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Yosemite ... still magnificent.

Tramp out into the grassy middle of Yosemite Valley, and listen. Listen closely. The sound is high and deep at the same time, so deep you can almost feel it in the soles of your feet. It isn't the hum of insects or even the whisper of the wind. It's water.

Tricking out of the springs, splashing over rocks, and thundering over granite walls, rushing water is the overwhelming sound--and the magnificent spectacle-- of spring in Yosemite National Park. Tumbling down the from the highest corners f the park, this chorus of waters is more than just the song of the Valley: it is the very pulse of the Sierra.

It is also the signal that Yosemite's peak season, May to October, is beginning. Perhaps as many as 3 million visitors will come here this year. Last year it was by far the most heavily used overnight park in the United States.

What is Yosemite like today? How has it weathered its immense--and still increasing--popularity?

If you haven't been to the park recently, you might be pleasantly surprised at the changes. If you have never been, you are missing one of the most wondrous places on earth.

Turning the corner--at last

Yosemite is more than just another pretty place--it's a vital part of our heritage. It was the first federally mandated park and the model upon which our national park system was based. The environmental movement started here with the battle to save Hetch Hetchy.

The park is also a case study of what happens to an area that becomes too popular. By 1952, park superintendent Dr. Carl P. Russell was warning, "Unless something is done to stop present trends, much of the natural appeal of the Valley as we have known it will be gone in another 50 years." The trends were toward urbanization: crowds, traffic congestion, increasing development, even dance halls, movie theaters, and a bowling alley.

But enough was enough. The turnaround began slowly in the early 1970s. Thanks to inceasing cooperation between the National Park Service and Yosemite Park and Curry company, the park's concessionaire, Yosemite has improved markedly in the past 10 years.

Today the most popular areas seem less crowded. The days of unrestricted parking and camping along park roads are long gone. Computerized reservations for lodging and Valley campsites have simplified the search for a place to sleep, eliminating 2 A.M. line-ups at campgrounds.

Valley traffic patterns are simpler now: some roads have been closed, most others are one way. A free shuttle-bus system and a network of paved bicycle paths link all of the Valley's camping, lodging, and visitor centers, so you can get along just fine without a car.

Aging rest rooms, roads, and bridges have been rebuilt, much parking has been relocated and consolidated, and nonessential services are being removed. Campgrounds have been redesigned and the total number of campsites reduced. Recycling programs and bearproof garbage cans have significantly reduced litter.

But can Yosemite handle its admirers?

still, there are problems. In spite of highway improvements, weekend traffic clogs roads and overflows parking lots. (Last Memorial Day, vehicles gridlocked for more than an hour in the Valley.) And, while the number of buildings in the park has been reduced, more than 1,000 structures clutter the Valley alone. Electrical, water, and sewage systems are antiquated, trail system maintenance is lagging, and fragile areas are being trampled by careless hikers and campers.

Planners admit that some recent improvements are only band-aid remedies. As use mounts, so does concern for the park's future. A much-hailed master plan, demanded by the public and adopted in 1980, promises relief, but progress is frustratingly slow (see box, pages 119-120).

Yosemite's efforts to control visitor impact have made it a bellwether for other parks. "Many parks are being operated at minimum levels," states Yosemite superintendent Bob Binnewies. "If we can find better answers to help ensure the integrity of Yosemite, perhaps these answers can help other parks as well." Ed Hardy, president of Yosemite Park and Curry Company, is eager to help find those answers. "The Park Service has a tough assignment in Yosemite: to protect park resources and allow for visitor use at the same time. Our job is to fully cooperate with their efforts."

The Valley: for many it is Yosemite

In 1964, when President Lincoln signed legislation deeding Yosemite to California as a public trust (but not a national park), the grant contained two separate wonders: Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias. Hetch Hetchy and the high country along the Sierra crest were added in 1890, when Yosemite National Park was created.

Enticing as the rest of the park is, the Valley remains, as Horace Greeley wrote in 1859, "the most unique and majestic of nature's marvels." Barely 7 miles long and a mile at its widest, the Valley is actually more like a canyon. Walk in any direction and you'll soon come to walls of granite.

And what walls! Draped with thundering falls in the spring and etched in sharp relief by snow in winter, these ramparts soar more than 3,000 feet above the Valley floor--a verticality so astounding that the mind doubts the memory. Perhaps that is why so many people come back to look again and again.

Most visitors--in fact, 71 percent of them--speed nearly all their time in the Valley. Not surprisingly, summer vacation months are the busiest: most days the Valley is a city of 20,000, with enough activity to support a clinic, a jail, a dozen stores, five restaurants, and three cocktail lounges. At theaters, rangers with microphones and slide projectors give electronic campfire talks--mostly without benefit of a campfire.

Why summer? While the Valley is open year-round, most of the park's 1,189 square miles are accessible only spring through fall. For visitors who want to explore mor eof Yosemite than just the Valley, summer is still a prime time to go.

Strategy for a visit

Planning is essential. Campsites and lodging in the Valley (see pages 128 and 129) are usually booked months in advance. At our press deadline, rooms with baths in the park were completely reserved through August, though tent cabins at Curry Village were still available. These far-in-advance bookings could work in your favor; it never hurts to call for last-minute cancellations.

