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.


Have you ever attended a social media event? Originally formed as part of the Twitter community and known as as “Tweet-Ups” (a play on meet-up, get it?), social media events have evolved to include users of all social media channels in what are often referred to as “Socials”. This week, Delaware North at Yosemite hosted Yosemite National Park’s first “Yosemite Social”. By invitation, social media influencers and social media representatives of park partners gathered in Yosemite Valley February 1 – 3, 2015 to talk about Yosemite in winter. The original event itinerary centered around winter sports at Badger Pass Ski Area – California’s original ski resort and one of only two located in a national park. Unfortunately, Mother Nature has chosen to withhold snow from the Sierra Nevada this winter and Badger Pass has closed temporarily due to lack of it. So what to do in the Yosemite winter without snow? Yosemite Social learned about activities such as hiking, biking, and ice skating in a snow-free Yosemite winter. Social media users on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram can check out the experience by searching for the #YosemiteSocial hashtag on each channel.

In addition to activities, Yosemite Social was hosted at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls with a welcome dinner at The Mountain Room. After dinner entertainment consisted of a Starry Skies Over Yosemite Program, led by Delaware North at Yosemite interpretive guide Cory. Taking Yosemite Social on a cosmic tour of the universe, Cory shared his extensive knowledge of astronomy on a walking tour under the dark night sky of Leidig Meadow. The next day, Yosemite Social took a Bike-to-Hike Tour with Yosemite Mountaineering School Guide Allissa. Using the cruisers from the bike rental operation at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls is an easy way to explore Yosemite Valley with occasional stops for short hikes and iconic vistas. Yosemite Social stopped mid-tour for lunch with freshly-made sandwiches at Degnan’s Deli in Yosemite Village and a meet & greet with Yosemite National Park Service staff. With grand views of Half Dome and Yosemite Falls as a backdrop, Ranger Paul provided insight into the methods and goals of social media for the National Park Service in Yosemite.

Though Curry Village operates seasonally and is often closed during the winter months, Yosemite Social had a special pizza party dinner in the Curry Village Dining Pavilion featuring Pizza Deck pies – a tradition for summer visitors. Along with local beers and a green salad, dinner provided an opportunity to learn about operations at Curry Village – originally established in 1899 by the Curry family – from General Manager Dan Cornforth and Guest Recreation Manager Sean Costello. A short walk from the pavilion provided a winter evening’s activity: ice skating at Curry Village Ice Rink. Not only are rental skates available to circle the ice under Half Dome and Glacier Point during the day, take a break to gather around the fire pit during evening skate sessions with a S’mores Kit for dessert. Ice rink staff will even loan you long-handled forks for marshmallow toasting.

On the last day of the event Yosemite Social joined The Ahwahnee‘s General Manager, Brett Archer, for breakfast in the Ahwahnee Dining Room. Since Chefs’ Holidays at The Ahwahnee was still in full swing for its last sessions, Yosemite Social also participated in an exclusive Ahwahnee Kitchen Tour for a close up look at baked bread, desserts and the hardworking kitchen staff in this historic hotel. Many architectural elements are original to the hotel opening in 1927, including giant Hobart stand mixers haven’t been available in decades. Each winter in January and February, Chefs’ Holidays hosts famous chefs from around the country for cooking demonstrations, historic kitchen tours and a gala dinner in the Ahwahnee Dining Room.

Sincere thanks goes to the participants of the first ever Yosemite Social: Annie from NatureBridge, Amber and Noel from Yosemite/Mariposa County Tourism Bureau, Trevor from Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite, Annie from Outdoorsy Mama, Kim from Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau and travel photographer Zach Glassman. Would you like to attend a Yosemite Social? Look for future event announcements on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Yosemite Wedding Photography Spotlight: Johnny Stafford Photography

Yosemite Winter Wedding

Based in central California, Johnny Stafford Photography is comprised of Johnny and Cindy Stafford, an award-winning husband-and-wife team that has been photographing weddings in Yosemite and other California destinations for over 10 years. With their wealth of experience, we decided to ask them all about photography and weddings in Yosemite. Here’s what they had to say.

Why is Yosemite a great place to get married?
When people dream of their weddings, they often visualize historical cathedrals or tropical beaches. We think Yosemite is the most beautiful “cathedral” on the planet and has gorgeous rivers and beaches of its own.  For couples with a love of nature and beauty, Yosemite is such an ideal and meaningful wedding destination.

