Yosemite National Park: A Great Place for Nature Lovers

Name: Yosemite National Park.
Location: It is situated in the state of California, in the western slope of Sierra Nevada.
Area: 748,436 acres.

The Yosemite National Park

In the 19th century, is triggered in North America a pest of unique characteristics: the gold rush. The conquest of new lands, during a crazy search for the largest golden nugget that only the luckiest ones would manage to find, affected the country from coast to coast. After the miners, with their continuous sieving of streams and landscapes until then unknown for white people, would come merchants and loggers, who started the last round of the conquest of the North-American West.

Circa 1850, the gold fever arrives to Sierra Nevada, in Alta California, where the small tribe of Yosemite Indians occupied inner valleys enclosed by impenetrable rocky walls. The Indians, harassed and moved away by the miners, responded to the aggression attacking a bunch of gold diggers. They had just sign their last will. In the summer of 1851 the "Mariposa Battalion" moved to Yosemite Valley. Once finished with the Indians, the canyons and forests of Sierra Nevada started to suffer massive logging operations with the aim to satisfy the always increasing wood demands of the new settlements.

The deterioration of the valley provokes a strong social response by the most conservationist sectors, headed by the botanist John Muir. This situation would end with the United States Congress Declaration of the Yosemite Valley National Park on June 30, 1864, sowing the seeds of the future National Park, finally built in 1890, making this park the third protected zone in the world.

Yosemite Valley, Vertigo and Granite

If we had to highlight a distinctive aspect of the Yosemite Valley, this would be without a doubt its beauty. The Quaternary Glaciations allowed the Merced River, the authentic modeling element of all shapes of Yosemite, to carve a vast glacial valley, covered later on by alluvium soil and framed by large granite cliffs. Everyone can now see the result: oriented from west to east, the valley entrance is flanked by the enormous granite stroke of El Capitan, on the north, and by the Tres Hermanas Mountains, broken by the Bridalveil Fall, on the south. Beyond this, lies the enormous Yosemite Waterfall, which possesses, in all its 3 falls, a 2,411 feet slope, and the rocky domes of North Dome and Half Dome, closing the main valley on the east. Following always the Merced River course, is found later the Little Yosemite Valley, an area of delicious enchant that has in the Emerald and Merced Lakes its most notable landmarks. Granite, prairies, waterfalls and forests added together to offer one of the most popular natural places on Earth, witnessed each year by more than 3 million annual visitors.

Yosemite is also one of the meeting points for world climbing, to the point of having given the name to a sports and mountain activity: the "yosemitism". "El Capitan", the huge granite bulk with an incredible steep of 2,953 feet high, was defeated by "The Nose Route" in 1958. Three climbers needed exactly 47 days to achieve their goal, as well as 600 normal hooks and 125 drilling hooks. The climbing was a real material battle like nobody had seen before, relaxing frequently in hammocks hanging in the abysm. Perhaps the conquest of the "Pared de Aurora" in 1971 had ended with the no defeated, until then, Yosemite routes. That same year, Ryck Sylvester was an immediate sensation, traversing with his skis the plateau which overlooks El Capitan and leaping into the void. When he had descended a few hundreds of meters, he opened a parachute and landed safe, repeating thereafter his accomplishments as "he had never seen El Capitan so splendorous and gorgeous".

Yosemite has bequeathed innovative tools in all mountain sports, such as the nuts (which are a great substitute to the old fashioned pins, without harming the rocks) and the climbing shoes, a type of boots, very light and adherent, which have finished with the limits of the impossible in rock climbing. Moreover, Yosemite has changed the climbing philosophy, making this activity as an end in itself instead of a way of challenging the difficulties involved in mountaineering.  The Camp 4, in the foothills of El Capitan, has witnessed all of these ideas: neglected of the classic conception of camp for the enjoyment of nature, is equipped of all elements of a modern gym, where the climbers prepare themselves for the assault of the different routes of El Capitan.

