

The first thing you notice when you visit Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, is how similar it is to Yosemite Valley—except that you have it all to yourself. It’s almost eerie. At some points, it’s more than 4,000 feet from the valley floor to the rim of the canyon, and there you are at the bottom. Alone in the vastness.

Water and Cliffs

Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne

You have this amazing canyon pretty much to yourself because it’s hard to get to. The only way there is by backpacking, and it’s a challenging trip. Around 28 miles in total with lots and lots of uphill.

I visited Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne late last summer on a four-day backpacking trip with my boyfriend. We started from White Wolf and descended down some 3,700 feet into the canyon, where we met up with the Tuolumne River, our companion for the rest of the hike. We camped that first night in Pate Valley and the next morning, we started our uphill journey along the river, which would end about 23 miles later at Tioga Road, via Glen Aulin.

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Going up all that way up was challenging, but it was also spectacular. Around every turn, we discovered a new, sparkling-clear swimming hole or a massive and mysterious rock formation. A favorite was Muir Gorge, where Cathedral Creek, Register Creek, and another small stream join with Tuolumne River in a maze of cliffs. Like so many places in this canyon, it felt like a sacred spot.

There were also numerous waterfalls. Next to the trail, Waterwheel Falls and Conte Falls spilled down the rock—sometimes gently and sometimes furiously—in cascades that seemed endless. Since we were following them steeply uphill on a hot afternoon, they felt even more unending. But they were beautiful every step of the way.

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Photo by Navin Rajagopalan

Once at Glen Aulin, we were met by another huge waterfall. It was a wonderful sight and reminded us that we were close to the end of the journey. Well, sort of close. We still had 5 miles to go, but after we climbed out of Glen Aulin it was mostly flat until we emerged at Tioga Road.

And then we really were done—and feeling good about completing a hike full of so much beauty.

Boots near Glen Aulin Falls

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Farewell to Yosemite Stables Crews

YVStablesGroup-1356The summer of 2015 was the last time to take a commercial trail ride in the Tuolumne Meadows area of Yosemite National Park. Come fall, the Yosemite Valley Stable will also close for the two hour and half-day trail rides offered to park visitors since the 1920s. Both changes in stable operations are brought about by the implementation of the Tuolumne River Plan and the Merced River Plan authored by the National Park Service. The plans were conceived to reduce the impact of development in the flood plains of Yosemite’s rivers. Both stables will remain operational for supplying Yosemite’s High Sierra Camps and providing backcountry saddle trips for park visitors. By the summer of 2016, only the Wawona Stable will continue to offer two hour trail rides to park visitors.

For many stables employees, returning every summer to pack and guide equated to many consecutive years of service in Yosemite National Park. Employees often lived in tent cabins near the stable, where maintaining the stable operation gets a very early start each morning. Though the season for trail rides isn’t long in Yosemite – summer months in Tuolumne Meadows and Wawona, spring to fall in Yosemite Valley – the crews spend a lot of time living and working together providing this historically popular activity for visitors from around the world. Delaware North at Yosemite commends the Tuolumne Meadows and Yosemite Valley stables staff (including mules and horses!) for their skill and dedication in serving park visitors for over twenty years. Happy Trails!

Favorite Yosemite Spots: Climbing the Leaning Tower

As part of an ongoing series, we feature the favorite places of Yosemite community members and park visitors. The Leaning Tower, a granite feature located next to Bridalveil Fall in Yosemite Valley is a favorite spot of Marta Czajkowska, who lives and works as a photographer in Yosemite Valley.

“One of my most favorite places in Yosemite Valley is the Leaning Tower. Frequently overlooked, the Leaning Tower rises to the right of Bridalveil Fall. A stupendous overhanging tower of flawless granite. The tower is known to climbers as the “The steepest wall in North America”. That steepness is what makes it so remote. There is no hiking trail and advanced technical rock craft is required and tested if you want to conquer it. The lower part of the Tower overhangs an average of 110 degrees, while the upper section averages about 95 degrees – making it one of the world’s most continuously overhanging granite cliffs. It’s just a little too steep and a little too long to be an easy day climb.

