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.

IMG_00001024

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.

6743110657_8f6882c18b_o
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

Advertisements

Paradox Sports in Yosemite: Inspiring a New Generation of Veteran Growth

If you hear shouts of joy from the tops of Half Dome, El Capitan, and the Royal Arches on September 11th this year, it’s probably a group of veterans. Paradox Sports is bringing twelve veterans to Yosemite National Park to commemorate a difficult day in U.S. history by celebrating veteran community. The group, including ten volunteers and guides, will climb and hike in some of Yosemite’s most famous areas, reaching their respective summits on 9/11.

Paradox Sports, a non-profit started by Timmy O’Neill and DJ Skelton to build communities around adaptive sports, has been leading trips in Yosemite for three years. The organization was founded to create opportunities for people with all kinds of physical disabilities to explore the outdoors. Paradox’s veterans program holds five events each year, including trips to Grand Teton National Park and Mount Rainier National Park.

The Yosemite event is focused on veterans dealing with disabilities caused by their time in the military. Disabilities that, for many, have been holding them back from living the full lives they want to live after returning from service. Paradox Sports finds ways for everyone to climb – regardless of disability – including amputees, veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and blinded veterans. Last year, a veteran named Cody Elliot attended the Yosemite event for the first time. At 25 years old, Cody has seen more than most people his age. He lost some of his best friends in combat and almost lost his own life to an improvised explosive device (IED) in Afghanistan. But he survived, minus a leg and a finger, and now he feels he must live for those he lost. “I’m trying to live the lives they would have, “ Elliott says. And he’s doing them proud. Last year, he climbed the Royal Arches route to commemorate the anniversary of 9/11 – one of four areas the veterans climbed in throughout the week. The trip with Paradox Sports inspired him to continue to pursue more opportunities to climb and he has started to compete in paraclimbing competitions this past year.

Why climbing? Why not take the veterans skiing or skydiving? Just like in the military, climbing forces the vets to rely on each other and look to others when facing fear or insecurity. In wartime, veterans build a brotherhood to lean on, but that brotherhood often disperses to different areas of the country upon returning. They are left alone to deal with the effects of their experiences or even traumatic brain injuries. Paradox Sports works to build that family back up. The openness of the climbing community, combined with the challenge of climbing, provides a perfect place to find a new brotherhood and a new mission. “Facing the unknown on the rocks of Yosemite brings real risks and perceived risks that results in some really profound learning and an important sense of purpose, “ says Doug Sandok, Executive Director of Paradox Sports. “Our participants bring that newfound strength into their everyday lives and it becomes a resource for moving past their perceived disabilities every single day.”

It is no coincidence that the event takes place in Yosemite, of all climbing destinations to choose. Yosemite National Park has been a climbing Mecca since the 1960s. That legacy was brought into focus this year in particular when the entire nation followed the attempt of Kevin Jorgeson and Tommy Caldwell to complete one of the hardest free-climbing routes in the world on El Capitan. The park represents some of the most important values of our nation; hard work, freedom, and protection of our precious resources. Paradox Sports has partnered with Yosemite National Park and Delaware North at Yosemite to host their event in this outstanding and powerful venue. This event is provided to qualifying veterans at no cost. Delaware North at Yosemite provides guiding & mule packing services, along with a welcome dinner in Yosemite Valley.

To find out more about Paradox Sports, follow us on Facebook or check our website for programs and donation opportunities.

Written by Madeline Pickering

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.

A Change of Pace: Autumn in Yosemite Valley

I tried to hold onto summer as long as could. I tried to deny that summer would ever leave me. But the truth is upon us: summer is gone and autumn is here to stay, for a while.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The magnificent Milkweed, spreading its seed for next year.

The nights are cooler, the days are shorter, the Big Dipper is hiding behind the granite walls, and not only are the leaves starting to drop but also the number of visitors. Yosemite Valley seems to be a bounty of endless beauty with each passing day and change in season.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A large Black Oak, behind the Ahwahnee Hotel.

Although Yosemite is  well-known for its evergreen trees: Giant Sequoias, Pines, Cedars, and Firs, Yosemite does host a variety of deciduous trees as well. From Oaks, to Maples and Dogwoods- these trees give us our fall colors. Some trees seem to burst with excitement and color as fall creeps in, but what causes these changes in color each year?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Black Oak leaves, showing their range of colors.

