Yosemite Valley, in Yosemite National Park, is truly one of my favorite places in the country, a jewel of a national park. The valley floor is about 15 miles long, forested, with meadows, great trees, and streams full of snowmelt (at least this time of year). The sides of the canyon are sheer granite walls, with thundering waterfalls – including Yosemite Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Staircase Falls (for only about two weeks each year), and Vernal Falls (a great hike along the “Mist Trail”). If you are into wilderness, this is not that. The area has been visited by tourists for over a century, and impacted in various ways, and yet it retains a non-commercial charm.
We stayed at the Ahwahnee Lodge, a picture of which is a part of this post, a rustic and yet elegant park lodge with a huge dining room. I love it. One of the reasons I enjoy it so much is its rich history. Presidents, kings, queens, and other dignataries have slept and dined here. Tonight, the server at dinner told my daughter that she was sitting in the chair in which Queen Elizabeth always set when she visited in the mid-Eighties. That’s a bit much for an 11-year old to appreciate. But it reminds me that everyone at Ahwhnee has to do all the ordinary things and put up with some inconveniences, like periodic (yet brief) power outages. Even Queens. Even 11-year old girls. I walk the rooms of this great lodge and I’m thankful for the folks that have preserved a great and historic place for all to enjoy. Even those who cannot afford to stay here can still walk its rooms and appreciate its history.
But it’s not just the human structures that have history, it’s also a well-worn trail, like the “Mist Trail” that leads to Vernal Falls, the 700+ steps that you have to climb to scale the walls of the canyon and reach the top of the Falls, the granite walls constructed at some precipitous points along the trail, the breadth of the trail itself, a trail which was blazed at least 100 years ago. So, so many folks, of all races, classes, and nationalities have been up this trail, and, as I take yet another break to catch my breath and am passed by a couple in their Eighties, yes, even folks of all ages have come this way.
Walking that trail, passing through the great rooms of the Ahwahnee, seeing the same awesome sights seen by John Muir, Teddy Roosevelt, and Queen Elizabeth --- why, its like singing an historic hymn: very deep, very settling, very right.