Yosemite Cemetery Halloween Tour

Park visitors won’t find tricks, treats, or haunted houses in Yosemite, but in October they will find a Halloween activity suitable for visitors of all ages. Relive Yosemite’s past on a fall evening by lantern light and visit the grave sites of Native Americans and early settlers buried in the historic Yosemite Cemetery. This little-known spot in Yosemite Village is an oasis of quiet on a busy summer day and a place of reflection in the calm of autumn. Delaware North at Yosemite interpretive guides lead a tour of the historic cemetery in Yosemite Valley each year on Halloween evening, with additional tours offered earlier during the week of the holiday.

The Yosemite Cemetery Tour is offered free of charge to all park visitors. Meet the tour guide in front of the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center, and then follow along to an evening campfire for introductions. Touring the timeline of the cemetery, guides will share history and stories at several different grave sites ranging from simple headstones to more elaborate resting places. Historic figures include native Miwok families, Yosemite’s first guardian, Yosemite’s first trail builder and the first person to climb Half Dome. From 1870 to 1956, local residents were buried in this area that had previously served as a Miwok burial ground for several centuries. Look for the tallest grave marker in the cemetery and find the final resting place of James Lamon, the first Euro-American to permanently settle in Yosemite Valley – which included spending his first winter here alone!

Though you may feel moved by the spirit of Yosemite, there are no frightening elements to this tour. Yosemite history is presented in a fun and informative way along the pathways of the cemetery. For the tour, the cemetery grounds are lighted by lantern and candle, but feel free to bring a flashlight – fall evenings are very dark in Yosemite! Tour dates for 2015 include Thursday 10/29, Friday 10/30 and Saturday 10/31 at 7:30 pm, with an additional family focused tour at 5:30 pm on Saturday 10/31.

For more tour details, visit http://www.yosemitepark.com/halloween-cemetery-tour.aspx

Want to learn more about the Yosemite Cemetery? The Guide to the Yosemite Cemetery can be purchased at visitor center bookstores in Yosemite.

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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

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!

Pairing Food with Wine: The Art of Creating the Vintners’ Holidays Menu in Yosemite

Each fall, wine enthusiasts gather in Yosemite for Vintners’ Holidays at The Ahwahnee and enjoy educational wine tasting seminars and a chance to meet some of California’s most esteemed vintners. Part of the event includes a five-course gala dinner that highlights the wines of the featured vintners. Since the wines are the star, The Ahwahnee’s executive chef, Percy Whatley, crafts the menu around the wines being poured — not the other way around. Read on to learn more about Percy and how he goes about developing the delicious Vintners’ Holidays menu.

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Q: How long have you been creating the menu for the Vintner’s Holidays Gala Dinner?
A: Since I was given the opportunity to lead the kitchen in 2005.

Q: For the Vintners’ Holidays Gala Dinner, you are creating the menu based on the wines that will be served. How does this work?
A: With Vintner’s Holidays, the winemakers give us information about the wine that they plan to pour for the gala meal and we solicit any feedback that they may have regarding what types of food and flavors pair well with the wines. I take that information and create the particular dish for that wine with their expert feedback. Usually the information is specific with regard to a particular ingredient, such as Lobster with a Sauvignon Blanc. This gives me the ability to put some of my personal finesse into the garnishes and other flavor profiles to enhance the wine and food experience. It really is a lot of fun.

Q: What are you looking for when pairing food and wine?
A: There are subtleties in wines that need to be found and engaged with when writing the menus for these dinners. Many of these subtleties are typical of the various wines being poured. Some may be a little more acidic than typical, or tannic, or more “oaky,” or more malo-lactic (buttery). Some wines are blended and are not typical at all. But overall, I am looking for the right degree of lightness or richness to a dish compared to the wine being poured. The garnishes in the dish should complement the center of the plate as well, which in turn will complement the wine and the layers of flavors within the wine’s body.

Q: What are a few of your favorite wine and food pairings?
A: Lamb with Zinfandel, scallops with Pinot Gris, pork belly with Pinot Noir, light buttery pasta dish with Chardonnay. There are a number of other international wines that I like a lot, Albariño, Barolo, Lambrusco, Valpolicella, Vinho Verde, and Malbec to name a few.

