Archive for September, 2009

Ken Burns NPS extravaganza

September 30, 2009

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

 

Ken Burns

Ken Burns

 

4 hours of the show so far. Thanks for the comments received and posted. Here’s my 2 cents.  First, I want to thank a the readers who helped me figure out how to tape the shows on my 1970’s vintage TV system. I don’t have cable TV (we just don’t watch it the US average 5 hours a day – and I am cheap). I have had an antenna on the roof for 25 years.  With their tips, I found I can use my $9.00 DTV converter box alone piped into my TV/VCR combo unit. The timer works as before, I just need to keep the TV at Channel 3 and the Converter ON. I had assumed we were going to see an hour on Yosemite and an hour on the other parks during this marathon show. Whew. It is really a chronology. $149 to buy the DVD box. So since Yosemite started it all (as the first land set aside ON EARTH for people’s use) it went first. But it did not continue the entire story of Yosemite in the first hour. It moved on sequentially to tell us about Yellowstone, Sequoia and General Grant Park) I assume the last one had its name changed to King’s Canyon? Lost me on that. Also we didn’t hear about the give-back of the Valley and Wawona by California until  the 2nd 2-hour installment. And the Hetch Hetchy issue was clouded by the National Monument discussion. One goof – while talking about the rangers at Sequoia, the screen showed the photo of dozens of soldiers on the fallen tree at Wawona. I learned even more about John Muir. I didn’t know he was involved in the Grand Canyon as well. I had hoped to hear a discussion of how the park was geologically formed. Burns touched on the debate between Muir and Whitney as to a cataclysm or glaciers, but we now know a whole lot more – people still think Half Dome was cut in half by glaciers! As much as I liked hearing all the fine details about Yosemite and the people who were involved – like Hutchings and Roosevelt – it was clear that the other parks also had their heros. Yeah, I’m fixated on Yosemite and wanted more on it. Shelton Johnson, the Black Ranger who promotes the Buffalo Soldiers did a good job adding poignant reflections of how the park impresses him. The biggest “take away” was just how lucky the US is to have the National Parks. Now I understand better why foreigners come here. What I don’t get is why Americans don’t. I know people who were born in California and have never been. May I suggest that you book your rooms NOW for next summer. As fallout from this special, I’m sure all the parks will want to be visited by people who viewed the show. Yosemite is always correctly portrayed as the “jewel of the NPS” – so get ready for the crunch in 2010.

 

Trivia – My book is now #49,905 in Amazon’s rankings. Gosh, a Pulitzer soon?  If you want to get a nifty “I made it to the top” T-shirt order before Oct 5; see the website under ORDERING. Also, the management and staff of Carpe Diem Experience will be on an extended working vacation until the 30th. No shipments then.

 

Unrelated thought worth quoting: “If you believe in forever, then life is just a one-night stand. If there’s a rock and roll heaven, well you know they’ve got a hell of a band.” – The Righteous Brothers

 

*Mr. Half Dome -Rick Deutsch – www.HikeHalfDome.com

Poster Girls

September 29, 2009

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing
I have found my Half Dome Poster Girls. 3 South Bay women found a passion – getting to the top of Half Dome. Janet S. a community service officer, Linette A. an administrative assistant and Shari T. a respiratory therapist  have hiked together almost every weekend for the past year and half. It’s a great fitness routine and gets them together to share the intimate details of life in Silicon Valle.  Last winter the City of Campbell encouraged their employees to set goals and many decided to do a summer trip to Yosemite to hike Half Dome.  The women all felt this would be a massive adventure and one that they would cherish. In February I gave at talk to the Campbell folks at the Trailsloggers store in downtown in Campbell.  It was through my slides and presentation that the women realized exactly what they signed up for! It looked very imposing. They later commented that the video clip I show of people going up the cables made the greatest impact on them. They bought my book (One Best Hike, Yosemite’s Half Dome) and virtually memorized it. They bought trekking poles, good hiking boots, a water filter pump  and all the recommended gear. They hit the local hiking trails almost every weekend for long uphill hikes. I ran into them on one of my Mission Peak hikes and gave some tips on how to use the poles. I encouraged them to keep at it and the rewards would be worth it. Their big day finally arrived on September 18. I am happy to report that they made it to the top in prime form. To quote Shari, “The hike itself was so strenuous both physically and mentally but all three of agree that it was so entirely fabulous and worthwhile, especially when we finally MADE IT TO THE TOP!” 

