Friday, January 15, 2016

Ahwahnee Hotel, No; Ahwahnee, Yes

Interesting changes may be underway in our park regarding the historical nomenclature of a handful of facilities, related to the turnover of the concessioner. (It will be some time before we hear the last word on this matter.) These changes are profoundly upsetting to many people, but it's my sense that Yosemite will not notice our legal squabble. Remember Hutchings House? How about Hutchings Hotel? What about Sentinel Hotel? Upper Hotel? Maybe Coulter and Murphy's? These were all more or less the same place, operating under different names over the years. No harm done.

A key Yosemite Valley location in a certain point of time was Royal Arch Farm. To the surprise of locals and visitors it was replaced by Harris' Camping Ground. With some fuss from some people, that, in turn, was eliminated and replaced with a commercial stable that came to be called Kenneyville. Kenneyville was central to the experiences of thousands of park visitors for decades; most people couldn't imagine it being removed from Yosemite Valley, yet it was. Its location was taken by the Ahwahnee.

Even Yosemite Falls, North Dome and giant sequoia trees had different names (many) over the millennia.

Can you picture Yosemite Valley in 1925? In 1925 there was no such thing as The Ahwahnee Hotel - and Yosemite was still grand. Neither John Muir nor Galen Clark ever imagined such a hotel but Yosemite moved them nonetheless. Now there is such a hotel, and its traditional name appears to be changing. The hotel will really be the same - so will Curry Village, Yosemite Lodge, Badger Pass and Wawona Hotel (which reverts to an earlier name), whatever they're called.

Not neglecting the importance of labels and traditions, I genuinely feel that Yosemite won't be changed. Have amenities distracted us from what the national park and the land truly are? Rocks and trees, water and seasons, won't be a whit less wonderful. Jays and oaks won't care, bears and domes won't be diminished if we re-label a hotel. People will come from around the world to experience this landscape. They will marvel at the park's terrain and heritage, but won't miss the luxurious Stoneman Hotel, stopping at Oh My! Point or browsing Jorgensen's Studio. Kudos to NPS for not spending $51m of public money (or letting Aramark spend this, which their customers will have to make up), but black marks on NPS/Interior solicitors for allowing this difficulty to develop, starting in 1988. Let's remember that our structures and names are transient, but nature's beauty endures (and changes) no matter what we do.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Hwy. 140 Occupied

A group of boulders has peacefully occupied Highway 140 between El Portal and Yosemite Valley. They claim that this canyon has always been theirs and that they intend to take it back from the federal government, no matter how long it takes. An unnamed spokesperson made numerous references to their granitic constitution and made an appeal for other patriotic rocks to join their takeover.
NPS has stated that they respect the heritage of these boulders and hope this occupation can be resolved without issue. Last week's continuous wet weather may have triggered this outcome.