The alternative is to establish a base outside the Valley. High-country campgrounds aren't on the reservation system; last summer some sites were still available on Friday nights even on peak weekends, and occasionally on Saturday mornings.

Lodgings at Wawona, Yosemite West, and El Portal can sometimes be booked just a few weeks ahead, and you can often find last-minute motel space Sundays through Thursdays in Mariposa, Oakhurst, and other towns within an hour of the Valley. On pages 128 and 129, we list some lodging options.

Park your car, then forget it

Visitor facilities are all in the Valley's eastern end: lodging and convenience stores at Curry Village, Yosemite Lodge, and the Ahwahnee Hotel, and a grocery and other services at Yosemite Village, where you'll find the park headquarters and visitor center.

Park activities--from free nature walks and art classes to bicycle rentals and rock-climbing lessons--can be arranged at one or more of these centers.

While the wide one-way roads that loop in and out of this area may be bumper-to-bumper on busiest weekends, the rest of the Valley can be surprisingly uncrowded. Old Yosemite hands know how to take advantage of this. Their advice: get out of the car.

Abandoning it is surprisingly easy. This summer, 10 shuttle buses, running 10 minutes apart, will whisk you from campgrounds and lodgings to stores, major facilities, and many trailheads. Bus routes are shown in red on the map at right.

An equally easy way to get around is on bicycle. A good 9 miles of paved paths loop through the eastern end of the Valley. If you can't bring your own cycles, rent single-speeds at Yosemite Lodge or Curry Village. You can pedal along park roads, but narrow shoulders and vehicles that weave as drivers ogle the scenery make this risky.

Except for the $8.75-per-person 2-hour Valley tram tour, public buses and bikes are currently confined to the developed east end. This leaves the spectacular western area, around El Capitan and Bridalveil Fall, comparatively unpopulated, but you need your car to get there.

The west end

Day-trippers escaping summer heat in Fresno, Manteca, and Merced have known this area for years. Weekend mornings, they arrive early and set up elaborate picnic spreads for groups who come to hike, swim, or just soak up the shade. Small parking pullouts near sandy beaches along the Merced River fill before 10; larger areas with picnic tables fill shortly thereafter.

Two of the best-located picnic areas, Cathedral Beach and El Capitan, are also at the end of a 5-mile stretch of the Merced that has become increasingly popular for rafting. As spring runoff subsides in early June, the Park Service opens the river to rafting, and immediately the glassy bends of the Merced sport rafts of all descriptions (inner tubes are fine if you can stand ice-cold water). Launch anywhere below Curry Village. It will take 4 lazy hours to drift down to the Cathedral picnic area; with dozens of riverbank beaches where you can picnic or swim, you could easily while away a day.

Bring your own raft, paddles, and mandatory life jackets, or rent gear at Curry Village for $8.25 per person, including a shuttle back from the pullout point shown on the map. Rocks make drifting below El Capitan Bridge dangerous. By August water is too low to raft.

An evening with a tramp, an hour with Indians

Along with raft and bicycle rentals, the park concessionaire offers a variety of activities, from horseback rides for all ages to technical rock-climbing classes for the nimble. At Yosemite Village, free photography walks are given by The Ansel Adams Gallery. The Yosemite Natural History Association sponsors free art classes for visitors who want to try capturing the Valley in paint. Our listings on pages 128 and 129 summarize these and other offerings; detailed schedules are printed in the Yosemite Guide, available at entry stations, most service facilities, and the Valley Visitor Center.

If you stop at the center, a quick look at the exhibits will give you a basic overview of the park's natural history. (The small nature center at Happy Isles is somehow more charmingly interesting.)

At the VVC you can get advance tickets for the evening showing of "Conversation with a Tramp," an excellent intorduction to the story of John Muir, portrayed by actor Lee Stetson, who occasionally leads Valley nature walks as if he were Muir.

Next door is the Indian Cultural Museum, with an exquisite collection of basketry indoors and a reconstruction of a typical village outdoors behind the museum. Tool ad weapon making, basketweaving, beadwork, and Indian foods and games are demonstrated daily in summer--often by costumed descendants of the Miwoks and Paiutes who lived here.

The Valley rims: by foot, car, or bus

To appreciate the Valley fully, you have to leave it. Climbing to the rims gives you a better perspective of its glacier-scoured geology and a renewed appreciation of its 3,000-foot depth.

The north rim is accessible only by foot from the Valley on trails to Yosemite Falls or Tuolumne Meadows, although the old Big Oak Flat Road does give an elevated perspective.

The south rim can be reached by several trails or by an hour-long drive up Glacier Point Road. Bus service from the Valley (see page 128) offers an option for those who'd like a one-way hike. Take a picnic and water: a combination of several short rim hikes, each with spectacular overlooks that demand more than just snapshot time, can stretch this into a leisurely daylong outing.

Get to Glacier Point before 8:30 and you're likely to see hang gliders swoop into the Valley as the sun warms the mountaintops.

Early morning is also the best time to start out on the Panorama Trail, longest and grandest of the hikes mentioned on page 114.

Driving Glacier Point Road

After you leave the Valley heading toward Wawona, stop at the overlook just before Wawona Tunnel. This is the classic view of the entire Valley, sweeping from Bridalveil Fall to Half Dome, then beyond to the peaks of the high country. From the overlook, it's 7-1/2 miles to Chinquapin, where you turn left and continue another 16 miles to Glacier Point.