Janet, Shari & Linette on top

Janet, Shari & Linette on top

To complete the story, last week I gave a Yosemite talk at the same Trailsloggers store. They arrived all dressed in YOSEMITE T-Shirts. By their insistence, I performed the initiation ceremony for first time “Domers” that I wrote about in Chapter 5. They drank from the sacred goblet of Chief  Tenaya. 

Solemn Domer initiation ceremony

Solemn Domer initiation ceremony

 I later gave them Certificates of Accomplishment. If there were ever “Poster Girls” for Half Dome – I nominate these 3. Real enthusiasm and motivation allowed them to reach their goal. I now need to convince them to do it every year! Carpe Diem!

 

I’m still looking for comments on the Ken Burns National Parks show on PBS. I have my own, but want you guys to go first.

 

Check the weather – snow coming to the Sierra – be careful!

 

Unrelated thought worth quoting: “You’re pushin’ too hard, pushin’ on me. You’re pushin’ too hard, what you want me to be. You’re pushin’ too hard about the things you say, you’re pushin’ too hard every night and day. You’re pushin’ too hard – pushin’ too hard on me.”  – The Seeds

 
*Mr. Half Dome -Rick Deutsch – www.HikeHalfDome.com

Triple Crown

September 28, 2009

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing
Here’s one for the “why?” file. There is an event that guys with too little to do engage in. Ever hear of the “triple crown” at Yosemite? For some reason there is a human drive to do things faster and more convoluted than was done by the last person. This quest is to see how fast you can hike to the top of  Half Dome, El Capitan and Glacier Point — all in one day. Last week 21-year old Fresno student Troy Kellenberger completed the  Yosemite Triple Crown in 14 hours, 53 minutes. Read that again. Almost 15 hours to go up and down Half Dome, then El Cap, then Glacier Point.  The numbers are: 43 miles and 24,000 feet of elevation change (12,000 going up, 12,000 down). He started at midnight last Saturday and finished the same day at  2:53 p.m. Whew.

Troy Kellenberger training for the Triple Crown

Troy Kellenberger training for the Triple Crown

Your thoughts about the Ken Burns National Parks film??  I’ll save mine for last.  Add a comment and share your thoughts.

 

Unrelated thought worth quoting: “It’s been a hard day’s night, and I been working like a dog. It’s been a hard day’s night, I should be sleeping like a log.” – The Beatles

 
*Mr. Half Dome -Rick Deutsch – www.HikeHalfDome.com

Yosemite Airport

September 27, 2009

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

Quick – name the closest airport to Yosemite . . . SFO? No.  Sacramento? No. Fresno? Nope. Merced? No.  Times up. It’s the Mariposa-Yosemite Airport. Yes, there is such a thing. Located just northwest of the megalopolis of Mariposa, the airport sits right on Highway 49 in the Mt. Bullion area. And no, I’m not joking. You CAN fly there, rent a car and scoot up Hwy 140 to the park. Don’t bring your 747 though. A small Cessna would be just right. Here’s a quick history. The airport was created as a government make-work  project in the1930’s.  It quickly came under hard times and did not generate much business. The most action it ever saw was when a B-17 had to make an emergency landing there instead of its home at Castle AFB in Merced. Funding issues between the Feds, state and county ended with Mariposa County controlling it. The county hired a contractor to run the facility and develop the business. It never turned into La Guardia. The current economy has forced the county to tighten its belt and it looks like the terminal will be closed, but the airport runway will remain open. In today’s modern world, aircraft can actually remotely turn on the runway lights while on approach. Pilots can gas up via credit card, so humans may be let go. There’s no real point to this story, only to let you know of another neat place to visit after your Half Dome hike. You could probably hire a pilot to take you over the park – at the approved altitude of 2,000 feet. The terminal houses some neat photos, books, models and best of all a restroom and a soda machine. Check it out.

