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.

 

Your Yosemite Stories: Housekeeping Camp

In the latest Yosemite in Focus newsletter, we linked to the previous post about the history of Housekeeping Camp. We then asked readers to share their favorite stories about this historic Yosemite lodging that straddles the line between camp and hotel. Below you will find some of those readers’ stories. If you would like to subscribe to the Yosemite in Focus email newsletter and receive notifications of lodging discounts and Yosemite news, please visit the Yosemite Newsletters page on our website at http://www.yosemitepark.com/eMail-SignUp.aspx

HKC Family Photo Connie Carbajal

Connie Carbajal:
“As a child I used to camp at Lower and Upper Rivers with my family and as we’d cross the bridge to use the Housekeeping showers and laundry facilities I used to think “Wow!!! These people must be so rich to be able to stay in these units” and hoped that one day I’d be able to have enough money to do the same.

Needless to say we visit Yosemite every 2 years with my husband and children (and a group of extended relatives and friends) and now grandchildren, and we have given them the experience of Lower River campgrounds when there was a lower River campground and now the “Luxury” of the Housekeeping experience.

We come as a group and pick out “themes” to decorate our units.  Than each family picks a night that they cook dinner for everyone in our group and that is the only night they have to prepare and cook dinner and clean up .  This gives everyone a little extra time at the river, hiking, sightseeing or just enjoying a nice hot shower.  And upon their return to camp……a hot dinner and dessert are awaiting them.  Most of us prepare our meals according to our them. For example during our last visit in 2013:  The “La Fiesta” Campsite decorated in traditional mexican style and wore sombreros, mexican dresses for the hostess and  guayaveras (mens traditional shirts)  for the host.  Salsa and chips, along with mexican beer (cerveza) and margaritas, were served pre-dinner, than there was a taco and burrito bar set up with all the fixings.  We topped the night off by playing “Loteria” aka….Mexican Bingo.  Another family (mine) was decorated as a “Western Ho-Down” and we served hampburgers, hot dogs, baked beans, potato salad and apple pie handing out red and blue bandanas for all to wear. And another family was decoarted as the “Oriental Express”, making fresh vegetable and chicken egg rolls, asian noodles, steamed rice and vegetables.  Topping dinner off with hot and cold tea and sweet apple and cinnamon egg rolls and yes……chopsticks were provided and many of us successfully ate our entire meal using the chopsticks.

I think you get the picture……we have now given so many families great memories, that we sit around the campfire all night sharing and reminiscing about our experiences.  So much so, that several indivudals that have now begun their own families have gone on and begun their own “group” adventures with their extended families and friends, following in our steps.

BTW…….As you can see we always purchase matching Yosemite souvenir shirts at bargain prices and pose for a group picture on our final day!!! The Carbajal, Padron, Haro, Meldrum and Muralles Families August 2013!!!! Our family saying….”Yosemite Forever”!!!!!!!!”

W.C. Smith learning to fish at Housekeeping Camp

W.C. Smith learning to fish at Housekeeping Camp


W.C. Smith:

“My family has always gone to Yosemite for vacation starting in the early 1920s when they lived in Fresno.  Housekeeping tents were our destination when I was young, – always. In 1944 when I was 6 we were able to come up from the bay area as my Dad had no problem getting gas as he was a defense contractor and had access to unrestricted gas rationing cards during the war. Many people were shut out of Yosemite during the war due to gas rationing. Anyway, my Dad said that it was time for me to learn trout fishing in the beautiful Merced and off we went. After a couple of unproductive hours we met a fly fisherman who seemed to know what he was doing, and we asked for advice. In the course of showing us “how to” he opened his creel and nestled inside in a bed of ferns was the most beautiful brightly colored brown trout. I was stunned. He then handed me his rod and showed me how to cast, albeit not very good. After a few minutes I had a strike and landed an equally beautiful but smaller brown trout. I was “hooked”. We walked back to the housekeeping tents together where he was also staying with his family. My Dad and the gentlemen started chatting and it turned out he was a navy pilot sent to Yosemite for R&R after extensive action in the South Pacific. Although I was too young to really comprehend what was being said my Dad told me in later years that he had been shot down and rescued at sea. He told Dad that the housekeeping tents were the perfect medicine for recovery from a horrific period in his life. He had young kids so we played, fished and swam for a week before we had to go. My parents kept contact with the family for awhile but never met again at the housekeeping tents. Unfortunately that wonderful Navy pilot was killed in the South Pacific in 1945.

I am still a passionate fly fisherman but at a slower pace in my senior years. But every time I step into a stream I still have a vision of that beautiful brown trout nested in a bed of ferns and that wonderful brave man who introduced me to fly fishing.”

