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Notes on the Valley: Expanding access to Yosemite's wonders

One of the most awe inspiring treks I’ve been on in California is located in Yosemite National Park.
BLOGGER_Monith Ilavarasan
The "Notes on the Valley" blog is written by Monith Ilavarasan (pictured).

One of the most awe inspiring treks I’ve been on in California is located in Yosemite National Park. The Mist trail is a seven-mile round trip which takes hikers to view two spectacular waterfalls, the 319-foot-tall Vernal Fall and the 594-foot-tall Nevada Fall.

At certain times of the year parts of the trail will be showered with the heavy mist from the torrential waterfalls.

The trail is used by up to 4,000 people a day during summer weekends but is also slippery and steep. As much as I love Yosemite and this particular trail, I could never imagine bringing older visitors to enjoy it.

As the East Bay Times recently reported, this results in dozens of rescues every year, and occasional deaths when people fall into the river. Having magically heard my requests, the national park is partnering with several nonprofits to take on a $5 million project which aims to make this experience safer and more enjoyable.

I’ve only recently begun to appreciate the majesty of Yosemite. My partner and I (mostly my partner) have arranged a few friends group trips throughout the past couple years to explore all the splendor the park has to offer.

This park located in the western Sierra Nevada Mountains of California has a captivating history that spans thousands of years. Its story begins with the indigenous people who called the area home, followed by its discovery by European explorers, its transformation into a protected area, and its subsequent rise as a beloved national treasure.

The Yosemite Valley and surrounding areas have been inhabited by Native American tribes for at least 3,000 years. The Ahwahneechee people, a Miwok-speaking tribe, were among the early inhabitants of the region. They lived in harmony with the land, utilizing its resources for sustenance and cultural practices.

Yosemite first came to the attention of non-indigenous people in the mid-19th century. In 1851 the Mariposa Battalion, led by Major James D. Savage, ventured into the Yosemite Valley during the Mariposa War. The battalion's account of the area's beauty and natural wonders spread, attracting explorers, artists, and adventurers.

The preservation of Yosemite can be credited to the efforts of various individuals. One significant figure is Galen Clark, a naturalist who became the park's first guardian in 1864.

Clark's advocacy, along with the work of other conservationists and organizations like the Sierra Club, led to the establishment of Yosemite as a protected area. In 1890, Yosemite was designated as the third national park in the United States.

John Muir, a Scottish-American naturalist and writer, played a pivotal role in shaping Yosemite's history and the broader conservation movement. Muir's experiences in Yosemite and his writings, including "The Yosemite" and "Our National Parks," raised awareness about the region's natural beauty and the need for its protection. He co-founded the Sierra Club in 1892, which continues to be a leading environmental organization today.

As Yosemite gained popularity, efforts were made to accommodate the growing number of visitors while preserving its natural integrity. The construction of roads, trails, and lodges provide access to the park's scenic wonders.

The park also contains the iconic Ahwahnee Hotel, which has amazing views and mediocre food. We always stay at the much more affordable Yosemite View Lodge right outside the park’s borders.

In 1984, Yosemite National Park was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its exceptional natural beauty and geological significance. This recognition brought international attention to Yosemite's conservation and further solidified its status as a cherished natural treasure.

Yosemite National Park continues to be a popular destination for millions of visitors each year. Its diverse landscapes include towering granite cliffs, majestic waterfalls, ancient giant sequoias, and alpine meadows offer countless opportunities for connecting with nature.

The ongoing efforts to make the area more accessible to more visitors is something I’m grateful for. We’re blessed to live in an area surrounded by some of the most beautiful places in the world. More accessibility will allow safer access for people to soak up what this world has to offer.

Editor's Note: The "Notes on the Valley" blog is written by Monith Ilavarasan, who grew up in Pleasanton. After a career in tech, he took a sabbatical to be a community organizer. He has continued to work in tech and shares his thoughts on the people, places and events that make up and shape the Tri-Valley.

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