Archive for August, 2009

Cathey’s Valley

August 21, 2009

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

cathey ps

When driving to Yosemite via Merced and Highway 140, you will pass a wisp of a “place” called Cathey’s Valley. I had seen this place name in my readings of the ancient scrolls about the formation of the Park. I decided to pull over and take a look. It’s just a collection of a few buildings, but I was curious. Located maybe 10 miles south of Mariposa, it offers a nice little park with restrooms, an old school house and a blacksmith’s shack.  During the 1851 “Indian Wars” that lead to the White’s discovery of the Valley, the Mariposa Battalion hung out here awaiting orders. There were 12 gold quartz veins found in the valley so it had high miner traffic. It also supplied fruits and grains to the teams.  The name came from Andrew Cathey, an early settler from Ireland. The old schoolhouse was built in 1879 on land donated by Cathay. It’s worth a 15-minute stop on your trip to Half Dome.

CIMG9661desks psblacksmith ps

Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Oh, the shark, babe, has such teeth, dear. And it shows them pearly white. Just a jackknife has old MacHeath, babe. And he keeps it … ah … out of sight.” – Mack the Knife, Bobby Darin

*Mr. Half Dome -Rick Deutsch –

The Standard Mill

August 21, 2009

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

When I drive up to Yosemite to do my Half Dome hikes, I like to poke around and learn about things along the route. I read most of the roadside markers. In my book I talk about the huge lumber mill that is on the north of Highway 120 just east of the Highway 108 split. (See page 37). Here you could see Sierra Pacific Industries’ lumber processing facility. It’s called “The Standard Mill.” 

saw mill

Sierra Pacific Industries is a family-owned forest products company based in Anderson, Shasta County. I’ve seen stacks of logs easily 50 feet high there. Well, this crummy economy means that in the next edition, I may have to remove mention of  it. It’s going away.  Established in 1901, the mill has been a major element in the lumber industry in the Sonora area. The plant is being shuttered and its 300 jobs will be history.  This is the third SPI mill to close this summer in California. The mill’s closure will have a large impact on the U.S. Forest Service, Stanislaus National Forest and its timber program. There will be an increased wildfire danger risk as a result of decreased tree harvesting. In addition, The Forest Service uses timber sales to accomplish much of its forest fire-fuel reduction work. Annually, the Stanislaus National Forest attempts to reduce fuel loading on about 8,000 acres. The main way the agency does it is through timber sales, most of which are to SPI. SPI has been the primary purchaser of Stanislaus National Forest timber over the years. SPI officials attribute the closures to the decreased demand in lumber and timber prices that continue to drop because of the downturn in the housing market.  The mill will be closing in September. When I drove by just six months things were humming, but it now resembles a parking lot.  Actually, the mill is being “mothballed.” That is, SPI has no plans to reopen the mill, but also no plans to close it permanently. The hope is the lumber market will rebound and necessitate the mill’s reopening.

Unrelated thought worth quoting: “I bought a ’30 Ford wagon and we call it a Woody. You know it’s not very cherry, it’s an oldie but a goodie. It ain’t got a back seat or a rear window, but it still gets me where I wanna go. And we’re goin’ to Surf City, ’cause it’s two to one. You know we’re goin’ to Surf City, gonna have some fun. Two girls for every boy.” – Jan & Dean
*Mr. Half Dome -Rick Deutsch –

Half Dome and Clouds Rest Trip

August 20, 2009

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing
Many times we just can’t find anyone to do things with. Kids, money and other things happening. If I had to do stuff with others, I would not have knocked off half the places I’ve been. But it is more fun with others. I often get asked if I know people who folks can hike Half Dome with. In my hiking classes I ask  the students to exchange email addresses and many have linked up and met knew friends. But if you just are outta gas and you still want to do some of Yosemite’s best trails, you may want to consider signing  up for this 9/24 thru 9/27 trip. It is run by Lasting Adventures. They are a tour–guide company with years of Sierra experience. They are offering a fully supported trip from Tenaya Lake in Tuolumne Meadows to Sunrise Lakes to Clouds Rest to Sunrise Creek then on to Half Dome.