Along this stretch, you'll pass Badger Pass, a winter recreation center, and Bridalveil Campground, a good camping base for Valley day trips. About 2-1/2 miles before Glacier Point is parking for easy hikes to Taft Point or Sentinel Dome. The pullout for Washburn Point, just a mile before Glacier Point, offers superb views of Vernal and Nevada falls.

From the railing on the north edge of Glacier Point Overlook, you can look straight down 3,252 feet to Curry Village, then take in the entire Valley from Yosemite Falls to Half Dome.

From the less-abrupt east face of the overlook (where the photograph above was taken), you look up the watercourses of Tenaya Creek and the Merced River. The two overlooks together give you splendid views of the park's high country.

You might want to find a comfortable rock and contemplate the forces that shaped the Valley in prehistoric eras.

10 million years of erosion

Try to imagine this topography 10 million years ago. The Merced River was in about the same location, but it ran through a broad valley surrounded by low, rolling hills of the infant Sierra Nevada.

Uplifting continued, and the durable Sierra granite gradually emerged as the hills became mountains and the Merced cut a steep canyon in the Valley. Just before the onset of the ice age about a million years ago, the Sierra was almost to its present height and the river's canyon was 3,000 feet deep.

It took three major glacial stages to excavate the Valley and create the distinctive U shape you can see so clearly in the picture above.

The last ice river began to withdraw about 30,000 years ago, leaving behind it a rocky moraine that formed a natural dam across the west end of the Valley.

Ancient Lake Yosemite must have been spectacular, a gigantic reflecting pool for the surrounding peaks, from Half Dome to El Capitan. Over the years, gravel and sand washed down by the Merced River filled the lake, leaving the present level floor of the Valley. This same silting action on Tenaya Creek will eventually turn Mirror Lake (it is not a remnant of Lake Yosemite) into Mirror Meadow. Even today the Valley is continuing to change.

Yosemite's domes:

the great granite "onions"

No less intriguing than the glaciers that shaped the Valley are the many domes--found only rarely elsewhere in the world--that frame it. From Glacier Point, you can easily see half a dozen, including North Dome, Liberty Cap, and the glaciated remnant of Half Dome.

These domes are made of granite that was formed under tremendous pressure deep in the earth at least 85 million years ago. As the granite is exposed, this pressure is relieved, causing fractures in the stone that allow outer layers of rock to break loose. As exfoliation continues, the layers gradually become longer and more smoothly curving, much like the layers of an onion--eventually creating a dome.

For a close look at a nearby formation, hike to the top of Sentinel Dome.

In the Valley or the high country:

what about those notorious bears?

Gone are the days when a dozen or more California black bears (Ursus americanus) would gather nightly to fight over the pickings at garbage piles in Yosemite Valley and Tuolumne Meadows. Bear management now keeps most of them away from developed areas altogether.

"But there's a healthy population up in the high country," says back-country ranger Ron Mackie. "About 350 bears in all. They're smart. They keep an eye on the busy trails and raid 12 to 15 of our most popular high-country campgrounds almost every night."

These bears know what backpacks contain. At back-country campsites, it's wise to "bearbag" your food (plus toothpaste and make-up). Seal it in two equal-weight plastic packages and put them in two bags. Toss a long cord over a tree limb at least 20 feet high, tie on one bag, hoist it well above your head, tie the second bag on the other end, and, using a stick, balance both so they're at least 12 feet off the ground and 6 feet from the tree trunk.

Whatever you do, never have food--including food in sealed packages--in your tent or sleeping bag. And don't leave food unprotected even for a short time in the daytime. If bears do invade your camp, make a lot of noise to scare them off. But don't argue with a bear: if she has your bag of food, consider it hers.

In car campgrounds, keep foodstuffs covered and out of sight in the car (bears also know what ice chests contain).

Try to take it all philosophically. This is wilderness. Careless campers have turned some bears into moochers, but they're not killers. They were here before you came. They'll be here after you leave.

If you don't venture beyond the Valley and its trails, you're missing some of the finest scenery and best experiences Yosemite can offer.

The upper reaches--accessed mainly by Tioga Road, highest of the Sierra road crossings--contain hundreds of majestic peaks above 11,000 feet. You'll be in the presence of great, smooth granite domes; of rocky chasms and wildflowered meadows; of brilliant blue lakes, innumerable rivulets, cascades, and waterfalls. You can listen to the sighing of the wind in lodgepole pines, watch a water ouzel dart through a spilling steam, stand entranced by the magic of alpenglow.

It's a five-month marvel, roughly June through October, as determined by each year's snowfall.

Brief, spectacular visitor season

The snows of winter and early spring recede as spring advances, and by late May or early June, Tioga Road reopens.

As days and nights continue to warm, snowmelt proceeds apace, sometimes with a terrible urgency that turns trails into sluices and sends creeks swirling over their banks. Rainstorms may add their force, sending water sheeting down granite faces (sometimes the entire 3-mile face of Clouds Rest seems alive with water) and further swelling the creeks that roil into the Tuolumne gorge or plunge over escarpments into Yosemite Valley.

With lingering snow obscuring muddy trails, early-season hikers may have a challenging time of it. But most years by mid-July the trails are clearer and drier (though mosquitoes are still plentiful), and the high country's brief summer is underway. Friday evening campers must hunt for a dwindling number of available campsites. Puffy-cheeked marmots greet visitors at roadside pullouts.