Yosemite Wedding Smiling Couple

Why do you enjoy taking photos in Yosemite?
There are so many reasons we enjoy taking wedding photographs in Yosemite. In addition to capturing the beauty of the landscape, we are honored to document the love and joy between couples on such a special day in their lives. For many, the celebration is not just a wedding day, but a true destination wedding experience where family and friends gather from around the country (and sometimes around the world) to spend a week exploring and enjoying the splendor of Yosemite National Park. For some, it’s their first (and hopefully not last) visit to the area. Capturing images of a couple and their family and friends during the event of a lifetime is really an incredible experience.

We often ask couples what brings them to Yosemite for their wedding day. Each couple has a reason close to their heart for exchanging vows in Yosemite. Some were engaged in Yosemite or have parents who married here. Some grew up camping here in summers or own a cabin that has been in the family for generations. Some are avid climbers or trekkers who have hiked Half Dome multiple times or backpacked all over the high country. Others have never visited before, but chose a beautiful place they have always dreamed of seeing. The one common tie, though, does seem to be an absolute love of nature and the outdoors.

Yosemite Wedding Rings

What is your favorite Yosemite location for wedding photos and why?
It is so hard to pick our favorite Yosemite wedding location for photography, since the seasons, weather, light and landscape provide a different experience throughout the Park at different times. There are so many breathtaking photo settings including the winter snow blanketing Yosemite Valley, rich golden colors of the Black Oaks in the fall and spring runoff filling the waterfalls. With over 10 years of experience photographing Yosemite weddings, you might think that we see the same locations week to week, but we always love discovering new locations and perspectives every time we pick up our cameras.

The location that takes our breath away the most, though, is Glacier Point. Every time we drive up Glacier Point Road, we feel a thrill of excitement when we make the hairpin turn at Washburn Point. It seems like you can almost grab Half Dome, because it appears so close. The views at 7,000 feet rival any photo location we can think of.

Glacier Point at Sunset

What was the most memorable wedding you’ve shot in Yosemite?
Yosemite weddings are so unique and every couple makes their wedding memorable in their own special way. One of the most memorable moments for us was a small intimate wedding at Glacier Point. The couple was sweet, quiet and reserved and they had family that had traveled from Asia to celebrate their marriage. Everyone was completely blown away when the groom broke out into song to serenade his bride during the vows. The bride was so touched and had tears rolling down her face. During the serenade, the Best Man grabbed hidden signs that had the lyrics to “Can’t Help Falling in Love with You” on them and held them up so the guests could sing along. It was amazing and so emotional.

Yosemite Wedding Couple

What are the key components for a great wedding photo?
What we look for in a great wedding photograph is a combination of lighting, composition, and the capturing of special moments of the day. Moments like the bride in beautiful light when her father sees her for the first time on her wedding day, or seeing light cascade across the granite walls of Yosemite when photographing a ceremony at The Ahwahnee, or just noticing the smile on Grandmas’s face when the couple dances for the first time; these are the priceless moments that couples are going to want to look back on many years from now in their wedding album. It’s really about finding or creating that perfect light, framing the action within that light, and letting the moments unfold. It’s the participants themselves, their family, friends, loved ones, that provide the magic.

We also love capturing the natural moments between a couple…their laughs, their emotion, their smiles, etc. So often, the best photo is a candid moment that happens between poses, or during a part of the day where people are not aware of the camera. Our goal is to have people comfortable enough with us that they forget the camera is there. That is when their true emotion comes out.

Yosemite Wedding Shoes and Flowers

Why do you think wedding photos are important?
The most important thing at a wedding are the couple, their vows, and love for each other. Photography is an an important way to capture their love and celebration for future generations. We love looking through Cindy’s parents’ wedding album from 1960 and cherish having that heirloom as a window to our family history. Cindy’s Grandmother passed away a week after our own wedding. We will treasure forever the images we have with her from our wedding day. As photographers we are not just capturing the wedding, but also the legacy of family and friends.