Domeps light

After the summit, you’ll spend the night at Little Yosemite Valley. Then down the  Mist Trail and out. For $285 you get permits, group gear, backpacks (if needed), meals and guides. This is very good deal – heck, you couldn’t stay at Motel 7 and eat for less! They are at 1-800-513-8651 or

Unrelated thought worth quoting, For the ladies: “Gonna walk right up to him, give him a great big kiss. Tell him that I love him. Tell him that I care. Tell him that I’ll always be there.”  – The Shangri-Las

*Mr. Half Dome -Rick Deutsch –

Cloud’s Rest Fall

August 19, 2009

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing
Cloud’s Rest is that peak that you see to the due east from the top of Half Dome; maybe 3 miles away. It’s a tad under 10,000 feet and provides a superb view of Half  Dome and the cables.


The usual hike is from Tenaya Lake – only a 7-hour round trip. Many Half Dome vets also do this big hike. There is plenty of water on the trail. The last 30  mins is a bit harrowing as the spine of the mountain is very narrow – maybe 12 feet max.


Then you get to the tip. On Friday Iwas at the park and saw the Helicopter returnto the Ahwahnee Meadow with an ambulance standing by.

chopper ahwahnee 1

I’m sadden to report that Katherine Brizzard of North Hollywood, California fell  from the summit and ended up on a ledge about 80-feet below. Other hikers got to her and she was breathing but suffering from a severe head injury and was unresponsive. The 911 call brought Clifford Ashley, a wilderness patrol ranger, who was in the area. He reported that she was near shock and extremely unstable. Ranger/medics Jeff Webb and Matt Stark heli-rappeled to the ledge. The 53-year old hiker was packaged and short-hauled down. She was then taken to the Yosemite Medical Clinic to be stabilized before transport to a hospital. However, Ms. Brizzard died of her injuries while at the clinic. R.I.P.

*Note: the park service reported her name as “Marie”.  A friend has told me it was Katherine. I have made the change above.

Unrelated thought worth quoting: “The mountains are calling and I must go.” – John Muir
*Mr. Half Dome -Rick Deutsch –

Bower Cave

August 18, 2009

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

In the early days of tourism to Yosemite, when Half Dome was thought to be un-climbable, travelers went by stage coach from San Francisco over dirt roads. The first route was over a path called the Yosemite-Coulterville Toll Road. It linked the town of Coulterville to the western area of the park and into the Valley. This was a dusty, long trip. But to break it up, travelers stopped along the way at what is called Bower Cave. With a little hunting I was able to find it. It’s right on that old Road, and just a half mile east the asphalt disappears and the road continues roughly as it did in the 1850’s.

Coulterville Toll Rd sign

I’ve not been that far and a 4-wheel drive is suggested or you will stress your nice “touring sedan.” Anyway, the cave was named – not after  a person – but after the term “bower” which means twined shelter. It’s really more of a sinkhole with an overhang. The “grotto” is about 100 feet in diameter.

Bower cave 2

In the hey-day, a band platform was built and visitors danced the night away on a wooden dance floor en route to Yosemite. 

It was so popular that a eight-room hotel was built at the site. In the 1920’s the Big Oak Flat Road (today’s Highway 120) was completed and the site gradually died off. In the 1960’s and 70’s scuba divers found underwater passages reaching back about 1,000 feet. Today nature has reclaimed most of the site. To get beyond the locked gate, you need a free permit from the current owner, the Forest Service. They give you a permit and the comination lock numbers. A large plaque on the road describes the old Toll Road. A 10-minute walk takes you to the cave. Don’t expect Carlsbad, like I say it’s more of a big hole with the bottom about 40-feet below the surface. Water sits like a small pond in the middle. Due to Indian spiritual believes, you are not permitted into the “grotto.” (Although a knotted rope rappel looks inviting.) Ladders existed in the olden days.  Check it out after your next Half Dome hike.

Unrelated thought worth quoting: “By the time we got to Woodstock, we were half a million strong. And everywhere was a song and a celebration. And I dreamed I saw the bomber jet planes riding shotgun in the sky, turning into butterflies above our nation.” – Crosby, Stills and Nash 

*Mr. Half Dome -Rick Deutsch –

Congrats to Pasadena Boy Scout Troop 21

August 16, 2009

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

Back in May of this year I gave my Half Dome presentation to an attentive group of Boy Scouts in Pasadena, CA – yes, THAT Pasadena.  They had picked Half Dome as their major outing for the summer of 2009 and were anxious to learn about it and train to do it safely.  Their plan was to do the 2-day version. They stayed at Little Yosemite Valley August 11 and completed the hike the next day. With a dose of In-and-Out burger juice flowing in their veins, the gang of 13 headed out early to have the cables with minimal other people competing for real estate.  Their hike up Sub Dome convinced the doubting – this is a hard hike. On the top they posed  proudly with their troop flag. 

 boy troop 21 pasadena 2

In typical Boy Scout fashion  they were well prepared for hike and now earn the right to wear the “I made it to the top” T-Shirt (See my website – hint hint.) A tip of the hat to these boys and their Adult Leaders.  Nate Clark, Steve Clark, Nicky Dechant, Tom Dechant, Dwight Equitz, Jared Equitz, Patrick Flinner, Ben Hynes, Jeff Hynes, Markus Liepins, Brandon Nahigian, Nick Stalick, Ted Stalick.  Is Mt. Whitney next??

Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Walk away quietly in any direction and taste the freedom of the mountaineer. Camp out among the grasses and gentians of glacial meadows, in craggy garden nooks full of nature’s darlings. Climb the mountains and get their good tidings, Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.” –  John Muir

*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch –

This and that

August 16, 2009

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

Ranger Rick (not really a Ranger) is back in the comfort of the Silicon Valley World Headquarters of Carpe Diem Experience. Yosey (named for guess what) the wonder Yorkie is back by my side. While at the park I had a great time, ran into many Yosemite Association folks and had a session with acting park Superintendent, Dave Uberaga. I’ll spill the beans in future blogs. But I wanted to share some bits and bytes.
Heavy road construction is going on at the 140/Glacier Point Road junction. Big repaving is causing major delays. I zipped right through at 2 am, but then nobody else was up then! 

The Curry Village Lounge Bldg is open and sports a nice refurbishment. The large room looks about the same but is now structurally sound. The only difference I saw was the glass display cases with artifacts are gone. Dunno where that stuff got moved to.  Despite high hopes for a May turn-on, the free wifi in the lounge is just now coming up. The old “technical problems” issue haunted them. As I checked out I did connect, so try bringing your laptop next time. The plan was to have it on in the lounge and only for registered guests. Most wifi routers broadcast  a good 100 feet so  you may be able to get on outside the bldg. Also the procedures to control access are not in place so anybody can log in without having to actually be registered at Curry.

The Curry registration office was also re-done and it also looks the same.

It was pretty darn cold last night. I mean I used my 700-fill down sleeping bag instead of the army blankets provided and also donned a balaclava and I was cold. If you are going up, it will be chilly at 05:30 when you better be starting your Half Dome hike.
Down in El Portal, the new market is open and running. This replaced the historic structure that burned last year. Stop in and give them some business.

The Merced is running pretty low now but  Vernal Fall is still hanging in there. No Mist. Yosemite Falls is a memory.

I had about 60 at my Le Conte Memorial Talk. Still a lot of interested hikers.

The helicopter was active Friday afternoon. I heard there was a fatality, but not on Half Dome this time. The Yosar site has not been updated since June 4 when Gina Bartiromo fell off the cables and ended up in Doctor’s Medical Center in Modesto.

Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Ride, captain ride upon your mystery ship. Be amazed at the friends you have here on your trip. Ride captain ride upon your mystery ship. On your way to a world that others might have missed.” – The Blues Image
*Mr. Half Dome -Rick Deutsch –

