We recently rediscovered Yosemite. After an absence that spanned some decades we once again had the opportunity to enjoy its awesome physical beauty.
And its comforts and amenities as well. It was originally planned as a ski trip to historic Badger Pass but La Nina had California in its grip and there was no snow.
But this took absolutely nothing away from our visit. It was a learning experience to find out that contrary to so much recent publicity, Yosemite is not always crowded with cars and people. We found the Valley a winter delight with all services available and activities offered.
Staying at Yosemite Lodge offered a central base that allowed us to roam the Valley floor freely, take hikes where one often saw no people at all, and interviewed Park Rangers and personnel of Yosemite Concessions Company at leisure.
Granted that Yosemite is a very busy place during the summer but late Fall through Winter to early Spring is another story completely.
Curry Village has a variety of reasonable priced accommodations with often no reservations needed. Yosemite Lodge, where we stayed, was offering very appealing midweek special rates.
The Park Service, Yosemite Concessions as well as the Yosemite Association have combined to offer such a variety of activities and learning experienced that there truly is something for everyone.
As for the snow it arrived the week following our visit insuring Badger Pass another year as one of the best family skiing areas in the State--a title it has earned and held since 1935 when it first opened. We had a delightful visit with Nic Fiore who has headed the Badger Pass ski school for 52 seasons.
We had a grand time talking about skiing then and now.
And the long time skiers we shared acquaintances with.
Also taking part in these conversations was Gene Rose, a career journalist and a Yosemite skier for several decades. And with his newly published book "Magic Yosemite Winters", an historian as well. For the book chronicles the Yosemite and Badger Pass Winter Sports areas and the people who made it the first major ski resort in California.
Penny Otwell of the Yosemite Association told us of the new winter and early spring learning vacations that have been put in place. Whether your interest in ecology, photography, Indian basket weaving or Nordic skiing the Association has put together attractive packages that include a learning course of choice as well as accommodations at Yosemite Lodge or Wawona Hotel. Other classes include snowshoeing, wildlife observation and writing.
The Yosemite Association is a nonprofit organization founded in 1924 with activities dedicated to support the National Park through programs of visitor services and publications.
Camp Curry celebrated its 100th anniversary last year. Founded by David and Jennie Curry in 1899 its history is indelibly linked with that of the Park.
For this writer a return to Camp Curry was a time for nostalgic memories. At the age of five my parents took me, on what was my first camping trip, to Yosemite and yes we stayed in one of the platform tents at Camp Curry. Added in recent years to the tents, which became almost a symbol of Yosemite camping, are cabins and bungalows.
On this visit Julie Miller, Manager of Interpretive Services for Yosemite Concessions Company, played the part of "Mother Curry" as she explained the history of the Camp Curry, the trials and experiences of the first visitors, as well as the new activities that have been added in recent years.
These new visitor opportunities include guided walks, art classes, family programs, evening programs, kids' activities, cross country skiing and snowshoe tours and campfire sing-alongs.
One afternoon we boarded one of the Valley Floor tour buses to reacquaint ourselves with some of the major scenic wonders of the Park. Our tour driver and guide, Charles Lammers, did a fine job of explaining both the geology and the flora and fauna that make up the Park's ecological system.
In summer these tours are on open air trams. In winter enclosed motor coaches are used as was the case during our visit. There were many stops for photo opportunities as we viewed Yosemite Falls, El Capitan, Bridalveil Fall, the Three Brothers and Half Dome.
We had a good many foreign visitors on our tour bus proving once again the world wide recognition and popularity of Yosemite. At El Capitan Charles gave a fine presentation on the many rock climbing routes on this famous rock wall and displayed some of the "hardware" used by the climbers.
These two hour tours are available every day of the year with both a morning and afternoon schedule.
They are an excellent way for the day visitor or someone on limited time to see and learn a great deal about Yosemite Valley and its most famous landmarks.
Effects of the disastrous flood of January 1997 are generally not visible to visitors. But what is happening is that the long awaited plans for the future of Yosemite in the new century are now nearing completion.
While Yosemite National Park had four million visitors last year the vast majority only visited the Valley floor which in reality constitutes only one per cent of the Park which is larger than the State of Rhode Island.
For this huge percentage of visitors who only want to see the Valley floor and often limit their visits to only a day or two new means of transportation will be available starting May 19th.
The Park Service in conjunction with the counties of Mono, Merced and Mariposa and CalTrans will offer scheduled bus service into Yosemite from both Mammoth Mountain on the East and on Highway 140 from the west.
With reasonably priced fares visitors can leave their private autos at several places including hotels and take a bus into the Park for a full day's activities without traffic or parking problems.
Hotels will sell tickets and there will be an 800 number for reservations and schedules.
Of interest is that several airports in these counties will change their name to include Yosemite. The Mammoth Lakes Airport will become Mammoth Yosemite Airport.
Our personal answer and one we recommend is a visit in the first four months of the year.
No crowds, all the scenic beauty sometimes turned magically into a winter wonderland with a fall of snow, with the added attraction of Yosemite Association seminars, ice skating, Nordic skiing and of course some pure christie turns at Badger Pass Ski Area.
In the next issue of Vittles we will turn our attention to the classic Ahwahnee Hotel, its visiting vintner and visiting chef programs, and some of our dining experiences both at the Ahwahnee and at the Mountain Room Restaurant at Yosemite Lodge.
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