Yosemite Wedding Groom

Do you have advice for couples that would like to have their wedding in Yosemite?
Our advice for couples marrying in Yosemite (especially those planning from afar) is to rely on the expertise of experienced area professionals to assist and advise on the wedding logistics and free yourself up to enjoy your day. The Delaware North professionals at every venue are excellent and go over and above to help guide couples through the event planning stages. There are also wonderful area vendors including florists, beauty stylists, planners, officiants, musicians, DJs (and your photographer, of course), who know the details about Yosemite and can help couples navigate timing, schedules and logistics within the National Park to make the day perfect and stress-free!

Yosemite Bridge at Sentinel Beach

What has your experience as wedding photographers taught you?
From wedding photography, we have learned so much about different types of people, families, customs, etc. It is such a special thing to document a glimpse of a couple’s lives, love, and relationships. Weddings are a landmark event.. one in which people look back on for generations. It has taught us the importance of true love and cherishing its pricelessness. Maybe the Beatles said it best, “Love is all you need.”

The Stafford Family

The Stafford Family

Johnny Stafford Photography is the award-winning, husband-and-wife team of Johnny and Cindy Stafford. The Staffords have been photographing weddings in Yosemite and other California destinations for over 10 years. They met in college when Johnny sent Cindy a secret-admirer note. They have been together ever since… for over 20 years.

One of Johnny’s first loves was photography, which he discovered as a teenager. The beauty and power of image-making led him to pursue it as a career. He has taught photography for over 20 years at a high school in Fresno, California. This allows him to give back the passion for image-making that captivated him years ago. When not teaching or photographing weddings, Johnny enjoys fly-fishing.

After working for several years as a graphic designer, Cindy left the advertising world to join Johnny in starting their photography business in 2004. In addition to photography, she manages the studio operations, editing, design and customer service. She enjoys working with couples from the wedding planning stage all the way through designing their custom albums. Soccer is her favorite hobby. The Staffords also love to go camping with their kids and friends.

6 Ways to Enjoy Winter in Yosemite

1. Ice Skating

Where: Curry Village Ice Rink in Yosemite Valley
When: November through February 29
How: Skate rentals available – and don’t forget the s’mores kits for the fire pit!

2. Skiing, Snowboarding and Snowtubing

Where: Badger Pass Ski Area
When: Mid-December through March
How: Lessons, rentals, and dining available

3. Chefs’ Holidays

Where: The Ahwahnee
When: January and February
How: Dine with famous chefs and attend cooking demos in an historic national park lodge

4. Ostrander Ski Hut or Glacier Point Ski Hut:

Where: Backcountry lodging along the Glacier Point Road
When: Mid-December through March
How: Not accessible by vehicle in winter, you can snowshoe or cross-country ski to Yosemite’s ski huts

5. Snowshoeing

Where: Badger Pass Ski Area
When: Every day when enough snow covers the ground, evenings during the full moon
How: Rent snowshoes at Badger Pass Ski Area on your own, join park rangers or Delaware North at Yosemite interpretive naturalists on guided walks (snowshoes included)

6. Camera Walks

Where: Yosemite Valley
When: Several days a week in winter, find the schedule in the Yosemite Guide
How: With instructors from the Ansel Adams Gallery

Learning to Share: An Interview with Nell Newman and Jesse Cool from Session 5 of Chefs’ Holidays in Yosemite

shareThe remarkable cookbook, Share, gathers together the stories of women in war-torn countries as it explains how food connects people in each country. Interwoven within these stories are recipes from the book’s collaborators, people such as Paul McCartney, Meryl Streep, and Judi Dench.

In January 2015 at Chefs’ Holidays in Yosemite, two of the book’s collaborators will be joining us – Nell Newman, daughter of Paul Newman and head of Newman’s Own Organics, and Jesse Cool of Flea Street Café in Menlo Park. We recently had the opportunity to talk with Nell and Jesse about their experiences working on this cookbook.

How did you get involved with the Share cookbook?

Jesse: I was approached by Lauri Pastrone, the woman who conceived the book and made Share happen through her work with a group of amazing women. Also, I have always had a draw to Africa. Most of my reading for years was about despair turned to hope and love in the midst of the worst of the worst. After meeting Lauri, I sponsored two women in Rwanda and then joined a trip with Lauri and others to go and cook in Rwanda and meet one of the women I sponsored (a few photos in the book are the women I cooked with). You can actually read the story on page 212 of Share.

