Sean and I were back in Yosemite Valley around 3:30pm on Friday, May 27. We decided to see out the afternoon by going to the Valley Visitor Center and then taking a walk. My hope when planning the trip was that we’d spend one full day in the valley, perhaps parking the Jeep at Bridalveil Fall and then walking the trails all the way as far as Mirror Lake. That and any hikes up from the valley floor, such as Yosemite Falls Trail or the Mist Trail, were victims of Sean’s lingering cold. But he had been a trooper throughout the trip, and the late May weather was glorious, so we sallied forth to see something beautiful.
We had already been to the visitor center a handful of times, but this time we walked through the interpretive galleries with displays about the geologic, natural, and human history of Yosemite. There was also a lovely tribute to John Muir in the form of a life-sized statue situated in front of a rendering of Tuolumne Meadows.
After the visitor center, we walked through the village before getting turned around near the large day-use parking area.
Eventually, we found the right path to cross the Merced at Half Dome View, where the iconic formation is picturesquely framed by the banks of the Merced.
From Half Dome View, we followed the footpath near Southside Drive southeast, hugging the base of the southern wall of Yosemite Valley.
Occasionally we passed huge granite boulders that had long ago fallen from the wall above.
We came upon the LeConte Memorial Lodge, built by the Sierra Club in 1904 in honor of one of its founders, Joseph LeConte.
A little further on, we emerged at Stoneman Meadow, with its unparalleled views of the main features of the eastern end of Yosemite Valley: Half Dome, North Dome, Royal Arches, Washington Column, and Glacier Point.
Sean spotted two Mule Deer browsing in the meadow in front of us.
After soaking up the views, we recrossed the Merced and began our walk back to the village.
We joined the bike path and found a butterfly struggling to cross it. We weren’t sure if it was hurt or stunned or what. But it wasn’t going to last long with cyclists zooming past. So I got it onto a stick and moved it over into the meadow. It successfully fluttered off the stick and onto a flower. So hopefully it was only stunned and would be fine.
You’ll notice in the image above that the words The Majestic Yosemite Hotel have clearly been added. Up until the end of February 2016, the sign would have read “The Ahwahnee Hotel,” the name of Yosemite’s famous luxury lodge. Unbeknown to the National Park Service, former Yosemite concessionaire, Delaware North, trademarked the name of the hotel and other properties in Yosemite National Park. When Delaware North lost the concessionaire contract (to Doyon Aramark) in an open bid, it sued NPS claiming that the trademarked names were worth $51 million. (The Park Service pegs their value at $3.5 million.) The lawsuit is ongoing, but in the meantime, the Park Service has changed the names of many Yosemite landmarks. It’s something of a genius move because it does three things: removes the potential copyright infringement, stokes public outrage at Delaware North, and reduces the potential value of the removed names. In other words, “Oh, you think those names are worth $51 million? Actually they’re completely worthless.” Regardless, NPS is refusing to settle, hoping that the case will determine what should be completely obvious, that a private corporation may not trademark the pre-existing names of government property, our property.
Back in the village, we had a look at the “tree cookie” of a Giant Sequoia outside the Yosemite History Museum. It fell in 1919 after having stood in Mariposa Grove for over 1,100 years. The labels indicate the dates of major events such as the signing of the Declaration of Independence…and the Battle of Hastings.
We climbed into the Jeep and said goodbye to the Village. Our intent was to go back to camp, but the late afternoon light was becoming so glorious, we decided to make a few stops.
The first was to gaze at Bridalveil Fall from the north side of the Merced River.
The second was to drive up to Tunnel View one last time for a glorious goodbye to Yosemite Valley.
And Sean took a photo he had been keen to capture since we arrived in Yosemite: a recreation of a twenty-three year old photo from fourteen year old Brandon’s first glimpse of Yosemite Valley.
But more important to me was getting an image at that spot with my husband. A fellow was kind enough to take our picture in return for my taking one of him and his lady friend.
Our third and final stop was at Bridalveil Fall to witness the famous late-afternoon rainbow that forms in that beautiful waterfall’s mist.
Behind us, on the north side of the valley to the west of El Capitan, ephemeral Ribbon Fall was visible too. Dropping 1,611 feet from the north rim, Ribbon Fall is not unimpressive.
But the grand show was put on by Bridalveil dropping 617 feet down sun-warmed granite.
As we were looping around on the one-way roads at the western end of the valley, Sean noticed that an interpretive marker mentioned Teddy Roosevelt, so we circled back around to have a look. It marked the spot where then-President Roosevelt camped in Yosemite Valley with John Muir, having ditched the official presidential entourage.
We gazed around, imagining what this place looked like then for Teddy and Muir as they prepared the evening’s campfire while shadows stretched across the western end of Yosemite Valley.
They were there on May 17, ten days (and 113 years) before us. Certainly Ribbon Fall would have been just as boisterous that evening as it was for us. And they too would have heard the roar of Bridalveil Fall nearby.
In another great Western tradition, Sean tried out his sexy hitchhiker pose. So I picked him up and took him back to camp.
We built our final campfire and ate our final supper in Yosemite. The lasting regret from the trip was that Sean was sick the entire time. In the months since we returned, he’s told friends that he has seen these famous, famous sights: El Capitan, Half Dome, but it all seems to be through a fog or a dream.
Adam and Randi returned late and completely exhausted from their trek to the top of Half Dome. Randi told Sean that she felt the chains were a little sketchy. Nevertheless, they were aglow with a sense of accomplishment as they shared stories from the day. But soon they were in bed. Sean followed them, and then I doused the campfire and said goodnight to Yosemite.