Within a few weeks, nights turn chillier. Snow flurries dust the high peaks. Around Labor Day, the five High Sierra Camps dismantle, and soon Tuolumine Meadows and White Wolf lodges close. Late visitors often enjoy some of the year's finest weather for hiking and exploring, but it's increasingly cold at nights, and storms can move in without warning.

More snow may force temporary closures of Tioga Road; then the first heavy, sustained snowfall--usually in early November--closes it for the season.

Entering from west or east

Approaching the north high country by State Highway 120 through Groveland, you enter at Big Oak Flat station; here you can get a trail and campsite update. (If you're coming from the Valley Floor, take Big Oak Flat Road.)

At Crane Flat (6,192 feet), Tioga Road--originally dynamited and graded for ore hauling--begins. It sidewinds up through conifer forests, passes lovely Tenaya lake, and funnels you past Polly, Pywiak, Fairview, and Lembert domes.

Leaving Tuolumne Meadows behind, the road makes a final rise to the eastern entry station at 9,945-foot Tioga Pass, then drops past Tioga Lake and the 3-mile stub road to Saddlebag Lake before swinging down to Lee Vining (6,780 feet) and U.S. 395.

Overnighting in the high country

Within the park, the only drive-to choices are White Wolf Lodge and Tuolumne Meadows Lodge. Both are clusters of tent-cabins with beds, woodstoves, and central showers and dining cabin.

Back-country hikers can aim for the five trailside High Sierra Camps shown on the map above. Rates for these tent-cabins include dinner and next-day breakfast. By now, they're reserved for 1985; see page 129 for booking information and possible cancellations.

There are also saddle trips to the camps, and week-long, ranger-led, high-camp loop hikes depart twice weekly from Tuolumne Meadows (booked for 1985).

Roadside and back-country campsites

The ten improved high-country camp-grounds in the park have a total of 1,087 unreserved sites (no RV hookups). Hodgdon Meadow and Yosemite Creek are usually last to fill on Friday evenings. You are not allowed to park at roadside and sleep in your car or camper.

The back country has its own rules. With some 700 miles of signed trails and vast reaches suitable for off-trail exploring, it attracts so many backpack campers that the park must control their numbers on some trails (see box at far left).

All hikers up here should take a topo map and guidebook, compass, and means of water purification (Giardia is a problem throughout this part of the Sierra Nevada). Spend a night or two getting acclimated to high elevations before venturing on a demanding hike--and be prepared for afternoon showers and near-freezing nights. Take a camera and possibly a fishing rod; you can buy a license and bait at Tuolumne Meadows Store.

High-country hub: Tuolumne Meadows

A 2-1/2-mile-long basin about a 1-1/2-hour drive from the Valley, Tuolumne Meadows is one of the largest subalpine meadows in the Sierra Nevada. Facilities here consist of Tuolumne Meadows Lodge, a store, snack bar, gas station, stables, ranger station, and 325-site campground.

In summer, the area is aswarm with day-hikers, long-distance backpackers (it's on the Pacific Crest and John Muir trails), and drive-and-stop tourists. You can take a guided meadow walk or start on any of scores of hikes, from an easy 3-mile loop of Dog Lake to a strenuous assault on 13,114-foot Mount Lyell.

The exfoliating caps of nearby Lembert Dome and others along Tioga Road attract rubber-soled scramblers of all ages--but park rangers say it's a hazardous pastime: many people have been seriously injured and some killed by falls from steep, slippery domes.

Rangers at a visitor center 3/4 mile east of the meadows' west end can answer questions and tell you about nature walks; the free Yosemite Guide lists activities.

Horseback riding. At stables at Tuolumne Meadows and White Wolf, you can join 2-hour guided rides, also rent trail horses with guides by the half-day and day.

Horse pack trips. You can arrange several-day horseback trips into Yosemite's wild back country (see page 128)--or get dropped off with your gear at a distant lake, then picked up at a specified later date.

Bicycling. There are no bike rentals in the high country; bring your own. Road shoulders are poor to fair, and wide RVs are a special hazard, but for many the high, clean air and the exhilarating scenery compensate.

Hiking down the Tuolumne. Snowmelt and rain from innumerable slopes funnel into the sinuous, swelling Tuolumne River. A popular trail follows the river as it winds and cascades 25 miles from Tuolumne Meadows down to Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. On a strenuous 9-1/2-mile-total day walk (no permit required) from a Meadows parking area, you'll pass several fine picnic sites before you reach the falls pictured on page 121. Other falls are a short distance beyond, near Glen Aulin Camp in the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne.

Overnight backpackers along here have many options. Beyond Glen Aulin, they can take the Pacific Crest Trail steeply up toward the innumerable lakes, basins, ridges, and peaks of the park's northeast quadrant. Or continue down the Tuolumne past Waterwheel and LeConte falls, then swing up from Pate Valley (watch out for rattlers) over to White Wolf. Or angle steeply up 8-1/2 miles from Glen Aulin to May Lake and Mount Hoffmann.

Climbing Mount Hoffmann. Flat-topped, 10,850-foot Hoffmann, at the geographical center of the park, provides superb views. It's easy to reach by spur road from Tioga Road, then the 1-1/4-mile May Lake Trail. The 1-3/4-mile trail to the peak (elevation gain: around 1,500 feet) takes off from a corner of the lake, near shaded campsites.