Nell: My dear friend Jesse Cool asked me if I had recipe to donate to this wonderful book she was helping put together to support the Women for Women International Project, which supports women in war-torn countries.

What does the Share cookbook mean to you?

Jesse: It means love, beauty, joy in the midst of pain and dark injustice, generosity, local and global care for women, and families in need.

Nell: The Share cookbook is a perfect example of how together we can make a change; through food, education, and love for humanity.

What did you learn from collaborating on this project?

Jesse: I met amazingly generous women who are real and care without attachment. It took my personal and businesses beyond my decades of being a local girl to stretch out and reach out to our abundance on a more global level. It helped me and my staff attach more deeply to our own beautiful life and learn how to give to those who have less.

What is your favorite recipe in the cookbook?

Jesse: Well, honestly it is Nell’s olive oil cake. I make it and serve it in the summer with berries and in winter with honey crème fraiche. The first time I had it, Lauri made it for me and I had to take a few slices home to eat as a midnight snake. I love Nell, so it meant even more that it is her recipe and so good. It holds up well for days, and is so yummy.

Any hints about what you’ll be preparing for Chefs’ Holidays in Yosemite this year?

Jesse: In my recipe, I tried to offer something that I felt was more African in feel…that is how I came up with the pork stew.

Nell: I’m definitely making my Orange Scented Almond Olive Oil Cake

Are you excited about coming to Yosemite? Why?

Jesse: My kids have always known Yosemite as their summer and winter and whenever-we-can-steal-a-day-away place to go. We say that it remains the most beautifully moving place on the plant, and I have traveled the world cooking in many amazing places.

Nell: How could anyone not be excited about coming to Yosemite! I’ve only been there once before and have never seen it in its winter splendor! I can’t wait!

Interview by Jeanne Haegele

Yosemite National Park After Dark

Yosemite Valley at Night by Kristal Leonard

Yosemite Valley at Night by Kristal Leonard

Summer nights in a national park include the soft glow of the Milky Way rising over your campsite, a wilderness landscape lit by the full moon during an evening hike, and the twinkle of stars and planets from a roadside vista point. In California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, Yosemite National Park is a harbor of darkness in a highly populated state, providing an excellent opportunity to truly experience the star-filled night. In addition to all the daytime hiking, biking, rafting and rock climbing under sunny Sierra skies, the summer evenings in Yosemite can be just as full of activity and wonder.

With thirteen campgrounds and seven lodging options inside the park, summer nights in Yosemite can be filled with a range of activities such as dining in an historic hotel, socializing with s’mores around the campfire or contemplating the awed silence of fellow stargazers. For the celestially minded, Yosemite’s park rangers give sunset talks, full moon hikes, the “Stars Over Yosemite” Program as well as hosted Star Parties at Glacier Point, and Moonlight Tours aboard the Yosemite Valley open air trams. In addition to ranger programs, DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite offers Stargazing Tours to Glacier Point, Full Moon Bike Rides in Yosemite Valley and the “Starry Skies” program that takes place in the meadows of Yosemite Valley. For the diners and socializers, you’ll find hospitality every evening at The Ahwahnee Dining Room and bar and the Yosemite Lodge at the Falls Mountain Room Restaurant and Lounge, including evening presentations about the natural and cultural history of Yosemite. Summer nights at the Curry Village Pizza Deck & Bar are a park visitor tradition. In Yosemite Village you can experience live theater presented by the Yosemite Conservancy, with topics ranging from historic figures to daring adventures. At the Wawona Hotel, you’ll find dinner and entertainment in the form of vintage Yosemite songs played by pianist and storyteller Tom Bopp.

Full Moon Bike Ride in Yosemite Valley

Full Moon Bike Ride in Yosemite Valley

Glacier Point Star Party in Yosemite.

Glacier Point Star Party in Yosemite.