A Short History of the Oddly-Named Housekeeping Camp in Yosemite

Housekeeping Tent at Camp 16 from the Yosemite National Park Research Library

Housekeeping Tent at Camp 16 from the Yosemite National Park Research Library

Located on the Merced River in Yosemite Valley with an unusual name, Housekeeping Camp straddles the line between camping and hotel accommodations and inspires fierce loyalty among park visitors. With amenities not usually found in campsites such as three walls, a canvas roof, beds, electrical lights and outlets, as well as standard amenities of picnic table and campfire ring, Housekeeping Camp is perennially popular with visiting families. Many of these families return year after year to the same units for easy access to the Merced River’s sandy beaches and activities like rafting and swimming. By examining the origin of Housekeeping Camp and its odd configuration and designation, it is apparent that this particular type of Yosemite accommodation has had great influence on the evolution of national park campgrounds as we know them today.

In the 1860s, after the signing of the Yosemite Grant by President Abraham Lincoln, the State of California administered Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove as precursor to the establishment of Yosemite National Park. The state instituted the designation of numbered camps in Yosemite Valley to indicate where visitors were setting up camp during their visit. By 1878, the idea of a public campground had taken hold and The Harris Camp Ground located near the present-day hotel, The Ahwahnee, was the forerunner of the current configuration of a national park campground. By 1918, a map of Yosemite Valley indicates Camp 19 as the first Housekeeping Camp and by 1920, the park concession was charging a fee for supplies to be provided to campers who needed equipment. Visitors who brought their own went to the free campgrounds, and visitors who rented supplies stayed in a “Housekeeping Camp” – meaning you kept your own house with no maid service.

From the “1920 Guide to Yosemite” by Ansel F. Hall:

“The Housekeeping Camps Department supplies all kinds of camping or outing equipment at very reasonable rates…About twenty camp grounds have been prepared for the free use of the public by the Park Service. Water is piped to these localities and a sanitation system provided for. Applications for camp sites should be made at the National Park Service office in Yosemite Village. Those without outfits, who desire to establish camps, may arrange at the Housekeeping Camps Department of the Yosemite National Park Company (at Camp 17, a quarter mile east of Sentinel Bridge and north of the river) to rent all necessary equipment. This will be delivered and set up ready for occupancy. It is advisable to arrange in advance for the outfit desired.”

Housekeeping Camp was indicated at its present location as Camp 16 on a map in 1921 and remained designated Camp 16 until the 1970s. In 1923, Yosemite’s most influential concession operator, the Curry family, established Yosemite’s first lower-cost Housekeeping Camp with unfurnished lodging and no meals. This iteration included 10 units and was located in the current employee housing area known as Tecoya dormitory at Yosemite Village. In 1943, a Yosemite park map stated that Housekeeping Tents at Camp 16 come completely furnished from $2.25 daily and $10 weekly – what a deal! Ten years later, Housekeeping Camp was no longer considered a Yosemite campground, instead being listed as accommodations similar to Curry Village tent cabins. Amenities such as laundry facilities and a store were also available by the 1950s.

Yosemite’s housekeeping camps were the beneficiaries of the Mission 66 program where significant funds were invested in the infrastructure of national parks from 1956 to 1966. As a result, in the 1960s, the units were constructed as we know them today with concrete slabs. Two units were built back to back as a duplex. The dividing walls and two side walls were concrete slabs mixed with a conglomerate of Merced River stones. The ceiling, front walls and two side walls were canvas with a nylon fly for protection from sun or rain. The patio kitchen was furnished with a wood-burning stove referred to as a ‘sheepherder’ stove. This experimental design for improvement of guest accommodations in Housekeeping Camp was developed with much thought by Yosemite Park & Curry Company’s Gordon Warren, responsible for the construction of the new units, and architects from the firm Spencer and Lee, among others. In 1964 the ‘laundromat’ building was added to house coin-operated washers and dryers, along with a new shower house.

By 1976, the rest of the campgrounds in Yosemite were operated by the National Park Service. As the only remaining example of a ‘housekeeping camp’, Camp 16 was renamed accordingly and continues to be known as Housekeeping Camp to this day. Sometime in the 1990s, the old sheepherder stoves were replaced by campfire rings. Over time, the number of units have been reduced and the current Merced Wild and Scenic River Plan calls for the removal of more. But for now, you can enjoy 266 units in the heart of Yosemite Valley for a camping experience without all the gear. Housekeeping Camp opens for the 2014 season on April 17th and still offers supplies in the form of bedpacks consisting of 2 sheets, 2 blankets and 2 pillows rented for $2.50 per night – subject to availability. Make reservations online or call 801-559-4884 to speak with a reservation agent.

Housekeeping Camp River Units

Housekeeping Camp River Units

Housekeeping Camp Front Office and Store

Housekeeping Camp Front Office and Store

 

 

 

 

 

Merced River Plan – Camping and Lodging

Where do you prefer to stay when you visit Yosemite? The Merced River Plan that is underway in Yosemite calls for some changes in the lodging and camping options.

Housekeeping Camp

Housekeeping Camp

In Alternative 5, the Park Service’s preferred alternative, proposes the following changes:

  • Increase the number of campsites by 28% across all river segments and 37% in the Valley. That means an additional 160 campsites.
  • Merced Lake High Sierra Camp decreases from 22 units (60 beds) to 11 units (42 beds).
  • Remove 34 units from Housekeeping Camp that are in the ordinary high-water mark.
  • Some tent cabins in Curry Village would be replaced with hard-sided cabins and the total number of overnight units will be reduced by 50 at Curry Village. There are 400 units at Curry Village mentioned in the Merced River Plan, but this does not account for the 103 units that were approved exclusively for NatureBridge and subsequently made available for public use.