Down to the Valley. If you're in shape for a 10- to 13-miler, mostly downhill, park in the Valley and take the early-morning bus from Yosemite Lodge and Curry Village up Tioga Road. Have the driver let you off where the road crosses Yosemite Creek. From here, 3 miles of mostly steamside rambling bring you to Yosemite Creek Campground; continue down along the creek (roaring in late spring/early summer) about 6 miles to the top of Yosemite Falls.

Check out the heart-stopping view 2,600 feet down to the Valley floor; then take the falls trail, recently rebuilt, down 3-1/2 miles to near your starting point. For a shorter hike, set up a car shuttle between Yosemite Creek Campground and the Valley.

The John Muir Trail, on the last leg of its long winding route from distant Mount Whitney, can also take you in 20 miles (camp along the way) from Tuolumne Meadows to the Valley.

Three less-challenging outings. For a gentle start, take the 1-1/4-mile trail to May Lake (see Mount Hoffmann, above); or the easy 1-1/2-mile walk to Dog Lake from Tuolumne Meadows. For a moderate day hike in August or September, try the 1-1/2-mile trail from the Tioga Pass ranger station over a 550-foot saddle to lovely Gaylor Lakes.

There are innumerable other options. Wilderness Press publishes excellent hiking guides to all of Yosemite.

"Dam Hetch Hetchy!" raged an appalled John Muir. "As well dam for water-tanks our cathedrals and churches, for no holier temple has ever been consecrated by the heart of man."

Muir was speaking of a magnificent long valley whose grassy, oak-dotted meadows were surrounded by cliffs and domes reaching to 7,500 feet. The impetuous Tuolumne slowed briefly here on its way to the San Joaquin, and waterfalls came tumbling down from hanging valleys on the north side.

San Franciscans saw Hetch Hetchy as an ideal source of year-round drinking water. A dam was surveyed, and Congress gave its approval. In 1913, John Muir made a last anguished plea to President Wilson to intercede. The dam was built--one of the engineering marvels of its time. Raised 85 feet in 1938, it eventually created a narrow, twisting reservoir that goes back 8 miles. (The city has discussed raising the dam another 50 feet, but at present there is no firm proposal.)

The meadows are lost. But trails around the north shore take you to fine views and picnic sites, and give access to the lakes and peaks of the park's northwest corner.

The drive in. The Hetch Hetchy area is moderately low, so it opens early and closes late--and can be brutally hot for hiking in midsummer. Consider it a May/June or September/October destination.

Approach is by State 120 through Groveland or by Big Oak Flat Road from Yosemite Valley. A mile outside the Big Oak Flat entry station, go north on signed, paved Evergreen Road, leading you past USFS campgrounds to Hetch Hetchy Road, which ends at O'Shaughnessy Dam--16 miles in all. You'll find parking and toilets here, but no camping.

Day and overnight trips. On a day walk or overnight hike, head across the dam and through a road tunnel on the north shore. Follow the main reservoir trail, past the "silver scarf" (Muir's phrase) of Tueeulala Falls and the charging waters of Wapama Falls, which drop 1,200 feet in frothy plummets. If snowmelt comes quickly this year, Wapama's force and volume in June may keep you from progressing farther. Stop along here for a picnic with a view of the falls and the meadow-that-was.

Hikers fishing from the reservoir shore often catch good-sized brown and rainbow trout.

Backpack campers can overnight by Rancheria Creek, 6-1/2 miles from the dam, setting up tents under a canopy of Jeffrey pines and incense cedars, with the muted roar of Rancheria Falls to lull them to sleep. An appealing day trip from camp is the stiff walk up LeConte Point, a monolith overlooking the reservoir. Determined expert hikers could traverse up rugged, dry Rancheria Mountain to Piute Creek and the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne.

Backpackers may choose to follow the dam road through the tunnel and steeply uphill--the switchbacks seem endless--to intersect with trails to Laurel and Vernon lakes. Laurel is 8 miles from the dam, Vernon 12. A connecting trail leads through Jack Main Canyon to the Pacific Crest Trail.

Hetch Hetchy trailhead quotas sometimes fill in early season. Rangers at Big Oak Flat entrance station can suggest an alternative: Lake Eleanor via Cherry Lake.

No one knows quite what the Indian "wawona" meant. It probably referred to the "big tree," Sequoiadendron giganteum, of the famous Mariposa Grove. But for today's visitor, Wawona means rustic lodging, living history, ways to be active, ways to relax.

Lodging: visit an old-time hotel,

rent a private home, or camp

More than a century old, the Wawona Hotel, with its quiet, comfortable surroundings, is the hub of the area April through November. Handsome cottages stand on broad, well-kept lawns shaded by tall ponderosa pines. Wide verandas suggest relaxation; the pool, tennis court, nine-hole golf course, horseback facilities, and hiking trails invite activity.

In summer, there's the Saturday evening barbecue--a hamburger or steak dinner ($4.25 or $8.25) served on the lawn. These pleasant meals draw many visitors from the Valley, 27 miles away. A bargain is the Sunday brunch: all you can eat for $7.15 ($4.50 for kids).

Next to the main building, the restored studio of artist Thomas Hill will reopen this summer, with exhibits and scheduled art programs.