Red Sequoias: Witnesses of The Past

The Yosemite National Park is a place with big contrasts, because of the large differences between the different altitudes of its landscapes. From the 13,000 feet high of the Mount Lyell to the below 600 feet of the San Joaquin Valley. So the vegetation shows significant differences. The highest areas which suffered from the ice and strong wind, are populated with xerophilous scrubs and some specimens of the western juniper, with deformed silhouettes due to the power of the snow and thunderbolts. The John Muir Trail allows us to know the height range, which can be also seen from Glacier Point, fantastic viewpoint hanging over the Yosemite Valley, which one can access during the summer.

The red sequoia, the largest tree on Earth, populated in the past wide sectors of medium altitude in California. Massive logging operations have reduced significantly its presence, nowadays limited to a couple of sites, such as the Toulomme Meadows, Merced and Mariposa Grove, in Yosemite.

The impression one gets when walking through the Mariposa Grove is difficult to forget. The giant trees, contrary to one might think, are relatively close to each other, in occasions too close that one tree touches another. The forest is dark, very dark because sequoias reach 200 feet high very easily (the record is hold by the specimen 'General Sherman' in National Sequoia Park. It has a height of 272 feet and an estimated weight of 2,145 tons) and in a dense silence, only broken by the sound of the birds. In occasions, the trails are interrupted by pulled out trees, which allow to stare their fantastic dimensions and their particular root system, which occupies a very large area but hardly penetrates into the ground.

In Mariposa Grove one can find the specimen Grizzly Giant, the biggest sequoia of the region. Currently, it is "only" 210 feet high, as the sun rays feel some predilection for it. According to experts in the matter, this tree might be living in the planet for 2,720 years, in other words, when the Greek Parthenon construction started, this tree was a couple of hundreds years old.

Gateway to San Francisco

Yosemite is just 217 miles away from the city of San Francisco. It is also relatively close to Los Angeles, and nearly at the gateway to Fresno. The proximity to these important urban centers, added to the international popularity of the park, appealing tourists from every corner of the world, has ended up creating an undesirable overcrowding. It's true that in the park there are multiple mountain trails -like the Burro Pass, Jack Main Canyon, Pate Valley and the already mentioned John Muir- where the visitor can find an absolute loneliness.  However, the Yosemite Valley and areas near to the visitor centers suffer during the summer season, severe traffic jams while the camps are overcrowded with tourists who don't always keep the silence and the black bears bum begging for food.

To stop this situation to happen, the park Administration is seeking to destroy inner infrastructures while consolidating new modern facilities with great capacity for large crowds in the Yosemite Park periphery. The fines for throwing away garbage in the park are very high, as well as those for interrupting the tranquility and serenity of other visitors. Multiple tracks are closed to vehicles in summer, trying to encourage visits by foot or bicycle. The high number of visitors continues to be a pending problem in the Yosemite Valley. The solution to this problem depends on the preservation of such a natural and peaceful environment.

Work for Uncle Sam

"Over the centuries, since times of Jesus Christ -and even long before- God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, and avalanches; but he cannot save them from fools. Only Uncle Sam can do that."

John Muir, botanist and profound admirer of the beauties of Sierra Nevada, triggered at the beginning of the second half of the 19th century an active campaign for sequoia forests protection, in the Californian mountains, seriously threatened by the massive logging operations carried out by logging companies. Paradoxically, the wood from these giants is low-quality and very brittle. But, the large number of these conifers, makes of them a target for the loggers. As a result of Muir campaigns against the deforestations, the Sequoia Park and the Yosemite Park were declared National Parks, second and third world's oldest parks respectively, behind the Yellowstone National Park.

To pay tribute to John Muir, the Yosemite National Park Administration has named one of the best trails in the park after him. The John Muir Trail goes through the main peaks of Sierra Nevada, across almost the entire state of California. This path, which is at an altitude between 9,843 and 13,123 feet, is visited every year by thousands of enthusiastic people.

Sources: Wikipedia

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