Climbing a rock that’s that overhanging means three things:

1. Exposure. More often than not when you are climbing the Leaning Tower you are hanging in space. There is little below you but air.

2. Hard work. The less contact with the rock, the more physical it is to climb. This is when we start talking about Gravity with a capital G. You can REALLY feel it.

3. Safe Falls. If you happen to be falling down, it’s best not to encounter anything on your way. Overhanging cliffs are the safest for falling.

The magic of climbing the Leaning Tower is that the route starts already half way up the face. It’s like a shortcut. The other thing is that these extremely hard and overhanging sections are interspersed with huge and lavish ledges. One of them is so big and comfy, that it was christened “Ahwahnee Ledge” – encountering a ledge that size feels as luxurious as staying at The Ahwahnee. Right before the real summit there is another huge ledge, called “Dano Ledge” after Dan Osman, a climber known for his boldness and vision. Hanging out on Dano Ledge, watching a sunset – life does not get any better!”

The Leaning Tower has been named since 1883. At 6500 feet elevation, the tower rises 2500 feet above the floor of Yosemite Valley. Across the valley from Yosemite’s giant stone monolith, El Capitan, the tower was also known as “Tu-tock-ah-nu-lah’s Citadel”, based on the Native American name for El Capitan.

Marta also wrote about her climbing experience at the Leaning Tower on The Cleanest Line blog for Patagonia in 2013.

Yosemite Profile: Chuck Carter – Badger Pass Ski School Director

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If you’ve taken a ski or snowboard lesson at Badger Pass, odds are you’ve met Badger Pass Ski School Director, Chuck Carter. Soft-spoken, efficient and friendly, Chuck has been a fixture at Badger Pass for 46 winters, introducing new skiers and snowboarders to the slopes. That experience has given him a unique perspective on the ski area.

Chuck first fell in love with Badger Pass when he was in high school in Mariposa – sneaking up for a day on the slopes even though his football coach at the time prohibited it. The warm sierra sun gave him away when he and his teammates would show up back at practice with a tell-tale goggle tan, a tanned face, minus the area covered by ski goggles, but that still didn’t stop him.

Chuck Carter is celebrating his 46th winter at Badger Pass. Pictured here organizing ski and snowboard lessons.

Chuck Carter is celebrating his 46th winter at Badger Pass. Pictured here organizing ski and snowboard lessons.

Soon he met the legendary Nic Fiore. “Everybody knew Nic. He had such a big personality.” Nic arrived at Badger Pass just for the 1947-48 season but as he says, “Yosemite made such an impact on me. I fell in love with the place.” He ended up working at Badger Pass for more than 50 years, teaching more than an estimated 100,000 people how to ski, becoming a leader in the Professional Ski Instructors Association, and writing a book titled “So You Want to Ski”.

Chuck carries on Nic’s focus on teaching, and seems to be shooting for the same longevity. He started working as a part-time ski instructor for Nic Fiore in the winter of 1969-70, when he was in college, making the drive to Badger Pass every weekend and as many weekdays as possible.

Enjoying sunshine and a snack on the deck at Badger Pass.

Enjoying sunshine and a snack on the deck at Badger Pass.

What keeps him coming back year after year? First, it’s the people. Chuck enthusiastically mentions not only the instructors and Badger Pass staff from all the different departments, but also guests. “People come up every year for decades. It’s like seeing a bunch of old friends.” Plus, he loves being outside in Yosemite. Regulars to Badger Pass have fond memories of soaking in the bright Sierra sunshine from the deck.

When asked about what has changed during his time at Badger Pass, his answer is consistent with his focus on people — Nic’s retirement. Of course, there have been other changes as well, new lifts, and most recently a refresh that upgraded the deck and lodge, but according to Chuck, part of the beauty of Badger Pass is how faithful it has been to its roots. “The idea of it has stayed the same. It’s the same atmosphere as many years ago.”

Lessons at Badger Pass "It’s the same atmosphere as many years ago."

Lessons at Badger Pass “It’s the same atmosphere as many years ago.”