Besides the 72-room hotel, you'll find private rental lodgings along N. Wawona Road just minutes from the hotel. Campers can find 100 sites at Wawona Campground along the road to the Valley. For details, see page 129.

A moderate 8-mile round-trip hike climbs to the dense cascade of Chilnualna Fall. Paths lead along the Merced River's south fork; you can picnic or simply listen to the water flow.

Pioneer Center . . . keeping the ways

of the past alive

Close to the hotel, the Pioneer Yosemite History Center is a collection of a dozen wooden structures, many original to Yosemite's early days, including a wooden bridge built by Galen Clark in 1858 and later covered.

The location here is appropriate. Clark--a fried of Muir and the first park guardian--came to this area in 1856. The next year, he explored Mariposa Grove. Word of the immense sequoias attracted visitors, who then enjoyed Clark's hospitality; "Clark's Station" became the hotel.

Wednesdays through Sundays park interpreters in period dress re-create figures of Yosemite Yosemite from 1864 to 1916; other days, a ranger leads a tour three times daily. You can talk with a blacksmith pounding out horseshoes or a frontier-style craftswoman working on a quilt.

For $1, you can clamber aboard a horsedrawn carriage for a quick ride around the center. Special summer programs are scheduled daily, and barn dances are held about twice a month (check the Yosemite Guide).

The great trees of the Mariposa Grove

A short drive--or 13-mile round-trip hike--from the hotel is one of the park's three separate stands of giant sequoias. The Mariposa Grove is actually two clusters, only a short distance apart, at elevations between 5,600 and 6,810 feet.

A few trees have survived nearly 3,000 years. Scarred by forest fire and lightning, they soar 200 feet and more, dwarfing surrounding firs and pines. Trunks of the older ones exceed 50 feet in grith.

One of the most impressive of the Big Trees no longer stands. The Tunnel Tree, a popular tourist stop for more than a century, fell in the winter of 1969; its huge broken trunk now lies on a gentle slope. The grove's members also include the Grizzly Giant--some 2,700 years old, 96-foot girth--and Fallen Monarch, a long bare trunk with exposed roots. Wawona Point, at the edge of the upper grove, affords views of the high Sierra, the nearby foothills, and on clear days, coastal ranges far to the west.

Setting out from the usually crowded parking lot (with a snack bar and gift shop), you can hike some 7 miles of trails. May through October, open-air trams conduct 50-minute tours ($2.50 fare for adults, $1.50 for children), leaving every 15 minutes. Trams pause at three points along a 3-mile loop; at these you can take time for a walk, or get right back on. Want to take a watercolor class? Raft down the Merced River? Camp in the high country? Our listings steer you to summer services and activities in the park--and some on the perimeter. When you arrive, pick up a free Yosemite Guide booklet with details of special events. For books on the park, see our "Yosemite reading list" in this issue. Park entry fee is $3 per car, $10 for Golden Eagle one-year pass, free for U.S. citizens over 62.

Key addresses and telephone numbers

Unless noted, all telephone numbers are area code 209, addresses are in California.

Yosemite Park and Curry Company (park concessionaire), Yosemite National Park 95389. Reservations, 252-4848; High Sierra Camps (direct line), 252-3013.

National Park Service, Yosemite National Park 95389. Road and weather information (recording), 372-4605. Park hotline (recording on weather, roads, campsites), 372-4454. Camping information (recording), 372-4845. Yosemite Valley Visitor Center (8 to 7 daily), 372-4461, ext. 299. Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center (8 to 7:30 daily), 372-4461, ext. 327. Wawona Ranger Station (8 to 5 daily), 375-6592. Back Country Office (wilderness permits), Box 577, YNP 95389; 372-4681 or 372-4461, ext. 308 or 309.

Campgrounds, tent cabins, group sites

Valley camping. September 3 through May 14, sites are first come, first served. For stays from May 15 through September 2, reserve through Ticketron up to eight weeks in advance. Cost: $7 per night per site, plus reservation service fee. Lower River, 149 sites; near LeConte Memorial, showers at Housekeeping Camp Units. Upper River, 124 sites; no RVs or trailers. Lower Pines, 173 sites; near Curry Village. North Pines, 86 sites; next to stables. Upper Pines, 240 sites; only place for pets, close to Happy Isles. Sunnyside walk-in camp, 38 sites, first come, $2. There's also a backpacker walk-in camp, 25 sites, first come, $2; register at North Pines; you'll need a wilderness permit.

High-country camping. West to east, starting at Big Oak Flat entry station, car campgrounds are Hodgdon Meadow (107 sites), Crane Flat (129), Tamarack Flat (52), White Wolf (87), Yosemite Creek (75), Porcupine Flat (52), Tuolumne Meadows (325). Asterisks mean no tap water. In the southwest quadrant are Bridalveil Creek (110) and Wawona (100). Fee: $3 to $6 a night. Limit 14 days in summer. No RV hookups or reservations. There's also a 50-site walk-in camp at Tenaya Lake ($2).

High Sierra Camps. Five hike-to camps, 7-1/2 to 10 miles apart, have tent cabins (map, page 123): Glen Aulin (32 beds), May Lake (36), Sunrise (34), Merced Lake (60), Vogelsang (40). In early December, reservations are accepted following year; they're usually filled by January. Rates in 1985: $51 per person, with dinner and breakfast. Meals may be available for non-guests. Call 252-3013.

Group campgrounds. Four are available: in the Valley, in Tuolumne Meadows, in Hodgdon Meadow, and in Wawona; $30 per site (maximum 30 people per site). No pets. Write NPS for details.

Backpack camping. For any overnight back-country trips all year, you need a free back-country permit. Get it in person, within 24 hours of departure from trailhead, at Yosemite Valley Visitor Center, Tuolumne Meadows Permit Kiosk, Big Oak Flat Information Center, or Wawona Ranger Station. Or, between February 1 and May 31, write to the Back Country Office for an application (half of the permits are reservable by mail).

Where to stay and eat in and around the park

Deposit of one night's stay is required to confirm reservations. Unless noted, rates are per day, double occupancy. Write to YP & CCo. Reservations, 5410 E. Home Ave., Fresno 93727, or call 252-4848.

Yosemite Valley

Curry Village. Popular camp has 102 wood cabins with baths, 80 wood cabins without baths, 18 cottage rooms, 426 tent cabins with beds and bedding. Cafeteria, hamburger and ice cream stands, shops, pool, summer raft rentlas, bicycle rentals, winter ice rink. Rates: $17.75 to $57.

Housekeeping Camp Units. Along the Merced River, 300 concrete-and-canvas units with covered patios, double beds, bunked singles, tables, chairs, woodstoves; linen and cookware not provided. Group rest rooms, showers, laundry, camp store nearby. Rates: $21.50 for one to four people. Open April 26 to October 6.

Yosemite Lodge. Has 475 rooms and cabins. Two restaurants, cafeteria, ice cream stand, shops, pool, bicycle rentals, amphitheater. Rates: $29.50 to $66.50,

Ahwahnee Hotel. Built in 1927, landmark hotel has 97 rooms in main building, 24 rooms in cottages. Dining room (expensive; coat required), pool, tennis courts, playground, shops. Rates: $114.50 to $157.

Other Valley food services. In Yosemite Village: Degnan's Delicatessen (9 to 7); Degnan's Fast Food (11 to 8); Degnan's Ice Cream Parlor (11 to 10); Loft Restaurant (breakfast, lunch, dinner); hamburger stand (11 to 9); Happy Isles snack stand (10 to 5).

Wawona

Wawona Hotel. Oldest resort hotel in California, dating to 1879. Of 72 rooms, 46 have baths. Dining room, golf course, tennis courts, pool. Rates: $39 to $56. Open mid-April through Thanksgiving weekend.

Private lodging. One- to four-bedroom houses near Wawona Hotel can be rented year-round. Rates: $30 to $150. Agent: The Redwoods, Box 2085, YNP (Wawona Station) 95389; 375-6256. Also: Camp Chilnualna, Box 2095, YNP; 375-6295.

The high country and nearby

On Tioga Road. White Wolf Lodge has 4 wooden cabins with baths, 24 canvas tent cabins, small store, stables. Rates: $23 to $35; also 87 campsites, $6. Tuolumne

Meadows Lodge has 69 tent cabins. Rates: $23 single or double. Both places have central showers. Breakfast and dinner available (reserve for dinner).

Around park borders

You'll find several hotels and motels along major approaches to the park. Write or call Yosemite Area Tourism Council, General Delivery, Fish Camp 93623; 683-7273; ask to be sent "Around Yosemite's Front Door." The Park Service can provide a list of accommodations outside Yosemite.

Or call these chambers of commerce: Mariposa, 966-2456; Bass Lake, 642-3676; Lee Vining, (619) 647-6386.

Activities to join, ways to see Yosemite, more . . .

Art. In Yosemite Village, the Art Activity Center offers free instruction in watercolor painting, drawing, sketching, photography, and other media, with a different guest instructor each week, April through December. Stop at the center, or write to Yosemite Natural History Association, Box 545, YNP 95389; 372-4532.

Bike rentals. You can rent one-speed bikes at Curry Village (372-1200) or Yosemite Lodge (372-1208). Rates: $2.50 per hour, $10 a day. Summer hours: 8 to 7. Lodge rentals year-round, weather permitting.

Buses to the park. Two operators offer bus service to the Valley from Merced or Fresno, and round-trip plane-bus or Amtrak-bus packages between San Francisco and Merced, Los Angeles and Merced, or Los Angeles and Fresno. Rates: $13 to $70. One-day trips usually leave you only a few hours in the Valley.

California Yosemite Tours, Box 2472, Merced 95344; 383-1563 or (800) 535-8687.

Yosemite Transportation System, YP & CCo.; 372-1240 or 722-0366. Also offers daily connection between Yosemite Valley and Lee Vining, with stops at White Wolf, Tuolumne Meadows, and designated trailheads. July 1 to September 6. Schedules change, so check ahead.

Bus tours. Valley Floor Tour: 2 hours in open-air tram (enclosed bus in winter), narrated, $8.75; leaves Yosemite Lodge every half-hour, 9 to 4 daily. Night Sky Tour: 2 hours, to consider astronomy and history, $8.75. Moonlight Tour: 2-hour evening run when a full moon is visible, $8.75. Glacier Point Tour: 4-hour round trip to overlook 3,252 feet above the Valley, $16.25 (one-way rates for back-country hikers, $8.25); leaves Yosemite Lodge at 8:30 and 1:30. Big Trees Tour: 6-hour tour to visit Mariposa Grove, $18.75 (lunch stop at Wawona Hotel, but cost of meal is extra); leaves Yosemite Lodge at 9:45. Grand Tour: 8 hours, combining Glacier Point and Mariposa Grove, $24 (meal extra at Wawona lunch stop); leaves Yosemite Lodge at 9:45. To reserve tours, call 372-1240.

With Mariposa Grove, you can also take a 50-minute narrated tour in an open-air tram; cost is $2.50 for adults, $1.25 for children and seniors.

Fishing. California license required; available at most park stores. Limits change. Check with rangers or Valley Visitor Center.

Guided hikes. From Tuolumne Meadows, seven-day hikes led by ranger-naturalists depart twice weekly during summer; $390, including meals, lodging. Fully booked for 1985. Reserve through High Sierra Camps office, 252-3013.

Horseback riding. Stables at While Wolf (372-1323), Tuolumne Meadows (372-1327), Yosemite Valley (372-1248), and Wawona (372-1319). Join 2-hour ($16), half-day ($25), or all-day ($35) rides by reservation from each location to such places as the top of Nevada Fall or Glacier Point. Walk-and-lead ponies and burros for children cost $7 per hour. Pack and saddle animals are $35 per animal per day; you must have a guide-packer ($75 per day). Reserve at stables office or hotel transportation desks.

Children can enjoy a half-day burro ride and picnic in the Valley, with stories and games. Cost is $17; you provide lunch.

Horse pack trips. From Tuolumne Meadows, YP & CCo. offers three-, four-, and six-day trips to High Sierra Camps, including meals, lodging, guide; $221 to $495 (25 percent off for children under 12). Call 252-3013. Fully booked for 1985.

These 10 other outfitters are authorized to enter the park for spot or extended trips:

Cherry Valley Pack Station, 4033 N. Thornton Rd., Merced 95340; 723-9538; in San Francisco, (415) 921-3988.

Kennedy Meadows Resort, Box 4010, Sonora 95370; 532-9096.

Leavitt Meadows Pack Station, Box 124, Bridgeport 95317; (916) 495-2257.

Mama's Llamas, Box 655, El Dorado 95623; (916) 622-2566.

Mather Pack Station, 12942 Hwy. 120, Oakdale 95361; 847-5753, or 379-2334 (June through August).

Red's Meadow Pack Station, Box 395, Mammoth Lakes 93546; (619) 934-2345.

Reno Sardella's Pack Station, Box 157, Jamestown 95327; 965-3402.

Rock Creek Pack Station, Box 248, Bishop 93514; (619) 872-8331. June 16 to October 6, call (619) 935-4493.

Virginia Lakes Pack Outfit, H.C. Route 1, Box 1070, Bridgeport 93517; (702) 867-2591.

Yosemite Trails Pack Station, 8314 Santa Fe Dr., Chowchilla 93610; 665-2908.

Pets in the park. In the valley, only in Upper Pines Campground. Elsewhere, in Hodgdon Meadow, Crane Flat, White Wolf, Tuolumne Meadows, Bridalveil Creek, and Wawona campgrounds. Must be on Leash. No pets on trails. Kenneling available in Valley stables, $6; 372-1248.

Photography workshops. The 44th annual series sponsored by the Ansel Adams Gallery offers week-long sessions in June, led by noted photographers; $450. Also free photography walks. The Ansel Adams Gallery, Box 455, YNP 95389; 372-4413.

Rafting. Rent rafts at Curry Village, 9 to 4 daily; $8.25 per person includes raft, paddles, life jacket, shuttle-bus return; 372-1441.

Rock climbing. Yosemite Mountaineering School at Tuolumne Meadows offers instruction, equipment provided: one-, four-, and five-day seminars; also snow-climbing instruction. Guided climbs by arrangement. Hiking and climbing gear for rent. Call 372-1244 September through May, 372-1355 June through August. Or write to the school, YNP 95389.

Skiing: downhill and nordic. Badger Pass Ski Area offers nine downhill runs, more than 90 miles of nordic trails, including 10 miles of groomed tracks to Glacier Point. Season: November to April. Brochures: Badger Pass Ski Area, YNP 95389; 372-1330. Recorded snow report: 372-1338.

Special programs. Conversation with a Tramp, a one-man stage production, stars Lee Stetson as John Muir during his struggle to preserve Hetch Hetchy Valley. It runs Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 P.M. at Valley Visitor Center's East Auditorium. Tickets are $4 ($2 for children).

LeConte Memorial. Built in 1903 and run by the Sierra Club, this cut-stone library and educational center sponsors evening programs most Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. It's open 10 to 4 Wednesdays through Sundays.

Walks and talks. Rangers and naturalists lead these several times daily, as detailed in the Yosemite Guide. Along with brief articles, the booklet has information on workshops, amphitheater programs, and religious and retail services.

Yosemite Institute. Programs for school groups on park's natural and human history include backpack trips, wildflower studies. Cost: $37 to $169. write Box 487, YNP 95389; or call 372-4441, or in San Francisco, (415) 332-5771.

Yosemite Natural History Association. Explore the park's natural and human history in backpacking field seminars, float trips, workshops (see under Art), Indian cultural studies, birding seminars, more. Seminar Coordinator, YNHA, Box 545, YNP 95389; 372-4532.
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