This change of color is due to a breakdown in the green pigment found in leaves: chlorophyll. Chlorophyll helps the leaves make their food and when that breaks down, other pigments start to show their true colors. Depending on the climate and type of tree determines what colors will be present. The colors range from red, orange, yellow, brown, and even purple!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sugar Maple, across from the Chapel.

Although I was sad to let summer go, I welcome autumn with open arms as I enjoy the cooler and more colorful days headed our way. Yosemite National Park, you truly do inspire me everyday.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Vine Maple, near the Yosemite Lodge.

Written by DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite interpretive guide Gena Wood. All photos were taken on October 10th, 2014 by Gena Wood. Come see Yosemite National Park in autumn for yourself!

 

Gallery

Where to See Fall Color in Yosemite

This gallery contains 9 photos.

Though not as brilliant as New England’s fall display of changing leaves, Yosemite National Park offers plenty of autumn beauty thanks to big leaf maple, dogwood and black oak trees. Fall itself can be changeable as a season, since turning … Continue reading

Meet a DNC Yosemite Naturalist

Yosemite is a place of true wonder and we have a staff to help you explore the beauty and understand all of its intricacies. We introduce one naturalist, through a letter written to Yosemite, showing her love and passion for this National Park. Meet Ashley McComb:

My dearest Yosemite,

You might know me as the interpretive naturalist that lives and works within the cozy valley formed by your majestic granite walls. Working as a naturalist has been my dream job ever since I was a small child, because you stole my heart at an age that seems so far away now. Though I was 19 years old when I first stepped foot on your precious soil, I have dreamt of you ever since I was capable of dreaming.

Blog 2

Tears streamed down my freckled face when I first laid eyes upon your heart, and the waterfalls that pour from it. You warm my soul with each breath I take of your fresh air.

Blog 6

Snow Plant

Your assortment of wild-flowers, woody shrubs, mushrooms, and trees keep me grinnin’ all day long! Your wild raspberries nourish my happy little body each morning, afternoon, and night. I have never known wild berries to taste so good, so sweet, and so fresh. Maybe it is all the love your treasured soil contains. Or maybe it is because you are just pure magic.

Blog 7

Amanita

My dearest Yosemite, why are you so good to me? Raspberries, an amazing individual within the rose family, Rosaceae Rubus, grow wild and free; and on my naturalist strolls through the Ahwahnee meadow, park visitors who explore your lands are able to bask in their beauty, sweet aroma, and indescribably wonderful taste! My dear Yosemite, your wild raspberries, Rosaceae Rubus leucodermis, keep all of us sustained and invigorated, as our fingers stain purple and red while picking your delicious little treats.

Raspberries_1

Rubus leucodermis

My goodness Yosemite, you make me want to steal away to your green meadows and river shores, for we humans are so eagerly interested in everything alive. On my naturalist strolls, we swim in all that is alive, we taste it, we see it, we understand and delve in every aspect of your beauty. And it does not stop there! You have so many wild and untouched horizons upon your majestic lands.

Blog 3

A view of Tuolumne Meadows

Tuolumne transformed the carbon compounds that make up my body the first day I saw its glory: open meadows untouched by human toes, gnarled peaks that touch the sky like spines on a dragon’s back, and gaping mountain mouths that reach out toward the heavens. Tuolumne is a whole other world: one that cannot be described by mere words.

Blog 4

Before you opened my eyes to the immeasurable beauty of open lands I was lost, but now, you have shown me true life, true freedom, and true happiness. I have finally found that our spirits need wilderness to breathe.

Blog 1 Thank you Yosemite. Thank you so much, for everything.

Sincerely,
An Interpretive Naturalist who truly adores you,
Ashley McComb

Have you discovered your passion within Yosemite? Join a DNC Naturalist to learn more about Yosemite National Park and uncover more of its beauty!

Restoration Projects in Yosemite: Helping Restore the Natural Beauty of the High Sierra

Restoring Tuolumne Meadows Lodge in 2008.

Restoration of Tuolumne Meadows Lodge in 2008.

Since 1916, concessioners in Yosemite National Park have provided wilderness experiences for thousands of visitors by operating the Yosemite High Sierra Camps in some of the park’s most beautiful backcountry locations.  High Sierra Camps are spaced 5.7 to 10 miles apart along a loop trail in Yosemite’s high country, accessible only by foot or saddle. After decades of operation, the once pristine camps became impacted by heavy visitor use combined with minimal land management. Merced Lake High Sierra Camp, the largest, oldest and most remote of the high camps was the first to benefit from planned restoration efforts, which began in 2001.  DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite employees worked to restore the camp with the guidance of the National Park Service at Yosemite.

