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Blog A Blast from the Past - Stories from Yosemite
Alex Silgalis | 08/24/2020Family Friendly, Nature, Photography |   

Just like a great meal, the attractions are the main course, but stories are the side dishes. They add technicolor and flavor that wouldn’t be possible without them. A dimension that gives our minds something to chew on while we take in the scenery and sights. Here’s a few stories from Yosemite that will make you go “Aha!” or even “Whoa!”

The Mountain House

Glacier Point Hotel from the air. Copied from Gutleben brothers photo album (YOSE 14339). - Image appears courtesy: NPSStanding atop Glacier Point, the vista is one of the best views in the park. You can see Yosemite Valley, the iconic Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, and even the high country all in one place. Can you imagine stepping out on your hotel room’s balcony and getting that view? Well, back in the 1800’s and early twentieth century that’s what visitors were able to do. In 1873, James McCauley obtained approval to build “The Mountain House” and Glacier Point. Hikers that would ascend Four Mile Trail could rest comfortably overnight high above the valley and descend the next day.

Camp Curry's Fire Fall - Image appears courtesy: NPSThis is also where the Yosemite Firefall tradition began. For a full run-down of this tradition AND the natural occurrence, check out our article: What To Expect When Traveling To See Horsetail Fall – Yosemite’s Natural Firefall. Alas, on July 10, 1969, an electrical fire began in the lower floor of the unattended Glacier Point Hotel. With the closest emergency response 28 miles away, sadly the Mountain Hotel was completely destroyed.

The Iconic Park Ranger Hat

Ranger Kate in 2019 showing off the famous hat.Have you ever wondered where the park ranger hat you see in national parks like Yosemite comes from? Well, you can thank the Buffalo Soldiers. Back in 1906, these African American men patrolled the park to make sure poachers didn’t destroy this beautiful place. Many of them were Spanish American War veterans. It was during this campaign that the soldiers discovered that pinching their high-crowned, broad brimmed hats into symmetrical quadrants helped shield them from the rains of Cuba and the Philippines. They continued to sport this style and eventually it became a key, and arguably the most recognizable, part of the NPS ranger uniform.

The Yosemite Chapel

Yosemite National Park, fall, Yosemite Chapel, church, black oakMost would guess that the Ahwahnee Hotel is the oldest building in Yosemite. Well, that's not the case. The quiet, unassuming Yosemite Chapel has that distinction. Designed by renowned San Francisco architect Charles Geddes, it was erected in 1879 and located at the present Four Mile Trailhead. For those from New England, you may find its architecture similar to the churches out East. That’s because it was built in the classic “New England Style.” In 1901, the village around the trailhead had nearly disappeared and so the chapel was relocated to its present location in the Old Village. With very few exceptions, this has been the only church in the park. It’s served all denominations for more than a century and has been a beautiful location for many weddings.

While the attractions may “attract” you to come, be sure to set aside some time to take in the stories that exist in and around the park. They’ll definitely add some flavor to your trip. For more cool anecdotes and tales, check out our article: Yosemite Place Names: The Origin And History Of Names In Yosemite National Park.


Like what you see? Save any of these pins (or possibly all of them) to your travel planning board(s) to give you an easy way to find your way back here!  Also check out our other blog posts as well as itineraries for more ideas and pins!

Alex Silgalis

Alex founded localfreshies.com® in 2014 to be the #1 website providing the “local scoop” on where to eat, drink & play in mountain towns throughout North America. When he’s not writing and executing marketing strategies for small businesses & agencies, he’s in search of the deepest snow in the winter and tackiest dirt in the summer.

Our annual Visit Yosemite | Madera County Visitors Guide can answer all your questions about visiting California's Gateway to Yosemite. From the park itself to the museums, wineries, art galleries and more throughout Madera County, our guide can help you plan the perfect vacation. Please note that we mail to the USA only, but anyone can download the guide.
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