Favorite Yosemite Spots: Mirror Lake

As part of an ongoing series, we’ll feature the favorite places of Yosemite community members and park visitors. Mirror Lake, at the base of Half Dome in Yosemite Valley is a favorite spot of Gena Wood, who lives and works in Yosemite Valley. Gena spends a lot of her time climbing, cycling, and hiking. Mirror Lake is one place that always draws her back for more. “I never thought I would find myself saying that Mirror Lake is my favorite spot…at first. With each return visit I find myself in a trance. I am mesmerized by the rock faces around me. I am fascinated by the constant change you can watch happen throughout the year. I always want to go back.

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After work I ride my bicycle up the steep hill to the top, knowing the reward will come not only when I make it to the top but also when I get to ride down the hill. As I huff and I puff my way up that hill, I just know it will be worth it. When I make it to the top, it is worth it. I feel at peace. I am surrounded by Mount Watkins, Half Dome, Washington’s Column and North Dome

I stare up at Half Dome with a view unlike any other. I think about the hikers who’ve made it up the cables. The climbers who have made it up the sheer vertical face. I am inspired.  I feel small; There is something bigger out there. As the sun begins to set people start to make their way down the hill. California Quail make a run for it, out of the willows and across the rocks. Deer search for food. The setting sun makes Half Dome glow. Alpenglow swallows the mountains around me. I am left alone, engulfed in happiness. This is home.”

The name Mirror Lake is truly a misnomer. Mirror Lake is actually overflow water from Tenaya Creek. As Tenaya Creek becomes drier, Mirror Lake follows suit. During the spring and early summer, Mirror Lake appears to be a lake, reflecting the granite surrounding it. When dry, Mirror Lake still gives reflections, personal reflections, a place take in the beauty around you. Regardless of the season, Mirror Lake is great place to explore. 

The History of Ice Skating in Yosemite

ice rink sign

historic ice rink 1933With its lofty location in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, Yosemite National Park has always been a popular venue for winter sports. Today you can ski, snowboard, snow tube, snowshoe and cross-country ski at Badger Pass Ski Area and ice skate at the Curry Village Ice Rink. But both Badger Pass Ski Area and the Curry Village Ice Rink are some of the oldest facilities in Yosemite with a storied history. Though ice skating on the Merced River had always been a popular winter activity in Yosemite Valley when the ice was solid enough, the first ice skating rink in Yosemite National Park was built in 1929 in reaction to the news that Yosemite was being considered as the location for the 1932 Winter Olympics. As the coldest area in Yosemite Valley with little direct sun in winter, the ice rink was naturally located at Curry Village. The original 60,000 square foot rink was built where the Curry Village parking lot – both paved and dirt – stands today. Ice skating was taking place in this same spot before the construction of a formal rink by flooding the parking lot with water each night that was then ready for skating by morning. Once established, the Curry Village Ice Rink was considered the premier ice skating center in California with its stunning natural setting and the support of the Yosemite Winter Club.

historic hockey

Hockey: Oakland American Legion vs. the Yosemite Winter Club

Not only was the rink used by park visitors, but also hosted speed skating races, figure skating exhibitions, curling, hockey games and winter carnivals. The first “Fancy Ice Skating Carnival” took place in 1928, the year the Yosemite Winter Club was founded. In 1931, the San Joaquin Valley Sierra Winter Sports Carnival also employed the Curry Village Ice Rink with curling matches and a tug of war competition on the ice. By 1933, the annual California State Figure Skating Championship took place in Yosemite entertaining grandstands filled with onlookers as colored glass candle holders set into the snowbanks surrounding the rink created a festive atmosphere. Hockey was a popular rink sport throughout the 1930s, and players included professional teams and collegiate exhibitions.

ice rinkMoved from its original location, the current ice rink at the Curry Village Recreation Center was built in the 1970s at the location of the former Curry Village Garage – a structure that was destroyed by an arson fire. Often cited as one of the world’s best ice rinks by travel magazines, today’s rink includes a skate rental program, a large warming hut for skaters to stow their boots and a fire pit to warm their toes. From November to early March, Delaware North at Yosemite operates the ice rink with a staff that maintains safety for skaters and the condition of the ice with a zamboni. Curry Village Ice Rink is open daily for several day and evening skating sessions, conditions permitting.

$11.00 per adult, per session
$10.00 per child, per session
$4.50 for skate rental

For more on the history of ice skating in Yosemite see “Magic Yosemite Winters” by Gene Rose.

Kenny’s Lunchtime Walk in Yosemite

Are you familiar with Kenny’s Lunchtime Walk in Yosemite? If you have an Instagram account, you can find a collection of breathtaking Yosemite photos by searching with hashtag #kennyslunchtimewalk. If you are not an Instagrammer, you can see some of the photos on our Pinterest board, “Kenny’s Lunchtime Walk in Yosemite“. But what exactly is Kenny’s Lunchtime Walk and who is Kenny?

Kenny Karst is the Integrated Marketing Manager for DNC Parks and Resorts at Yosemite. He has lived and worked in Yosemite Valley for thirteen years and he also happens to be a professional sports photographer. In the spring of 2014, Kenny began sharing photos from his daily lunch walk with us to post on the DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite Instagram account and we called them “Kenny’s Lunchtime Walk in #Yosemite”. It’s enough that Kenny’s photos of his daily walks in Yosemite Valley are stunning, but soon enough, followers began asking, “Who is Kenny?” To answer that question, we hosted a giveaway on Facebook: Lunch With Kenny in Yosemite. The randomly selected winner from 140 applicants won a free night’s stay in Yosemite lodging by choosing Curry Village or Yosemite Lodge at the Falls and lunch with Kenny in the Ahwahnee Dining Room.

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Today, contest winner Deb and her son Derek participated in Kenny’s Lunchtime Walk prior to having lunch at The Ahwahnee. Viewing Yosemite in all of its fall glory, Kenny guided Deb and Derek down the bike path toward Mirror Lake and Backpackers Campground on the east end of Yosemite Valley. After walking and photographing the sunny fall morning, all three headed for the famous Ahwahnee Dining Room.

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Deb had this to say about her experience: “Thank you so much for the wonderful walk and lunch! Derek and I were honored to be your first “Kenny’s Walk” recipients. We saw parts of Yosemite that were completely new to us, and the weather was gorgeous. Lunch at the Ahwahanee ‎was delicious, and “Kenny’s Special” dessert was the crowning touch! Best of all, we learned so much from Kenny about Yosemite. It’s also the first time we’ve stayed at Yosemite Lodge, and it’s been thrilling to experience the Valley Floor in a whole new way.”

Though Kenny uses professional equipment for his sports photography, he uses his iPhone 5s for his lunchtime walk photos. He uses Photoshop to minimally process the photos before they get posted to Instagram and shared on Facebook and Twitter. Kenny is also an accomplished musician who plays the trombone in local bands like The Groove Orphans. Kenny’s adult daughter, Renee, also lives and works in Yosemite Valley and you may have seen her contributions to social media, such as an amazing video of a bobcat at Curry Village. Kenny’s favorite spot in Yosemite is Tuolumne Meadows, and he is an avid kayaker who loves to kayak High Sierra lakes like Tenaya Lake in Yosemite. Kenny is a person who loves Yosemite and is lucky enough to live and work in one of America’s most treasured places.

Favorite Yosemite Spots: Higher Cathedral Spire

View from the summit of Higher Spire, looking toward Yosemite Falls (left) and Sentinel Rock (right).

View from the summit of Higher Spire, looking toward Yosemite Falls (left) and Sentinel Rock (right).

The “Favorite Spots” series features the favorite places of Yosemite National Park community members and park visitors. Theresa came to the park on an extended rock climbing vacation in 2003, and still hasn’t left. Although she also loves to hike and explore the Yosemite backcountry, it’s no surprise that wild, airy places are among her favorites.

“Whenever someone asks me what my favorite spot in Yosemite is, the first place that comes to mind is usually the one that I’ve been to most recently. The fresh memories are so vivid and clear, and Yosemite is full of jaw-dropping places. Still, if pressed, I’d have to admit that over the years, the summit of Higher Cathedral Spire often ends up rising to the top of the list.

