Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Climbing Half Dome

51 years ago, I climbed Half Dome. And I did it in one day -- 16 miles round trip from Yosemite Valley. Why in one day? Well back in 1957, concessionaire employees only got one day off a week!

The friend who went with me took one look at the cables you have to climb to get to the top, and decided he had gone as far as he was going to go. So, off I went to the "summit" along with a few other people making the journey that day.

There is a large flat area on the top, and I suppose there were all of six or seven other folks up there when I arrived. Today, you have to stand in line just to get on the cables, and there are dozens of people on the summit at any one time. (For a current views of the top of Half Dome, check Google Earth.)

As an aside, I made the hike in Hush Puppy shoes, and as you might imagine, I had a spectacular set of blisters at the end of the day. Of course, it didn't help that I soaked my feet in the Merced River to cool them off on the way back to the Valley. Back then, there were few "hiking" boots available, and they were very very expensive.

To the left is a photograph of Cloud's Rest taken from Quarter Dome which is on the approach to Half Dome.

This photograph was taken from either Half Dome, or more likely Glacier Point (I can't seem to figure out which), but gives you a good idea of "the view" from the top.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Moods of Yosemite Valley

(Click on photo for larger version)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Firefall

During the summer months prior to 1962, each evening featured the "firefall" off of Glacier Point.

Late each afternoon, company employees from Glacier Point Hotel would build a fire of red fir bark at the edge of Glacier Point. Over the course of the evening, it was allowed to burn down to a pile of embers.

Directly below Glacier Point at Camp Curry, there was an evening live stage performance of various musicians and music groups. At 9:00 p.m., a designated caller would shout out, "Hello Glacier", and Glacier Point called back, "Hello, Camp Curry". The Curry person would then holler back, "Let the Fire Fall", and Glacier would respond, "The Fire Fall". The glowing embers would be pushed over the edge, and instead of a waterfall, there would be a "firefall". The firefall would only last a few minutes, but it was something to behold.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Yosemite Lodge

The two winters I stayed in the park, I worked here. First as cafeteria manager 1958-59, and then as the Lodge assistant manager 1961-62. Being cafeteria manager quickly convinced me that I never wanted a career in food service. That particular winter, the Lodge cafeteria was the only facility serving food besides The Ahwahnee. So, 95% of all the visitors ate in the cafeteria which was open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m, and if anything could go wrong, it did! The only saving grace was the chef, Earl Pierson, who ran the kitchen part of the operation (by the way, his brother, Fred, was the chef at The Ahwahnee). Anyway, Earl was an old hand, and kept me from going insane when things went to pieces before my very eyes!

During my tenure as assistant manager, I gained one distinction: I was the first person to have the radiant heat turned on under the walkways between the buildings. Normally when it snows on the Valley floor, the temperture is around 35 degrees, and the snow is heavy and wet, and doesn't blow around. On this particular day, it was a dry blowing snow, and the temperture was in the mid-20's. The snow blew into the walkways, and was turning to ice as visitors walked on it. Big safety issue. The answer: Turn on the heat!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Glacier Point Hotel

I never worked at this hotel, and sadly it caught fire in the 1960's, and by the time the fire trucks arrived from Yosemite Valley, it had burned to the ground. The fellow who ran the Yosemite Ski School at Badger Pass in the winters, Nic Fiore, was the manager of this hotel in the summers (it was only open during summers).

My connection with this hotel revolved around the "Blue Moon Formal", an annual summer dance put on for the seasonal employees. As the student council president one summer, I was instrumental in having the dance held here that year rather than the traditional location of The Ahwahnee tennis courts. I don't even know if the "Blue Moon Formal" even exists anymore.

Badger Pass Ski Area

While I was in college and only going to Yosemite in the summers, I did go up to the park for a two week stint during one Christmas season. I was a busboy here at Badger Pass during the day, and also at The Ahwahnee for the dinner meals. It was during this time that I was a busboy during the Bracebridge dinner.