Archive for November, 2009

Getting to the park – the early days

November 30, 2009

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

I have a personal fascination with the roads that lead to Yosemite. Not the modern 4 laners of today, but the very early ones built in the score years after the “discovery” of the park. Initially, explorers arrived on old Indian trails following the soutern route of the Mariposa Battalion. After  the Gold Rush swelled San Francisco and Sacramento into the population centers, the bulk of the early tourists came from the due west. In the mid-1850s the “Big Oak Flat Trail”  was a 33-mile improved Indian path that went from the then thriving gold center of Big Oak Flat (now on Highway 120) to today’s Tamarack Flat area (on the Tioga Road).   The first formal road into the park was called the Coulterville Road. It began at the still-present town of Coulterville. Early maps clearly show it winding its way into Yosemite. I’ve tried to reconstruct that route but an ancient  landslide on the rough road makes it challenging. I don’t have a 4-wheel drive and it seems that is required to even approximate just where it went.  At Bower’s Cave (see earlier blog) a large sign reminds us that the Coulterville Road passed directly by. My GPS lit up an arterial road entering highway 140 north of El Portal as “Coulterville Road.” All I saw was a jumble of rocks with no indication of an ancient road. In 1868, the “Chinese Camp and Yo Semite Turnpike Company” was formed to construct a road from Chinese Camp to Yosemite Valley. In 3 years they made it to Gentry’s Station, just west of the valley. Building the road from there was a nightmare due to the 2,500-foot descent to the valley. A 3-mile stretch was known as the Zigzags, due to a number of sharp switchbacks and its horrendous 16 percent grade. The road finally opened in 1874.


Unrelated thought worth quoting: “It was the third of June, another sleepy, dusty Delta day. I was out choppin’ cotton and my brother was balin’ hay. And at dinner time we stopped and walked back to the house to eat and Mama hollered out the back door ‘y’all remember to wipe your feet. “‘And then she said ‘I got some news this mornin’ from Choctaw Ridge; Today Billy Joe MacAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge'” – Bobby Gentry – Ode to Billy Joe
*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch –

The Wilderness Act Reprise

November 29, 2009

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

So just where does the Wilderness begin in Yosemite? A lot of “developed” places were grandfathered in when the Act was put into law in 1964. Remember, wilderness is a place without permanent structures . . . an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man.  So explain the High Sierra Camps. Explain the buildings in Tuolumne. Been a lot of trammeling going on there. And what makes a building  “permanent.” Are outhouses permanent? Makes one ponder.  These are not arbitrary boundaries – nay, the act further says that records pertaining to said wilderness areas, including maps and legal descriptions, be available to the public, One easy gauge is if you need a Wilderness Permit to camp in an area. There are 5 Wilderness areas that are managed via permits. They are grouped under: Wawona and Glacier Point Road, Tuolumne, Hetch Hetchy, Tioga Road and Yosemite Valley (including the popular Happy Isles to Little Yosemite Valley trail for those doing the Half Dome hike.) By the way, Yosemite is surrounded by Wilderness – the Ansel Adams Wilderness to the southeast, the Hoover Wilderness to the northeast, and the Emigrant Wilderness to the north. Plus, all told, the Sierra Nevada has 22 wilderness areas that cover 6000 square miles. Tons of room to find solitude.


Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Many a man would face his gun, and many a man would fall. The man who shot Liberty Valance, he shot Liberty Valance. He was the bravest of them all.” – Gene Pitney


*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch –

The Wilderness Act

November 28, 2009

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

I got a few inquires asking for more information about yesterday’s topic on the Wilderness Act.  It’s one of the legislations that guides today’s National Park Service. President Lyndon Johnson signed the bill into law in1964. It provides protection to public lands:  National Parks, National Forests, Bureau of Land Management properties,  wildlife refuges, and similar areas. Simply stated, the law seeks to preserve the “wilderness character of the area.” A core clause prohibits logging and oil and gas drilling. Also not allowed are motorized or mechanical vehicles or equipment – and that includes mountain bikes. No roads, no buildings, no permanent structures. 95% of Yosemite is officially classed as Wilderness. It begins 200 feet above the valley floor. The walls themselves are part of the wilderness.To read the actual act, click <HERE>.
Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Amazing grace. How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see.” – 1779 Hymn by John Newton
*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch –

Turkey thoughts

November 27, 2009

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

Anyone out there? Thanksgiving finds Mrs. Dome, Yosey (the wonder dog) and me driving down to Palm Springs.