If you look across the meadow from El Capitan, there are two long slender fingers of rock rising up to the left of Middle Cathedral Rock, Lower Cathedral Spire, and above that, Higher Cathedral Spire.

Middle Cathedral with Higher and Lower Spires to the left.

Middle Cathedral with Higher and Lower Spires to the left.

Part of the appeal is that this summit is challenging to get to. Unlike the summits of more vaunted cliffs like El Capitan or Half Dome, there are no hikers’ trails to the summit. Technical rock climbing skills and gear are required, which means my partners and I have almost always had the summit all to ourselves.

On the other hand, it’s relatively accessible and only a moderately difficult climb. The easiest route to the top is 5.9 on the climbing scale where beginners often start out on 5.6 and the hardest climbs in the world are currently going at 5.15c.

From the top of the spire, you get a magnificent birds-eye view of Sentinel Rock, the top of Yosemite Falls, Royal Arches, and of course, El Capitan. The summit is also the perfect size. Big enough that you can relax, walk around a little, and even take a nap, yet still small enough to give you the feeling of being on top of the world.”

Climbing on Higher Cathedral Spire

Climbing on Higher Cathedral Spire

Higher Cathedral Spire was first climbed in 1934 by Jules Eichorn, Bestor Robinson and Dick Leonard, in the era when climbers were just beginning to explore Yosemite’s cliffs with ropes and gear.

The Art of Exploring the High Sierra in Yosemite

Painting at Townsley Lake. Photo: Emily Nash

James McGrew painting at Townsley Lake.
Photo: Emily Nash

James McGrew has been visiting Yosemite his entire life, and guiding High Sierra Camp loop trips through the Yosemite backcountry for the last 14 years. His artwork gives him, and those who travel with him on these trips, yet another way to connect to the beauty of the Sierra landscape. We were honored to be able to catch up with James this year before he started his backcountry season to find out more about his unique perspective on Yosemite and some of the places that he loves.

As this season winds to a close, the High Sierra Camp lottery for next year is right around the corner. Beginning September 1, 2014, you can apply for the popular High Sierra Camp loop trips, with James or another one of the amazing rangers who lead these high country trips.

What is your favorite High Sierra Camp or spot along the High Sierra Loop, and why is it special to you?

That’s a tough question because all the camps are unique and special to me. I truly love them all. I love Glen Aulin for the breathtaking view down the canyon and the reddish oxidized and glacially polished rock. I love May Lake for the sparkling gemstone-like qualities of the lake, relatively short hike up Mt. Hoffmann in the center of the park, and the ridge next to camp with spectacular views across Tuolumne, the Cathedral Range and down to Yosemite Valley. I love Sunrise for the breathtaking view of alpine peaks across Long Meadow which changes its colors from week to week and is often frost-covered in morning. I love Merced Lake for the diversity of leisure activities and things to explore on layover days. We get a chance to slow down, relax, swim, fish, explore without a backpack. I like the larger campfire circle that allows for the largest audiences of our campfire programs in the high country. Finally, Vogelsang, perched so high, offers spectacular scenery, a steep scramble up Vogelsang Peak or short walks to alpine lakes. We can’t do campfire programs, but I enjoy the large crowds that gather for the sunset talks and open views and clear skies for the astronomy programs.

What do you remember of your first trip to the high sierra?

I was just four months old so I don’t actually remember my first trip. However, my parents said I was enthralled with my fist in my mouth and eyes wide open, looking up at the towering granite. By eight years old, I really remember thinking how much I loved Yosemite and asking my parents to take me backpacking for my birthday in late June. We were not really in the high country, but rather back packing out of Hetch Hetchy and that year, 1983, was the highest snow pack year on record so the waterfalls roared with a power I’ve never seen since. The mist of Tueulala falls spread across the trail and hundreds of newts crawled about. Then crossing the bridge below Wapama falls was another memorable experience as my father carried me across the bridges which crossed the raging water and torrential spray. When I returned home following the trip, I remember drawing the waterfalls from memory.