Me and Perseid’s – A LONG story

August 15, 2009

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

Dateline: Yosemite National Park, August 14, 2009

With all good intentions, I planned to hike to the top of Half Dome last night to be on top to see the annual Perseid’s Meteor shower. I planned this trip 9 months ago. I checked the Almanac and found the “moonless” week and the peak of the Meteor shower. 60 streaks a minute usually. Great – Curry Village Tent Cabin booked for Aug 13/14. My hiking buddy bailed out 2 weeks prior so I scrambled to get a hiking partner – nada. Mrs. Half Dome was paranoid that I’d bonk going alone and insisted that I phone her after the hike. OK. OK. I hit the sack at 4 pm and slept pretty well thanks to earplugs. Up at 7 and ate a beef and rice Heater Meal. All loaded up and on the trial before 8 pm. Dusk, but still light. I brought a rain shell and strapped a North Face wind-blocker to my fanny pack. Hiking up the ever dimming Lower Mist Trail was easy … but it was pitch black at the top of Vernal Fall. The bats came out and buzzed me; then giant moths attacked my headlamp. No sign of Bigfoot. By 9 pm I saw a stream of late hikers returning down. I was pleased to see that all had lights. I got questioned as to why I was going up so late. “The Meteors” My multi-stage LED headlamp was great but a lot of dust in the air reduced a clear image to a foggy one. The light illuminated about 20 feet but it was black outside the circle of light. I admit to a lot of stumbles as jagged rocks popped up out of view. The trail beyond the Vernal Fall outhouse is difficult to follow in daylight and at night I had a challenge in navigating to get to the Silver Apron Bridge. As I continued towards Nevada fall, I found that I was wasting a lot of time going down false trails off the switchback areas. The trail looks a lot different when viewed thru a headlamp. At one point I found myself approaching the banks of the Merced and knew this was wrong. As I turned left, I felt I was back on a trail. Soon I got the funny feeling that I was diverting – but I KNOW there is only one trail there – the Mist Trail. I should be getting to the granite steps. I checked my GPS and I was going south. Wrong way. Hmmm the trail I was on did not look familiar. No one was in sight. Soon I could make out a man-made structure – the Silver Apron Bridge. Huh? I had gone in a big circle. That iced it for me. A decision was made to head home. It was 10 pm and at this slow rate I would not be on top until well after 3. It was getting cold. And the stumbling was increasing. While checking my GPS I hit the deck and cut my knee. Not wanting to be a statistic, I decided to bag it and head back. It was amazing to see the trail bone empty. No one at all but me. No one. I would have wiped out many times without the use of my Leki Hiking poles. I could not image doing this w/o them. No bears or other wildlife . I got to Curry about 11 and decided to drive up to Glacier Point and view the shower from up there. When I arrived (took an hour to get there), I saw a gigantic meteor fall. Then 2 smaller streaks over the next hour. Around 1 am the moon rose over Half Dome and pretty well blotted out the stars. I laid on the rocks at Glacier Pt until 2 and waited for the spectacular “shower” that never came. Oh well, an hour drive back to my tent cabin and sleep. Would I do it again? Hmmm pitch black hiking was tough. And it got pretty darn cold at 2 am on Glacier. To stay on top per my plan would have been no fun. So when I do not have fun – I bail.

Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Lady Madonna, children at your feet. Wonder how you manage to make ends meet. Who find the money when you pay the rent . Did you think that money was heaven sent .” – The Beatles

*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch –

Angel’s Landing fall

August 13, 2009

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

Think Half Dome is dangerous? Well, 2 deaths off  the cables during summer use since 1919 and one in bad weather, the other fatigue and dehydration were factors …. Ever hear of Angel’s Landing?

angel landing

Nancy Maltez, 55, of Glendora, California, fell about a thousand feet to her death on the morning of Sunday, August 9th.  She was hiking with her family when she fell from the north side of Angels Landing at Zion National Park.  The woman’s body was located on a steep, rugged, talus slope at the base of Angels Landing below the saddle area between Angels Landing and Scout Lookout. Two big wall climbers half way up a route below Angels Landing also witnessed the fall, as the victim fell dangerously close to their porta-ledge. A technical recovery was required to bring her body down to the floor of Zion Canyon. Sad.  Be careful!

My Half Dome book has soared to #28,943 in Amazon Books as of yesterday. Gosh – film screenplay next!!

I will be hiking Half Dome Thursday and Friday so if the blog is late, bear with me. I hope the new Curry Village Wifi is up by now!
Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Goldfinger. He’s the man, the man with the Midas touch. A spider’s touch. Such a cold finger, beckons you to enter his web of sin. But don’t go in.” Shirley Bassey

*Mr. Half Dome -Rick Deutsch –


August 12, 2009

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing


Yosemite is home to a diverse number of bird species.  The most regularly seen resident birds include Steller’s jay, American robin, acorn woodpecker, common raven, and mountain chickadee. In spring, the red-winged blackbird can be spotted in the wet meadows. The Western tanager can also be spotted there.  The American Dipper hangs around the rivers.  Other species are the great gray owl, spotted owl, peregrine falcon, pileated woodpecker, and northern goshawk. I took this shot of a pterodactyl flying over Half Dome.


I will admit that I am not a “birder,” but if that rings your bell, you need to get “The Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada,” by John Muir Laws (no relation). Laws has worked as an environmental educator for over 25 years in California, Wyoming, and Alaska.  He teaches classes on natural history, conservation biology, scientific illustration, and field sketching. He is trained as a wildlife biologist and is an associate of the California Academy of Sciences.
Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Together we’ll stand, divided we’ll fall. Come on now people – Let’s get on the ball. And work together.” – Canned Heat
*Mr. Half Dome -Rick Deutsch –