Stargazing Tour at Glacier Point

Stargazing Tour at Glacier Point

Yosemite fun and activity after dark doesn’t stop when summer has ended. As the days grow shorter in fall and winter, there is plenty of time for evening fun with fireside storytelling and Yosemite’s Signature Food and Wine events at The Ahwahnee.  Vintners’ Holidays in the fall, the Bracebridge Dinner during the holiday season and Chefs’ Holidays during the winter include lodging and dinner packages to maximize your culinary experience. Vintners’ Holidays features prominent winemakers showcasing their vintages. Bracebridge Dinner transforms the dining room into a 18th century English manor for a feast of food, song and mirth. Chefs’ Holidays provides a cooking adventure showcasing the range of styles, personalities and trends that characterize the American culinary scene. Besides a winter’s eve filled with food and wine, you can also stay active after dark at the Curry Village Ice Rink with evening ice skating sessions and participate in a snowshoe walk under the light of the full moon at Badger Pass Ski Area. No matter the season, there are wondrous things to see and do after dark in Yosemite National Park.

The Story of Ranger Gabriel in Yosemite National Park

Ranger Gabriel is sworn in at Yosemite National Park. Photo by Michelle Hansen.

Ranger Gabriel is sworn in at Yosemite National Park. Photo by Michelle Hansen.

Gabriel Lavan-Ying, an eight-year-old from Gainesville Florida suffering from Ehler’s Danlos Syndrome, wished to become a national park ranger. With the help of Make-A-Wish Central California, Yosemite National Park endeavored to make Gabriel’s wish come true on Tuesday June 3, 2014. Make-A-Wish Central California grants the wishes of children between the ages of 2½ and 18 who currently have a life-threatening medical condition which is defined as a progressive, degenerative or malignant and has placed the child’s life in jeopardy. Gabriel wanted “to see cool stuff like waterfalls”, and he is a history buff who loves nature. So the rangers at Yosemite National Park put Gabriel through extensive training in order to ensure his success as a national park ranger. Gabriel arrived in Yosemite with his family – mother Tara, father Kon, twin sister Angelica and older brother Dominic – and stayed at Tenaya Lodge just outside the south gate of the park. On Tuesday, Gabriel and his family traveled to Yosemite Valley for his training and swearing-in ceremony.

Ranger Gabriel learns to use the radio before boarding the NPS firetruck.

Ranger Gabriel learns to use the radio before boarding the NPS firetruck. Photo by Michelle Hansen.

Gabriel was dispatched to fight a wildland fire with the Yosemite Fire Crew, attended naturalist walks in Cook’s Meadow, was also dispatched to a search and rescue operation involving an injured hiker and assisted the Yosemite medical team in transporting the patient to a rescue helicopter. After Gabriel’s full day of training, he was sworn in as an Honorary Park Ranger in a ceremony at the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center. Approximately 300 people, including Yosemite community members and Yosemite park rangers, witnessed the ceremony in which Gabriel received his badge and credentials. United States Magistrate Judge Michael Seng and Yosemite National Park Superintendent Don Neubacher presided over the ceremony where Ranger Gabriel also received a flag that was previously flown over Yosemite National Park.

Ranger Gabriel assists with the rescue of an 'injured' hiker.

Ranger Gabriel assists with the rescue of an ‘injured’ hiker. Photo by Michelle Hansen.

Ranger Gabriel assists with transport to the search and rescue helicopter.

Ranger Gabriel assists with transport to the search and rescue helicopter. Photo by Michelle Hansen.

Ranger Gabriel is sworn in as an Honorary Park Ranger by Judge Michael Seng. photo by Michelle Hansen.

Ranger Gabriel is sworn in as an Honorary Park Ranger by Judge Michael Seng. Photo by Michelle Hansen.

In addition to the training, DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite provided some down time in the form of a pizza party at Degnan’s Loft in Yosemite Village. Ranger Gabriel relaxed at lunch with his family, the NPS rangers involved in his training and the Make-A-Wish crew. After the ceremony, The Ahwahnee kitchen staff celebrated Ranger Gabriel’s new status with a congratulatory cake created by Executive Pastry Chef Paul Padua. On the shaded back patio at The Ahwahnee, Ranger Gabriel wrapped up his first day as a Yosemite park ranger, sharing cake and lemonade with his family and dozens of his new friends. Returning the next day to Yosemite Valley, Ranger Gabriel escorted his family on a rafting trip down the Merced River, ever vigilant for those that may need the assistance or knowledge of a national park ranger.

Chef Paul Padua helps Ranger Gabriel cut the cake at The Ahwahnee. Photo by Michelle Hansen.

Chef Paul Padua helps Ranger Gabriel cut the cake at The Ahwahnee. Photo by Michelle Hansen.