Sunrise Impressions. Oil on Linen 9x12

Sunrise Impressions. Oil on Linen 9×12
James McGrew

 

You sometimes incorporate art into your evening programs/presentations; how do you go about that, and what does it look like?

Art and Artists played a key role in the preservation and management of Yosemite. I conduct several programs which sometimes involve plein air painting and art to help illustrate the art history, natural history and help people see and experience Yosemite and find their own interpretations. These include sunset talks or daytime programs and even the entire loop trip.

Although a loop trip consists of many individual interpretive programs including day hikes, sunset talks, evening campfire and astronomy programs, all with different topics, I tie them all together with an overriding art theme for the week. It actually applies to everything from art and history, to geology, biology, aesthetics, philosophy, ecology and management.

I give specific programs on art history in Yosemite, as well as an actual art class and have the participants produce their own interpretation of Yosemite with pastels and pastel paper. At the end of the trip, we have an art show and each participant shares their unique interpretation and experiences.

If I’m actually painting during a presentation, I set up my tripod and pochade on my “stage” in front of an audience so they can clearly see my painting and the scene I’m painting. I paint extremely fast so people are usually surprised to see a painting take shape in just a few minutes. The purpose is to help draw the crowd and help them observe or study things more carefully, especially certain elements I will focus on during the program. It’s a way to hook the audience, inspire contemplation and get them thinking about my topics, which may range from geology, sunsets, atmosphere, light, aesthetics/emotion and beauty in nature.

I don’t complete a painting during a ranger program. Rather they are just oil sketches or impressionist starts to serve a purpose involving the audience as an interpretive technique. I usually just scrape down the panel to reuse for the next program.

Painting

James McGrew.
Photo: Emily Nash

What art supplies are must-haves for the backcountry for you?

Lightweight, sturdy carbon fiber tripod with quick release plates mounted to each of my cameras and pochade for easy switching; pochade box with quick release plate to mount on the tripod and loaded with a limited palette of professional oil colors made with California walnut oil (mfg. by M. Graham in Oregon); oil-primed linen panels ranging in size from 6×8 to 12×16; brushes; paint knife; about an ounce of walnut oil (for making paint more fluid and for cleaning brushes safely); steel palette cup for the oil; some paper towels; nitrile gloves; ziploc bag for waste. The walnut oil dries more slowly than linseed oil so I can backpack for a week and the paint stays fresh without having to reapply any paint to my palette or carry tubes of paint. Obviously that means that the paintings remain wet for at least a week or two. So, I developed some lightweight and compact methods for transporting wet paintings.   The art supplies all fit into a ziploc freezer bag, and the tripod straps to the outside of my backpack. I’ve refined my supplies so that it’s all surprisingly compact, lightweight and efficient.

Note: Although many people mistakenly think that oil paints are toxic, when used properly, they are naturally safer for the artist and environment than acrylics and many watercolors. In fact, the oils themselves are loaded with omega-3 and can double as cooking and salad dressing oil.

How does your artwork change or affect your experience in the high country?

Painting greatly affects my experience in many ways but overall most prominently in three primary ways including observation, focus, and a tangible visual memorabilia.

First, it forces me to carefully observe and explore while looking for unique or ideal compositions. Also, as a vehicle for communication good paintings often serve a valuable purpose in sharing information or ideas to an audience. Therefore, when painting I’m thinking more critically about the landscape, wildlife, history, atmosphere, as well as my emotions and how to best interpret those into a visual medium with pigment and brushstrokes. In the process of standing in one location, quietly observing, I find that I’m using all my senses, not just eyesight and this all goes into the painting. Moreover, that process enables me to experience Yosemite as wildlife often passes by as I’m standing in one location. I think that most of my greatest wildlife observations and discoveries have occurred while painting. I’m more acutely aware of the subtle shifts of light, weather and atmosphere, geology, insect hatches, migrations, etc. That awareness in turn helps me as a naturalist just the way my science background (Degree in Biology with Chemistry and Geology Minors and Graduate work for a Master’s of Science in Environmental Education) helps me in my painting nature.