Restoration workers at Merced lake High Sierra Camp.

Restoration workers at Merced Lake High Sierra Camp.

The success of the Merced Lake restoration inspired DNC to plan extensive restoration projects for the other High Sierra Camps during the summers of 2005 and 2006. The plan was expanded to include White Wolf Lodge in 2007 and Tuolumne Meadows Lodge in 2008. Since then, most High Sierra Camps have benefited from multiple efforts at ecological restoration. In 2011, ten years after the first restored pathway, it was time for the restoration crew to go back to Merced Lake High Sierra Camp. DNC partnered with the National Park Service and Yosemite Conservancy to improve the ecological health of the camp with grounds maintenance.  A group of 11 Yosemite Conservancy volunteers lead by DNC environmental managers Mark Gallagher and Debora Sanches donated 416 hours of labor to Merced Lake – helping to restore the camp to a more natural condition. The ecological restoration techniques included soil decompaction; collection and spread of native seeds and duff; transplanting native plants; trail delineation, erosion control and the creation of proper drainage for run-off.

Merced Lake High Sierra Camp after restoration in 2011.

Merced Lake High Sierra Camp during restoration in 2011.

 

Restored drainage at Tuloumne Meadows Lodge in 2008.

Restored drainage at Tuloumne Meadows Lodge in 2008.

In 2012, two major restoration projects took place at May Lake and Glen Aulin High Sierra Camps. In addition to trail delineation, decompaction and spread of duff in closed-off areas, volunteers also helped with deferred maintenance work such as roof replacement, corral post and hitching rails additions, plumbing improvements to prevent water waste and lodge foundation replacement.

In addition to the High Sierra Camps, DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite recently started work on a two-phase ecological restoration project at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls – also in partnership with National Park Service and Yosemite Conservancy. The restoration work includes removal of dirt roads, social trails, & non-native plants, and also transplanting of site-specific native plants and seeds. Yosemite Conservancy recruited 15 volunteers to work on the first phase of the project. DNC will work with the National Park Service at Yosemite to source native vegetation seeds in Yosemite National Park to be planted at the site in October.

Restoration at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls in 2014.

Restoration at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls in 2014.

Badger Pass Ski Area and Bike/Raft Rental Manager Sean Costello at the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge restoration in 2008.

Badger Pass Ski Area and Bike/Raft Rental Manager Sean Costello at the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge restoration in 2008.

 

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.

 

Earth Day in Yosemite National Park

Earth Day YosemiteEach spring on Earth Day, DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite partners with Yosemite National Park to celebrate our commitment to the environment by sponsoring an event located at the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center. The Earth Day Mall Celebration takes place on Earth Day April 22, 2014 and features food, fun and scheduled activities for all ages available from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm. Park visitors are invited to have lunch at the sustainable ingredient salad bar, participate in a ranger walk or talk, finish spring cleaning by recycling electronics at the Yosemite Village Recycling Center, take a photography walk with the Ansel Adams Gallery, and introduce children to yoga with a family-friendly session.

In addition to the mall celebration, the Earth Day Bike Ride in Yosemite Valley occurs the weekend prior to Earth Day on Saturday April 19, 2014. On the Earth Day Bike Ride, explore Yosemite Valley with Yosemite National Park and park partner staff for a fun and educational guided bike tour. Park partners include the Yosemite Conservancy, NatureBridge and Balanced Rock Yoga. This guided tour of Yosemite Valley bike paths features stops at information stations that provide the latest news about Yosemite’s environmental efforts. Subjects include preservation of endangered wildlife such as the Pacific Fisher, restoration of Yosemite’s trails and native habitats, identification of lichen and moss and techniques for conifer tree removal to maintain the health of Yosemite’s trees. Earth Day Bike Ride participants meet at 2:00 pm at the Curry Village Bike Stand. Each ride tours Yosemite Valley on designated bike paths with scheduled stops at information stations directed by a volunteer tour leader. The bike tour is appropriate for all experienced riders and lasts approximately three hours.

Park visitors are welcome to bring their own bikes to participate in Earth Day Bike Ride and bike rentals are available for experienced riders at the Curry Village Bike Stand. The cost of Earth Day Bike Ride is $5.00 per person. This fee includes bike rental for the tour. Space is limited and advanced sign up is required. Information and tickets are available at any Tour & Activity Desk in Yosemite Valley and by calling Yosemite Activities Reservations at 209-372-4386.
2014_Mar_Rental_bikes_Michelle_hansen