The Ahwahnee, Yosemite Lodge at the Falls and Wawona Hotel would remain the same under the preferred alternative, although some of the other alternatives propose changes at Yosemite Lodge ranging from increasing units there to eliminating them entirely.

You can see the breakdown of which campsites and properties would be affected at: http://www.yosemitepark.com/mrpoverview.aspx

Submit a comment to the National Park Service. The comment period is open until April 18, 2013. Your comments matter. Public input has strongly helped to shape the draft plan, and it’s important for everyone to continue to provide feedback for the next phase as planners develop a final plan. Learn more about the Merced River Plan.

The Merced River Plan Removes Raft Rentals in Preferred Alternative 5

Rafting the Merced River

Rafting the Merced River

Have you ever taken a leisurely float down the Merced River in Yosemite Valley? As you may have heard, the park is currently working on a plan for the Merced River that calls for a change in the way visitors use the river in Yosemite.

River rafting is a popular way to cool down on a summer afternoon while enjoying some of the iconic sights from a unique perspective. How many people can enjoy the river at once without over-crowding it and harming the ecosystem?

In the draft version of the Merced River Plan, the preferred alternative calls for the removal of raft rentals, and proposes a permit process for private rafts and flotation devices.

Because different sections of the river have different designations, the number of permits would vary depending on which section of the river you’d like to be on. In Segment 2, the section that includes Yosemite Valley, the plan calls for restricting boating to 100 people per day using private vessels only on specific stretches of the river.

You can review rafting details for the Yosemite Valley segment in the draft plan (pdf) on p. 8-250, and justifications for some of the proposed changes are in a table on page 8-260.
What do you think?

Submit a comment to the National Park Service. The comment period is open until April 18, 2013. Your comments matter. Public input has strongly helped to shape the draft plan, and it’s important for everyone to continue to provide feedback for the next phase as planners develop a final plan. Learn more about the Merced River Plan.

Merced River Plan Feedback Requested

Merced River reflecting Half Dome

Merced River reflecting Half Dome

Change is in the air, and you can help shape the future of Yosemite. With the Merced River Plan the National Park Service is drafting the blueprint for decisions that will dictate the way the park within the river corridor, including most of the floor of Yosemite Valley will be managed in the upcoming decades. Would you like to see more camping or less? What do you think of the transportation and parking options in the park? More? Less? Are there too many people, or should it be easier to get in? If you have ever said to yourself, “I wish they would do X…” about the park, now is the time to make your voice heard. As they say, speak now…

The name for the recently released document is quite a mouthful, “Alternative Concepts Workbook for the Comprehensive Management Plan for the Merced Wild and Scenic River Plan” (MRP), but more simply, it is the first chance for all of us to see what the park has come up with after the initial round of looking at scientific findings and public comments.

As the NPS says in their official press release, “The MRP will guide future decisions about transportation, camping, parking, lodging, employee housing and other administrative uses, restoration, and set user capacity – most notably within Yosemite Valley – and will establish the management strategy and actions for the next 20 years by modifying the General Management Plan.” The planning team has come up with five different concepts ranging from those that emphasize a self-reliant experience, to those that aim to provide more services and experiences for people visiting the park. For example, the number of campsites are increased in 3 of the 5 concepts, while the number of lodging is decreased in all but one. Which alternatives do you prefer? Do you see any problems with any of the alternatives? Have they overlooked something? They are looking for your feedback.

Once we’ve had a chance to look at this draft, the park service will further refine these ideas into the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, which will also be open to public comment. To find out more about what is happening with the MRP, you can download the workbooks, read more on the NPS planning page, or attend a workshop, site visit, or webinar.

The Workshop schedule is:
• Wednesday, March 28, 2012, 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Yosemite Valley Auditorium
• Wednesday, April 4, 2012, 5:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., Golden Gate Room, Fort Mason Center, San Francisco
• Thursday, April 12, 2012, 5:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., El Portal Community Hall
• Friday, April 13, 2012, 1:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., Wawona Community Hall

Site Visits will provide an opportunity to discuss proposed actions “on-the-ground” at the locations where they may be implemented. They will be conducted in conjunction with the Workshops outlined above. Visitors are asked to wear comfortable walking shoes.

The Site Visit schedule is:
• Wednesday, March 28, 2012, 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., meet at the Yosemite Valley Auditorium
• Thursday, April 12, 2012, 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., meet at the El Portal Community Hall
• Friday, April 13, 2012, 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., meet at the Wawona Community Hall

There will also be two webinars conducted that will review the draft alternatives. These will be held on Tuesday, March 27, 2012, at 10:00 a.m., and on Wednesday, April 11, 2012, at 6:30 p.m. People can participate in the webinars by logging into yose.webex.com.