The White curb is for loading and unloading only.

The White curb is for loading and unloading only.

Air France Flight 464 you are clear for take off.

Air France Flight 464 you are clear for take off.

 

International Concourse 4

International Concourse 4

Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Would you like to ride in my beautiful balloon? We could float among the stars together, you and I, for we can fly  – we can fly! – The 5th Dimension

 
*Mr. Half Dome -Rick Deutsch – www.HikeHalfDome.com

National Park Service Director named

September 26, 2009

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

 
After nearly 9 months, the Obama Administration finally filled the post of Director of the NPS. Jon Jarvis was picked to head the huge Department of Interior post. He was confirmed Thursday by the U.S. Senate.

Jon Jarvis

Jon Jarvis

Jarvis, is a 30-year veteran of the Park Service. For the past 7 years he held the position of NPS Pacific West Regional Director. This region contains 54 national parks from Nevada through the Pacific to American Samoa and includes Yosemite.  He also was in charge of Mount Rainier National Park. The impact to us is that one of his first jobs (we hope) will be to select the permanent Superintendent of Yosemite. Dave Uberaga has been acting Super since January.

 

Just in to the news desk – California State Park closure plan got some relief as the Governor now proposes to get $14M in savings without fully closing the parks.  He wants to partially or seasonally close some parks, stop major equipment purchases this year, reduce spending on seasonal staff, reduce hours of operation and reduce ongoing maintenance.  So they may not be shuttered, but bring your own TP!!

 
Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Let me take you down, ’cause I’m going to Strawberry Fields. Nothing is real. And nothing to get hung about Strawberry Fields forever.” – The Beatles

 

*Mr. Half Dome -Rick Deutsch – www.HikeHalfDome.com

Cable control?

September 25, 2009

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

 

As the Half Dome hiking season starts to wane – the cables will be down in a few weeks – there will be a lot of contemplation on how the Park will handle this overused trail. Currently there are no announced plans to start a permit system or other measures. Over a year ago, the Social Science Dept at the park did a Half Dome study (actually done by Virginia Tech) that was to provide data on the route. In August, 2008, they counted the number of cable hikers, asked subjective opinions of the hike and timed how long it took people to do the hike. It’s over one year later and the data are not publically available. I’ve asked. Did any of you participate in this study? Here is the cable situation: The cable system is 90 years old. Multi-stranded steel is strong – and they were replaced in 1933 and 1983, but just what is the load it can handle? I’ve guessed at a maximum weekend capacity of about 300 at one time. A busy weekend shows 800-1000 all day so 300 seems reasonable for a snapshot. Also there are 68 pairs of support poles placed about 10 feet apart. I can imagine 4-5 people between poles, so it’s a ballpark SWAG. At 130 lbs each, that’s a lot of weight tugging. The cable use is accelerating each year. Crowding is the norm after 11 am on a weekend and is starting to spread to shoulder days as well. Despite signage and common sense, people are going up in bad and marginal weather. And falling. Since Nov 2006 there have been 4 deaths off the cables (I don’t count the 2 suicides). 2 of the 4 were during the “winter” months when the cables are down (no support poles and 2″x4” boards attached). Those 2 deaths are tragic, but since 1919 (cable installation) only 2 deaths during the summer related to the cables (heart attacks don’t count either). One was weather related and the other dehydration and fatigue were factors. So the statistics do not reflect a truly dangerous situation. 50,000 go up annually. More die in the water at the park. Yet there is no clamor to put a fence around the river. I contend that most anyone can do this hike with Education, Preparation and Motivation. My gut says there may be changes in the wind. The Half Dome trail is in the wilderness (and under the tenants of the “Wilderness Act” of 1964). But it is also in the Merced River Corridor. That river is a designated “Wild and Scenic River” and subject to those guidelines for care. The NPS is under an injunction from doing any rebuilding after the 1990 flood. A lawsuit has stopped the replacement of lost assets. The plaintiffs claim that the Park is not complying with the Wild and Scenic River act – Yosemite has appealed twice and has lost 2 times in appellate courts and must come up with a way to manage the human impact on the Merced. For us that means the ¼ mile corridor around the river – i.e. parts of the route up to Half Dome. That may involve changes of some sort on the hike. If I hear I’ll let you know. On the lighter side, reader Duane S. sent in this solution to the cable crowding situation.