Q: Do you think wine is better served with food? Why?
A: Red wines definitely need food, otherwise your palate is tired after one glass. White wines aren’t as tannic and can be enjoyed without food, but food helps your palate process the sensory overload that happens when you drink wine. Whether it is a canapé of pate with your glass of Merlot, or a caviar blini with your sparkling brut, those little bites of food create an entirely different experience on your palate vs. just drinking the wine.

Q: Can you share a few tips on pairing wine?
A: Keep your food simply prepared without overcomplicating the preparation of it. If it is a steak, then simple salt and pepper seasoning, seared or grilled to your desired temperature, and rested well. Enjoy it with wine that is the right temperature, not too cold, not too warm. Let the wine sit in your mouth for a few seconds before swallowing it so you can really get the subtle flavors of the wine. Do this before your first bite of food, then take a bite and repeat.  How was that second sip of wine?
What is most important is to drink wine that you like because if you like it, it is a good wine. Then have food that you like with it. Generally this is what makes a good pairing, especially if you enjoy it with family and friends — that is the true joy of good wine and food!

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To taste Percy’s wine and food pairing yourself, join us for Vintners’ Holidays in Yosemite in November or December.

10 Amazing Views in Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is justifiably famous for amazing views. From Glacier Point to Olmsted Point to Tunnel View, Yosemite provides visitors with stunning, jaw-dropping scenery on a grand scale. Though these landscapes are shared again and again, they always captivate the viewer – there is never a “meh” moment with the most famous views in Yosemite. But what about the not-so-famous views? Or perhaps you have wished you could have the view all to yourself? In the list below, you’ll find the famous, the lesser-known and even some private views of the sights of Yosemite.

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1.Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View
2. North Dome from Housekeeping Camp
3. Half Dome from Glacier Point (How to Visit in Winter)
4. Glacier Point from Curry Village
5. Half Dome from the Curry Village Ice Rink
6. Tenaya Lake from Tioga Road
7. Half Dome from The Ahwahnee hotel room
8. Yosemite Falls from The Mountain Room restaurant at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls
9. Half Dome from Olmsted Point
10.Yosemite Falls from rafting the Merced River

Elizabeth Falkner Brings the Heat to Yosemite’s Chefs’ Holidays

Elizabeth Falkner has been a longtime participant in Chefs’ Holidays and graces the cover of this year’s brochure. We caught up with her this summer to talk about Chefs’ Holidays, her culinary career, and her love for the park.

Before Falkner became a world-famous chef, she was living in San Francisco with a degree in fine art film. But she was always drawn to food and cooking, especially as California was going through what she called a “food revolution.”

“I loved to cook but I didn’t go to culinary school, I just wanted to work in a restaurant,” she said. “It’s so different from film making, which is quite a long process. People were doing really cool things with food. It was a whole scene. It was like an art movement. I couldn’t not get involved with it.”

Falkner worked in a handful of restaurants before opening her own San Francisco pastry shop and restaurant, Citizen Cake. For years she has been an innovative player in fine dining and culinary events across the country. Falkner said she loves culinary travel through food and meeting and working with new chefs.

“I love that environment of cooking with other people to see how they put it together for a really cohesive menu.”

She now lives and works in New York, and after opening nine restaurants in San Francisco and New York City, she’s not attached to a restaurant at the moment. She said she enjoys the freedom this gives her to cook at food and wine events while working on a memoir and other projects.

Over the years that she’s been featured in Chefs’ Holidays, Falkner said she has enjoyed meeting fans, friends and family of the other chefs, and repeat attendees to Chefs’ Holidays. But she said it’s especially fun seeing people experience Yosemite and Chefs’ Holidays for the first time.

“There’s the bonus of being in this beautiful place and getting to have some fun food and chat with chefs. [Chefs’ Holidays] is more intimate than some other cooking events. It’s much more like a getaway or a holiday. It’s a special environment. We all wake up and look outside and go ‘oh my god, I can’t wait to go out there.’ Everyone has conversations about going out later or what they’ve already done. It’s not 24 hours of food and wine.”

Having visited the park as a child and as an adult, Falkner is no stranger to Yosemite, but the park still carries a sense of awe for her when she visits for Chefs’ Holidays.

“It’s just always been really magical and such a beautiful, amazing part of the planet and an amazing part of California. It’s amazing how many Californians haven’t been here. It’s so, so grand and spiritual in the deepest sense. It’s not like anything else.”