Ranger Gabriel and family rafting the Merced River in Yosemite Valley. Photo by Michelle Hansen.

Ranger Gabriel and family rafting the Merced River in Yosemite Valley. Photo by Michelle Hansen.

Ranger Gabriel's parking spot in Yosemite Valley. Photo by Michelle Hansen.

Ranger Gabriel’s parking spot in Yosemite Valley. Photo by Michelle Hansen.


Yosemite for Everyone – Rock and Roll Yosemite’s 8th Annual Visit

Part of Yosemite’s appeal is the accessibility of its grand vistas and enormous cliffs. You don’t have to hike for miles to be sprayed by the mist of a waterfall that is hundreds of feet high. Short paved paths lead to many amazing sites making them both stroller and wheelchair-friendly.

The Rock ‘n Roll Yosemite camp run by Access Leisure visited the park for the 8th straight year. From May 14 – 17 participants explored Yosemite Valley by hand cycle and exposed themselves to the thrill of rock climbing during an Adaptive Rock Climbing Session organized by Mark Wellman of No Limits, and with the help of Yosemite Mountaineering School climbing guides.

Climber Sheryl Cooley sets out under the watchful eye of Mark Wellman and a Yosemite Mountaineering School guide.

Climber Sheryl Cooley sets out under the watchful eye of Mark Wellman and a Yosemite Mountaineering School guide.

Climber Abeba Benton is strong enough that she doesn't need the 3:1 mechanical advantage, simply executing dozens of pull-ups to reach the top.

Climber Abeba Benton is strong enough that she doesn’t need the 3:1 mechanical advantage, simply executing dozens of pull-ups to reach the top.

Jim Davis takes advantage of his strong right arm and an ascender on his right foot to climb to the top.

Jim Davis takes advantage of his strong right arm and an ascender on his right foot to climb to the top.

Law Day in Yosemite

2014 May Law Day Michelle Hansen

Law Day Yosemite 2014

By Presidential Proclamation, the first of May each year is set aside to encourage Americans to recognize and appreciate the importance of the rule of law in America. On May 2nd this year, the U.S. District Court and the San Joaquin Valley Chapter of the Federal Bar Association sponsored the second annual Law Day Yosemite commemoration at the Yosemite Valley School with a focus on the 150th anniversary of the Yosemite Grant Act of 1864. The 2014 Law Day Yosemite commemoration hosted an essay contest open to local 8th grade students at El Portal, Groveland, Lee Vining, Mariposa, Lake Don Pedro, Wasuma, Wawona, Woodland, and Yosemite Elementary Schools and Oak Creek Intermediate School. Approximately 250 eighth grade students from these Yosemite area schools gathered at the foot of majestic Yosemite Falls to celebrate the Rule of Law and its contributions to the rights and freedoms of all Americans.

Students gather for Law Day Yosemite 2014

Students gather for Law Day Yosemite 2014

This year’s commemoration emphasized the role of the rule of law in preserving and protecting our national parks. President Abraham Lincoln, Conservationist John Muir, Yosemite’s First Guardian Galen Clark and President Teddy Roosevelt made an appearance to discuss with students their respective roles in creating and protecting Yosemite National Park.  Yosemite’s Law Day commemoration coincides with the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Yosemite Land Grant Act of 1864.  President Abraham Lincoln, in the midst of the Civil War, had the vision to sign an act which established Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove as the first public lands to be protected and preserved for the citizens of the United States for all time. Students were invited to submit essays describing the significance of the Grant Act of 1864; why legislation was necessary to protect places like Yosemite Valley; what Yosemite might have become without such protections; whether and why national parks are important to America; and, how we might inspire future generations to support the idea born of the Yosemite Grant Act. Winners of the essay contest were announced and awards presented at the event.

President Roosevelt, John Muir, Galen Clark and President Lincoln on hand for Law Day Yosemite 2014

President Roosevelt, John Muir, Galen Clark and President Lincoln on hand for Law Day Yosemite 2014

Law Day Yosemite 2014 is a collaborative effort of the United States District Court in Yosemite, the San Joaquin Valley Chapter of the Federal Bar Association, the National Park Service and DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite. The event is funded by the United States District Court for Eastern District of California and the Federal Bar Association Foundation. The public is invited and encouraged to attend and show support for the concept and for rural school students who may not have the opportunity to attend city events.