Buy your FAST PASS now!

Buy your FAST PASS now!

This has been around the block before but it still gives me a grin. A freebie – In celebration of National Public Lands Day, Yosemite National Park, and all other National Park sites, will offer free admission this Saturday, September 26.

 

Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Pepsi Cola hits the spot. 12 Full ounces – that’s a lot. Twice as much for a nickel too. Pepsi Cola is the drink for you.” – 1940’s tag line to combat the smaller Coke.

 

*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch – http://www.HikeHalfDome.com

Register Rock

September 23, 2009

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing


Register Rock is a large piece of granite that rests just off the lower Mist Trail. During the early days of tourism at Yosemite, visitors interested in seeing the eastern reaches beyond Happy Isles and  near the Vernal Fall footbridge, would pay an admission in order to proceed up. Register Rock is an immense boulder at well over 50 ft high. It is set back from the trail a bit and the sharp wall angles downward away from you.  Nestled under the slight cover, a wooden shack type building was constructed to manage the traffic and log in people who passed through. They “registered” here and thus the name. 

 

Then

Then

You can see Register Rock today, although the shack has long ago been removed. After you cross the Vernal Fall bridge, turn left and proceed up the Mist Trail but only for a short time. Just before you arrive at a gate (used to close the Mist Trail during the winter), you will have a chance to take a 300 degree hard right turn and take the longer route upward and proceed to Nevada Fall (bypassing wet Vernal Fall). As you head up this trail to the right, look for Register Rock to your left. It is only about 20 yards from the gate mentioned above. 

 

Now

Now

You can see the sloped wall easily and the large slab rock that the shack was built on. Also note the tree in the middle. It has clearly grown over the decades.  I’ve noticed a couple “false” Register Rocks nearby with almost the same slope. This photo comparison proves which is the correct one. Have fun!
Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Standing On Top of the World” – Van Halen
*Mr. Half Dome -Rick Deutsch – www.HikeHalfDome.com

Balaclava

September 22, 2009

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

No, I’m not speaking Spanish or Italian today. But what is a Balaclava? Some sweet treat to eat? An after dinner snack? No, that’s baklava. A dessert made of paper-thin layers of pastry, chopped nuts, and honey. Yummy. 

baklava

The name “balaclava” comes from the town of Balaklava in today’s Ukraine. Popular during the 1850’s Russian – British Crimean War, knitted caps we call balaclavas were by the British to help them fight the bitter cold weather. They are traditionally knitted from wool, and can be rolled up into a hat to cover just the crown of the head. I suggest packing a balaclava for your Half Dome expedition. – But it’s not for the actual hike. It’s to keep you warm during those 37 degree nights.  OK enough banter. I’ve gotten a few emails wanted to know what a balaclava is.

balaclava

 

As you can see it’s a fleece or wool head cap that encases your head down to your neck with only a “breathing hole” up front. Even in a down sleeping bag, your noggin will give off a ton of  heat. Cork that heat with a balaclava and you’ll get a better night’s sleep.  You can also stuff it in your pocket in case the weather turns south. Great for skiing, hiking, biking, etc.