Chefs’ Holidays sessions run between January 10 and February 4, 2016. Elizabeth Falkner is the headliner chef for Session 4 on January 20 and 21. Visit our website to learn more or book a package.

Renovated Cottages at The Ahwahnee in Yosemite

Delaware North at Yosemite recently completed a $650,000 refurbishment to 24 cottage rooms at The Ahwahnee hotel in Yosemite Valley. Funded and managed by Delaware North in collaboration with the National Park Service, the renovation enhanced guest room functionality while at the same time, restored historic integrity.

Richard Kollath and Edward McCann of Kollath-McCann Creative Services, designers for The Ahwahnee since 1998, referenced archival images and other historic documents to guide their selection of textiles, colors and accessory items to update the historic cottages. The cottages were built in 1928, one year after the hotel’s grand opening. The furnishings and materials selected reflect those used in the hotel between 1925 and 1942, which was established by National Park Service historians as the hotel’s “period of historic significance.” The designers’ research steered them toward simple wooden furniture and hand-crafted textiles that echo a western Arts & Crafts style. Highlights of the cottage guest rooms include custom-made Mission Style credenzas and night stands with integrated power outlets and USB ports. The bold, cheerful pattern of the drapery fabric reflects a 1930s design aesthetic, and the texture of the striped broadloom carpet evokes the original hooked rugs that once covered the floors. Linoleum prints of pine cones from local artist Kim Young Min feature exquisite details of indigenous flora found in Yosemite while watercolors of early artist-in-residence Gunnar Widforss capture the incredible grandeur and majesty of Yosemite waterfalls.

“We are proud to unveil the refurbished cottages to our guests,” said General Manager Brett Archer. “The essence of these cottages has been restored and the modern upgrades enhances the guest experience while allowing visitors to appreciate the landscape of Yosemite.

Vintners’ Holidays in Yosemite: Managing the Wining & Dining at The Ahwahnee

If you have ever attended Vintners’ Holidays at The Ahwahnee in Yosemite, pat yourself on the back for choosing one of California’s most treasured landscapes to do your wine tasting. Napa Valley notwithstanding, Yosemite Valley offers the National Historic Landmark Ahwahnee hotel as one of the premier venues to taste California wines. Each fall for the past 35 years, California vintners have gathered in Yosemite National Park to share their knowledge (and their wine!) with park visitors. For the past four years, Kathy Langley has managed the Vintners’ Holidays event for The Ahwahnee, and as you may imagine, she really enjoys her work! Kathy shared her views on the event in the interview below.

Q1: How many years have you been involved in planning the event?
A1: Four years as the Food & Wine Events Manager [Kathy worked many years as a concierge at The Ahwahnee involved in the events prior to becoming the manager].

Q2:What makes The Ahwahnee a venue that a wine lover must check out at least once?
A2: Enjoying wine is a good thing. Enjoying wine in Yosemite is a great thing!

Q3:What do you look for when looking for speakers to present their wines?
A3: A variety of wines, grape-growing regions, and personalities

Q4: Do you have a certain session you are looking forward to and what do each have to offer guests?
A4: That’s really a difficult question to answer as each session has something unique to offer. However, at Session 4, Joy Sterling of Iron Horse Vineyards will be pouring their Summit Cuvee in honor of Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson’s ascent of the Dawn Wall on El Capitan in Yosemite. Kevin is a Sonoma County boy, born and raised.

Q5: What is your favorite part of the event?
A5: Getting the first of six sessions started. That’s really seeing the fruits of my labor come to life!

Q6: Do you have a certain wine that is your favorite?
A6: The one in my glass!

Q7: What special memories do you have attending and help organizing the event? A7: Getting to know the vintners and their families. I’ve had the privilege of seeing their children grow up over the years of their visits to Yosemite for Vintners’ Holidays.

Q8: How does the executive chef at The Ahwahnee make it over-the-top when pairing food and wine?
A8: Chef Percy Whatley has an amazing palate and is a real wizard at pairing. The vintners agree, in that their comments with regard to the pairing of the wine is typically, “He nailed it!”

Q9: What makes Vintners’ Holidays different from other wine events?
A9: The opportunity to meet the actual winemakers and proprietors of the wineries. There are very few events that feature the actual winemakers.

