Monday, December 6, 2010
In 1930 John D. Rockefeller, Jr. gave $1.7 million to Yosemite (matched by Congress) to purchase thousands of acres of old-growth forest just north of Crane Flat. That forest was due to be harvested by timber companies that owned the land just inside the edge of the national park. For many years the NPS worked with various timber companies to minimize visual and other impacts to Yosemite. Logging impacts on the two small sequoia groves in the area were a concern and both groves were almost traded out of Yosemite to the Forest Service in order to acquire the private timber in-holdings. When Mr. Rockefeller became interested in the issue, a financial solution was suddenly possible.
Today, we can enjoy the benefit of this far-sighted philanthropy by hiking or skiing on the old logging railbed that goes into a section of this parcel. Park at Merced Grove trailhead and you'll find the unmarked "Rockefeller Grove" trailhead across the highway and just to the north. It's a gradual (except for one short hill) trip of about 3 miles, and the route ends in a mature forest of diverse conifers. The big sugar pines are a main attraction but don't expect a pure stand at any point. Along the way, keep your eyes open for an uncommon stand of knobcone pine in much younger forest.
Yesterday a handful of park employees found just enough snow to ski out to the end of the logging railroad. There were recent bear tracks criss-crossing the length of the railbed. Last night's warm storm brought only rain to that 6000' level, so more snow will be needed before that can be skied again.