 

TV tips –  National Parks by Ken Burns.  He’s the same guy who did the Civil War series and the Baseball one not too long ago.  I, for one, am getting saturated with the Ken Burns hype. I am sure that it is a great segment, and I am promoting it, but enough. The Sierra Club is conducting a promo for it.The Park is hosting many showings – some with him present.  There have been many other Yosemite specials that didn’t get a third the coverage. SECRET YOSEMITE was fantastic. Vertical Frontier – Rock Climbing in Yosemite was cool. California State  Parks are on the verge of shutting  down, I think diverting some marketing budget of this campaign to save them from closure would be worthwhile. Sept 27 8 pm, PBS. We use the converter boxes on our analog TV’s and I have not figured out how to use my VCR to record digital broadcasts. I think I need to hook a converter box up to the VCR independent of the TV and record from there. Dunno if the timer/station programmer with work. I’m sure PBS will be selling DVDs.

 
Unrelated thought worth quoting: “If your child ain’t all he should be now, this girl will put him right. I’ll show him what he could be now, just give me one night! I’m the Gypsy, the Acid Queen, pay me before I start.” – The Acid Queen, Tommy, Tina Turner

 
*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch – www.HikeHalfDome.com*

Moving on the happier things

September 22, 2009

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing
There has been a lot of buzz about Saturday morning’s suicide. You readers have provided most of the info that I have relayed.  Thanks for sharing. I checked with the park and they are still in the process of notifying next of kin. Below are a couple of pictures taken that by Hema Patel who was up that day with her hiking party. The first shows the helicopter on Half Dome. The park has contract helicopters with very skilled crews. This is a mission they hate – they prefer to rescue people, not deal with situations like this.

suicide 09 chopper 2

The other shows the massive line that queued up at the cables once the Park Service reopened them following the 2-hour investigation. 

suicide line 09

I don’t expect much more information to come out. What do we need to know that will make this less macabre? It is very sad that a person had to go to this to solve his problems – only to heap a pile on his family and friends. If you know anyone who appears to be “on the edge” and just can’t take it, contact a suicide prevention agency NOW.  Tomorrow I’ll move on to topics to help people do the round trip to Half Dome. Hint: Baklava.
Unrelated thought worth quoting: “There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done. Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung. Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game. It’s easy. All you need is love.” – The Beatles
 *Mr. Half Dome -Rick Deutsch – www.HikeHalfDome.com

Another Suicide on Half Dome

September 21, 2009

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing 

 

Generic photo of Visor area

Generic photo of Visor area

A man shot himself while on the Visor of Half Dome early Saturday morning September 19, 2009.  There has been no info out of the park or the media feeds.  He was found by one of the earliest hikers to reach the top Saturday morning at around 6:30 am. Unknown how long he had been on the dome or if he may have been there overnight. He carried a gun and shot himself while in the Visor area. A group who did the sunrise hike arrived to find the body among the granite  gslabs.  The helicopter retrieved his remains. The cables were closed for 2 hours while authorities did an investigation. They do a forensic and situation study to confirm if  it was a suicide or homicide. Often things are not what they appear, so the park does its due diligence. They also need to find his car and personal property. Then there is the identification process, notification of next of kin as well as county/state offices. We konw he was from Oregon and was very depressed. The body was removed by 9 am. With beautiful weather on Saturday many hikers were heading up the Sub Dome about then and were told by hikers coming down of the situation. Many turned back but some continued, causing a backlog at the saddle while this got sorted out.  It’s really sad that people cannot find a solution to their problems. While on my High Sierra Camp hike 2 weeks ago, a guy told me his friend jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge the week before – the economy and his situation became too much. He left a family. The park service did not publicize the July 2008 jumper off the Visor. If you sense someone is desperate, call your local suicide prevention office.  (Updated 9/23)

 

Related thought worth quoting: “Some things in life are bad, they can really make you mad. Other things just make you swear and curse. When you’re chewing on life’s gristle don’t grumble, give a whistle, and this’ll help things turn out for the best…And always look on the bright side of life.” – Monty Python’s Flying Circus

 

Mr. Half Dome -Rick Deutsch – www.HikeHalfDome.com