Q10: How does the scenery and The Ahwahnee’s history add to the venue?
A10: Tasting seminars are held in the Great Lounge – what a spectacular place to sip wine! Most events of this type are held in hotel banquet rooms – not exactly a warm and fuzzy place to be! Here you sip…look at Half Dome…sip again…look at Yosemite Falls.

Q11: Why do you think it has continued all these years?
A11: The combination of wine and Yosemite with The Ahwahnee as the event venue is pretty hard to beat. Over the course of two or three days, guests run into the vintners in the bar, elevator, hallways, etc. That kind of access is not common at wine events.

Q12: What do you have to say about the judges and speakers this year?
A12: With Peter Marks, Evan Goldstein and Dan Berger, there is plenty of history in Yosemite. They have all participated for a number of years. Fred Dame, who some may recognize from the film “Somm“, was a moderator in the early years of Vintners’ Holidays and returns this year, as he did in 2014.

Q13: And anything else you would like to add?
A13: I can’t wait for the event!

Cocktails at Wawona Hotel in Yosemite

One of Yosemite’s most genteel pleasures is surveying the landscape from a wicker chair on the verandah of the historic Wawona Hotel – cocktail in hand. Not only does the slower pace of Wawona lend itself to reflection, it also lends itself to libation, particularly on a warm summer afternoon. Cocktail service begins in the lobby of this beloved old hotel every afternoon, with plenty of outdoor seating for those inclined to lovely views. This summer season, Wawona Hotel has created some charming additions to the cocktail menu – including appetizers for nibbling prior to dinner in the dining room.

Two tasty cheese plates featuring almond-crusted Brie and a sampler assortment are traditional shared plate offerings, but this summer menu also features crispy fried Brussels sprouts(!) and a generous smoked salmon fillet to share. To accompany your apps, choose from Wawona namesake cocktails such as the Wawona Julep or the Washburn’s Old-Fashioned. New this year is the Greens Keeper – a refreshing cucumber and lemon flavored gin-based drink. The season’s best specialty martini may be the PomeGranite Dome (get it?) with Patron Silver tequila and pomeganate juice.

In addition to sipping and snacking, Wawona provides the best old-fashioned entertainment this side of the Yosemite entrance gate, as Tom Bopp plays piano and sings about life in Wawona. Join him for an evening of Wawona history show-tune-style, in the lobby of the hotel.

If cocktail hour is not on your Yosemite agenda, lunch in the Wawona Dining Room may provide a restful break in an adventure-filled day. Lunch specialties include salads, hot & cold sandwiches and burgers along with spaghetti pomodoro and fish & chips.

Top 10 Secrets of Summer in Yosemite

Summer vacation fun in Yosemite is not a secret. This busy season accommodates families, students, international travelers and casual daytrippers with warm sunny weather, activities for all ages such as hiking and biking, and access to Yosemite’s backcountry for backpacking under the stars. Sharing Yosemite with so many people may seem inevitable, but visitors can still find places to call their own with unique experiences that are worthy of an Instagram or two. Unless, of course, you want to keep it all to yourself!

1. Hike in Wawona. Yosemite Valley’s iconic trails are crowded for a reason. In Wawona, you can experience the same Sierra Nevada landscape with less company at a more leisurely pace. The Chilnualna Falls Trail and the Swinging Bridge Trail put visitors face-to-face with Yosemite’s magnificent waterworks in the form of waterfalls and the south fork of the Merced River. One of Wawona’s best kept secrets? The Swinging Bridge is perched above one of Yosemite’s coolest summer swimming holes. After a day in the sun, have dinner on the lawn of the Wawona Hotel during the Saturday BBQ.
http://www.yosemitepark.com/wawona-dining-room.aspx

2. Swim laps in the pool at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls. Then have an ice cream cone. River swimming isn’t for everyone, and parents may feel more comfortable swimming with small children in a pool environment. One of the best kept secrets at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls? The Cone Stand located at the entrance to the pool provides old-fashioned summer fun with ice cream cones for extra cooling after a dip. And the pool really is limited to lap swimming only at the beginning and end of each day.
http://www.yosemitepark.com/yosemite-lodge-guest-services.aspx