Second, painting helps me focus. Most naturalists go through some sort of process to clear their minds and mentally prepare for a program. For me, sometimes it’s going for a walk, splitting firewood, sitting by the river studying notes, or the meditative rhythm of fly fishing. But one of the best ways to focus and clear my mind is actually to find a quiet place and paint for a while. It really forces me to slow down, focus, relax yet energize at the same time. Painting requires a tremendous amount of energy and focus and that energy also carries over into presentations.

Finally, painting produces a tangible object that accurately represents an experience or location in Yosemite, not just visually but emotionally as well. I compare my photography with my paintings and the paintings always convey much more of the natural light, atmosphere, edges, and emotions I felt while experiencing a scene or event. A camera is merely a recording device, quite different and pales compared to the human visual processing system comprise of densely packed cells at the center of the retina, looser arrangements of cells peripherally, a combination of color, detail, motion, location tracking systems which are wired to different parts of the brain and which influence physiological responses. Those elements influence painting which is an interpretation, not just reproducing a visual scene.

Do you have any recommendations for people visiting Tuolumne Meadows and the high sierra for the first time?

Whether leisurely relaxing or pushing an adventure like rock climbing, I think that people benefit from just taking some time to use their senses and experience someplace for a period of time.   Get out away from the crowds and spend some time and watch how many things reveal themselves, especially when looking from different perspectives and focusing on one thing for a while. Take time to observe from different perspectives and use all senses. At those moments, I find that most people make wonderful discoveries.

Painting on Sentinel Dome

Painting on Sentinel Dome
Photo: Emily Nash

Favorite Yosemite Spots: Tuolumne Meadows

Lembert Dome rises above the Tuolumne River, flowing northwest towards Hetch Hetchy and San Francisco. Photo by Kenny Karst.

Lembert Dome rises above the Tuolumne River, flowing northwest towards Hetch Hetchy and San Francisco. Photo by Kenny Karst.

An ongoing series, “Favorite Spots”, will feature the favorite places of Yosemite National Park community members and park visitors. Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite’s high country is a favorite spot of Kenny Karst, who lives and works in Yosemite Valley. “Of all of the special places there are to roam in Yosemite National Park, my favorite is Tuolumne Meadows.  On the north side of the meadow, the meandering flow of the Tuolumne River is perhaps one of the most peaceful places on earth, with abundant wildflowers in the spring, and visiting fauna throughout the year.  Tuolumne Meadows is also the home of special trailheads into the backcountry, including Elizabeth Lake, Cathedral Lakes, the High Sierra Camps north and south, and the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne.  Yes, this meadow is magical.” Kenny often provides photos for the Yosemite DNC Instagram account (@yosemitednc) known as “Kenny’s Lunchtime Walk in Yosemite”. To view all of Kenny’s photos on Instagram, search hashtag #kennyslunchtimewalk or check out the Pinterest board, Kenny’s Lunchtime Walk in Yosemite.

The word “Tuolumne” often foils park visitors’ attempts at proper pronunciation on their first trip to Yosemite’s high country. Named after a tribe of Native Americans who lived on the banks of the Tuolumne and Stanislaus rivers, these high alpine meadows received their current name by 1863. Today, Tuolumne Meadows is accessible via the Tioga Road in Yosemite for roughly six months of the year due to winter snow accumulation at such high altitude. At 8600 feet in elevation, Tuolumne Meadows offers a cool alternative to summer heat as well as views of some of Yosemite’s most famous peaks: Mount Dana, Cathedral Peak, and Mount Conness. This area of the park  is often cited as a favorite spot by park visitors, and services include lodging at Tuolumne Meadows Lodge, camping at Tuolumne Meadows Campground, a visitor center and wilderness permit center as well as other services: Tuolumne Store and Grill, USPS Post Office, Tuolumne Meadows Stable for trail rides, an outpost of the Yosemite Mountaineering School and a gas station.

We’re collecting more pictures and stories about favorite Yosemite spots. Keep checking back for more.