by Adventures With Adam
New York, New York
July 15, 2004
I attended three presentations during my stay. The first program taught about the birds of Yosemite. Most visitors, while they are busy gawking at the scenery, miss spotting a lot of the park's rich and varied bird life. A slide show accompanied the talk, as well as recommended viewing places for the various species. Riparian birds such as blue heron can be found in the park's rivers. Woodpeckers nest in the trees in the meadows along the Merced. The Stellar's jay, with its distinctive blue body, black crest and shrill cry, isn't shy about approaching people at the Visitor Center and campgrounds. The park also hosts a number of raptors--hawks and owls amongst them--and ravens can be spotted most anywhere. This talk certainly heightened my awareness of birds while hiking and touring the park.
The second presentation was an inspiring talk by wheelchair adventure athlete Mark Wellman, who became a paraplegic during a rock climbing accident in Yosemite more than 20 years ago. He stuck with the sport and became the first paraplegic to scale Yosemite's two great rock walls: El Capitan and Half Dome. Wellman gave a good overview of the complexities of the sport (for example, how does one eat, sleep or relieve oneself while hanging to the side of a cliff?) and its special challenges to the differently abled. A short film featuring other disabled adventure athletes called "No Barriers" accompanied the talk.
The third ranger program detailed a now-defunct Yosemite tradition, the Firefall. Years ago, a bonfire accidentally slid off the edge of Glacier Point into the valley below. The resulting fall resembled a glowing orange waterfall in the night. Visitors in the valley watched the cascading embers in awe. The next day, the visitors--not realizing the Firefall was an accident--asked the proprietors of the Glacier Point Hotel to do it again, and soon the Yosemite Firefall became a nightly event. For decades, visitors gathered in Camp Curry and the surrounding meadows to witness the spectacle. At precisely 9:00 each night, workers at the Glacier Point Hotel raked glowing embers off the cliff into the valley below. The tradition endured until 1969, when the Glacier Point Hotel burned down. Though the Firefall can no longer be seen, a brief film with actual footage gave a good idea of what the experience was like.
From journal Adventures in Yosemite National Park