3. Stargaze at Glacier Point. No doubt about it, Glacier Point is one of the most popular sights in Yosemite and on a summer day it may feel like every single visitor in the park has congregated there to goggle at Yosemite Valley 3000 feet below. But what is magnificent during the day is just as striking – and much less crowded – at night. Watching the sun set from Glacier Point is truly wonderful, but just wait until night falls and Yosemite’s night sky fills with millions of stars. Star Parties are hosted on select summer weekends with regional astronomy clubs where park visitors are welcome to take a look through club telescopes after dark. Yosemite Valley lodging guests will enjoy catching the Stargazing Tour – a bus tour that departs and returns to Yosemite Lodge at the Falls after a stargazing program at Glacier Point.
http://www.yosemitepark.com/stargazing-tour.aspx

4. Check last minute availability at the High Sierra Camps. If you are a spontaneous traveler with a yearning to experience the High Sierra, last minute availability at Yosemite’s High Sierra Camps may be just the lodging for you. Open for a short summer season, the first reservations are acquired by entering a lottery in November the year prior. Once the lottery dates have been awarded over the winter, any leftover dates are posted on yosemitepark.com in spring. The available dates are often sporadic, but they do exist. If you can throw your backpack in the car for a last-minute hiking trip, you may be in for the experience of a lifetime.
http://www.yosemitepark.com/high-sierra-camps-availability.aspx

5. Visit the Merced and Tuolumne Groves of Giant Sequoias. Yosemite is home to three groves of Giant Sequoias, though Mariposa Grove is by far the most famous. Due to the restoration of the Mariposa Grove in 2015 and 2016, these giants may not be accessible at this location. Luckily, both the Merced Grove and Tuolumne Grove require only a moderate 2 mile round-trip hike to view Giant Sequoias – which are found only in California’s Sierra Nevada. Both groves are located near the Crane Flat junction of CA 120 in Yosemite.

6. Order a sandwich at Degnan’s Deli in the AM and hike to the El Capitan picnic area. The made-to-order sandwiches at Degnan’s Deli in Yosemite Village are deservedly popular at lunchtime, but did you know that sandwiches are made at Degnan’s all day long? Arrive in the morning and order your sandwich wrapped to go for a day hike to the west end of Yosemite Valley following the Valley Loop trail. Sights along this route that follows the flat terrain of Yosemite Valley include Yosemite Falls, Camp 4 rock climbers campground, a stretch along the Merced River, and of course, El Capitan. Once you’ve arrived at Yosemite’s most famous granite monolith, look for the Ask-a-Climber program on the El Capitan Bridge. Equipped with a telescope, one of Yosemite’s local rock climbers will give you the scoop on climbers currently ascending El Capitan.
http://www.yosemiteconservancy.org/visitor-services/ask-a-climber-1

7. Take Part in the Great Yosemite Family Adventure. Visitors will find a wide range of family activities in Yosemite, but only one activity gives your family a chance to demonstrate their love for Yosemite as a team! Using a GPS unit and information about history, nature and geology, this scavenger-hunt-style program traverses roughly 3 miles of Yosemite Valley with clues, puzzles and riddles to solve for family members of all ages.
http://www.yosemitepark.com/yosemite-family-adventure.aspx

8. Buy a Fishing License in Yosemite. California’s fishing season gets underway in April, but summer allows access to all of Yosemite’s prime fishing environment – including High Sierra lakes. California fishing licenses are sold in Yosemite Valley at the Village Sport Shop, and in Tuolumne Meadows at the Tuolumne Meadows Store. You can purchase a license for the season or just for the day or week during your visit to Yosemite.
http://www.yosemitepark.com/yosemite-sport-shops.aspx

9. Kayak the Merced River in Yosemite Valley New designations have opened a much larger stretch of the Merced to non-motorized vessels, though the river conditions may make this trip feasible only for kayaks. As of April 2015, kayakers can run the Merced from Stoneman Bridge near Curry Village to Pohono Bridge at the west end of Yosemite Valley. http://www.adventure-journal.com/2014/04/yosemites-merced-river-opens-to-kayaking-and-rafting/

10. Take a guided hike, bike and rock climb with the Yosemite Mountaineering School. Yosemite’s local guides do it all: day hikes, bike-to-hike-tours, overnight backpacking trips, and of course, rock climbing lessons.
http://www.yosemitepark.com/hiking-camping.aspx
http://www.yosemitepark.com/rock-climbing.aspx