"Yosey" as in Yosemite

Why? We’ve never been! With chow and multiple dog requests for stops, we took close to 9 hours to get here. We celebrated the holiday at Tony’s Pasta Mia in downtown. Musta been the only place open – there was a continuous waiting line of 15 people all night. I had the turkey special. Anyway, the drive down made me realize just how sparse California is – and how jammed the LA basin is. With respect to my friends in SoCal, there are just too many people down here. Suburbs for hours on end! All this made me reflect on how lucky we are to have places like Yosemite. The Wilderness Act of 1964 has words that say there need to be: “areas where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain” ….  and that has “outstanding opportunities for solitude.” – Amen. Serenity now.

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 –

Trash Pick up

November 26, 2009

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

Ever wonder where that water bottle you dropped of the Half Dome cables went to? Kinda like the Black Hole of the supernova Antares X467. Never to be seen again. But you know it’s still on the planet. I suggest you contact the Yosemite Climbing Association. They might have it  – that is if it hasn’t found its way into a land fill. They held the 6th annual Yosemite cleanup from September 23-27th. 40 other organizations supported the event. 1200+ volunteers worked to clean more than 100 miles of roadway and 120 miles of trails. Some of the junk removed included 1800 feet of cable, 200 pounds of steel piping, two old toilets and 400 pounds of piping.

See your bottle in here?

Your bottle may be among the 500 pounds of garbage picked up below the shoulder of Half Dome.  Over 60,00 pounds of trash was removed from the park. Wow, how in the world did it all get there? Somebody had to make a decison to dump it.


Unrelated thought worth quoting:  “They got a little place a-down the track. The name of the place is ‘I like it like that.’ You take Sally and I’ll take Sue and we’re gonna rock away all of our blues.” – I Like It Like That, Chris Kenner


*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch –


November 25, 2009

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

Yesterday’s blog about the missing person in Yosemite had me thinking about ways to prevent this. We have no clue where this fellow went, but technology is available to find you if you are in the boonies and unable to call for help. (Either vocally or cell.) Personal locator devices make use of modern technology to provide a way to find lost souls. SPOT (Satellite POsitioning and Tracking), is one such gizmo. While there are a couple of competitors, SPOT offers the most cost effective way to increase your chances of being found. The “big deal” is that SPOT uses only satellites and GPS in their solution. No cell network used.  Once you have one of their devices, you activate it and off you go. Their second generation product, called the SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger (or loosely “SPOT-2”), continues their solution in a smaller from factor. It’s smaller than a pack of cigarettes. (I know since I smoked in 5th grade for 2 months – didn’t inhale.) 3.7” x 2.6”

You can use 3 levels of notification. #1. I’m OK. It sends a pre-written text message or email to 10 contacts. #2. Soft help – To tell your contacts that maybe you have had enough and to  pick you up at the Visitor Center (pre-written message). The big one is #3. SOS/911. This will set a rescue in motion through a satellite link to GEOS, anInternational Emergency Response Center. GEOS then notifies the responsible authority of your longitude and latitude and need for a rescue. This saves SAR teams tons of time, resources and money since they are not looking for an overdue hiker somewhere in the tundra. False alarms are reduced in SPOT-2 thanks to a simple button cover. All the time your route can be visible on a website via a tracking function that records your progress. (Great for post event analysis.) This is a very high level summary. Go to the SPOT website <HERE> to learn more.  My question to you – would you consider buying or renting a SPOT for your backcountry treks in Yosemite or elsewhere? $150 retail and $99 annual basic service fee. Theyhave 100,000 uers and have 400 rescues in 2 years!
Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Is she really going out with him? Well, there she is. Let’s ask her. Betty, is that Jimmy’s ring you’re wearing? Mm-hmm Gee, it must be great riding with him. Is he picking you up after school today? Uh-uh By the way, where’d you meet him? I met him at the candy store, he turned around and smiled at me – you get the picture? Yes, we see. That’s when I fell for the leader of the pack. – The Shangri-Las
*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch –

Missing Person

November 24, 2009

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

Yosemite has asked the public (that’s us) for help in helping to find a man who was reported missing while at the park. He was last seen in the park on November 6. His name is Anthony Clifton Green, Jr. Investigators think he may have called his Modesto family from a pay phone at Happy Isles on November 7. His vehicle was found in the Wilderness Parking Lot and was “opened” by hungry bears. Mr. Green is 31 years old, 5’7″, 200 lbs. with red hair and blue eyes. He looks a lot like this –> 

If you have seen him or have any information about his whereabouts, contact the Yosemite 24 hour dispatch at (209) 379-1992.  

Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Everywhere I hear the sound of marching, charging feet, boy. ‘Cause summer’s here and the time is right for fighting in the street, boy. But what can a poor boy do except to sing for a rock ‘n’ roll band. ‘Cause in sleepy London town, there’s just no place for a street fighting man.” – The Rolling Stones


*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch –

More on the 25 cent piece

November 23, 2009

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

I wrote recently about the 2005 Quarter. Well your US Government is at it again. There is a new program called America the Beautiful Quarters. Starting in 2010 and continuing for the next 11 years the Mint will be issuing quarters with designs of a national park or site in each state, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories.  There are 2 bodies overseeing the program and picking the final designs. They are the United States Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) and the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC). They will issue 5 per year, and good old Yosemite will be one of the coins issued in 2010. The image will be kinda similar to the current 2005 quarter, but they have not yet decided.


Option 1

Option 2

Option 3

Option 4

The last two seem to be the leading candidates. In addition, get ready to spend more on your souvenirs… the mint will release silver bullion coins to accompany the series with the exact same design elements, but struck out of five ounces of .999 fine silver. They will be 3 inches in diameter… no typo here THREE inches in diameter. Like an olympic discus! The annual release dates for all of the America the Beautiful Quarters is <HERE>.

Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Rikki, don’t lose that number, you don’t want to call nobody else. Send it off in a letter to yourself. Rikki don’t lose that number  it’s the only one you own. You might use it if you feel better  when you get home.” – Steely Dan
*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch –

Kudos to Dean Potter

November 22, 2009

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

Potter slack-lining off Taft Point

Remember that name from past blogs?  He’s the Yosemite big wall climber who lives on the edge. He’s gone up El Cap AND Half Dome in a single day. Both of them. Yikes.  National Geographic just picked him as one of the 10 Adventurers of the Year. He is also a favorite on YouTube for his wingsuit  flight off the Eiger in Switzerland in August. He “flew” like Batman for 2 minutes and 50 seconds. He covered about 9,000 vertical feet and soared for4 miles. If you keep track, that makes him the longest BASE jump ever. He’s 37 and let’s hope his machismo doesn’t get the best of him. He’s not too far from Ker-splat. Read the current Adventure Magazine to learn more and see him on the National Geographic show “First Ascent.”


Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Aye, Calypso, the places you’ve been to, the things that you’ve shown us, the stories you tell. Aye, Calypso, I sing to your spirit, the men who have served you. So long and so well.” – John Denver
*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch –

Slow down & Savor Wilderness

November 21, 2009

 Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

John Muir:

     “Walk quietly in any direction and taste the freedom of the mountaineer. Camp out among the grasses and gentian 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. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energies, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.


Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Enough said.”


*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch –