Archive for December, 2009

December 31, 2009

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing
If you‘ve not seen Doug McConnell’s new project,, check out his website at <HERE>. Note the unusual domain, DOT TV. Not .com or .net.  (There are several alternate domains that you may not be aware of similar to .gov or .org). Doug was the host of the long running “Bay Area Backroads TV” show.  I  moderate the Active Adventure Forum on the website. Doug now runs his shows on PBS – great vignettes of the West. Here is an interview I did with Doug on Half Dome a year ago. (Update: I’m now up to 25 times.)  Click <HERE> for some tips in this 5 minute clip.

Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Although your world wonders me, with your majestic and superior cackling hen, your people I do not understand. So to you I shall put an end – and you’ll never hear  surf music again.” – Third Stone From The Sun, the Jimi Hendrix Experience
*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch –

The webcams

December 30, 2009

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

Newer fans of Half Dome may not know about the Yosemite  Association  webcams. They have several placed around the park that take periodic still photos that are posted on the web. It’s a great way to keep track of the weather at the park. You can readily view them by using the link I have on my website. Go <HERE> and look on the right side blue buttons. Here’s a shot I captured taken 12/12/09 about noon. It was shot from Turtleback dome.


Half Dome looks daunting covered in snow. The clouds on the south side of El Capitan are odd.

Unrelated thought worth quoting: “You better stop, look around, here it comes, here it comes, here it comes, here it comes. Here comes your nine-teenth nervous breakdown.” – the Rolling Stones

*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch –

LeConte Memorial Lodge Lectures

December 29, 2009

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

Meet  Bonnie Gisel. (At least her left side.) She runs the evening lecture program during the summer at the LeConte Lodge, just west of Curry Village (across from “housekeeping”).  The lodge was built by the Sierra Club in 1904. It is named in honor of geologist Joseph LeConte. He was an early Director of the Sierra Club. 
Anyway, the summer programs are great. I have given a couple as shown above. We draw about 50 enthusiastic folks a session. When you go the park, be sure to check out the schedule for the week. Bonnie posts an easel out front with the speakers listed. They are also in the Yosemite “newspaper” that is handed out.  Check out their website <HERE>.

Unrelated thought worth quoting: “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have 4 years of life left.”– Bill Maher
*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch –

Odds and ends

December 28, 2009

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

If you haven’t been to my website in a while, check it out. – I just added a video clip. It’s the upper level of Sub Dome. I did the hike in June with 3 Brits. You can tell from his accent. I use Yahoo Sitebuilder which I really like. If you are thinking of creating a website – try them. For $12 a month I get the URL, they host it, their tool provides 300 templates and they give 24 phone support. With real Americans on the other end. Best of all there is no html coding involved. WSIWIG – What you see is what you get. The software resides on your system (my laptop), so I can make changes pretty much in real time. Then when you “publish” it goes to the Yahoo server for assembly and web loading. You can make up your own look and feel. I have been playing music for a while on my home page and thought I’d try some video. The clip you see is off my Casio digital camera in Quicktime. I think it looks pretty good. Thought of adding video to the blog – but WordPress charges $60 a year to add video – nah. Lemme know what you think. I have a gob of short videos that I may add from time to time.

Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Who put the bomp in the bomp buh bomp buh bomp? Who put the ram in the rama lama ding dong? Who put the bop in the bop shoo bop shoo bop Who put the dip in the dip dee dip dee dip? Who was that man, I’d like to shake his hand . . . He made my baby fall in love with me.” – The Platters

*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch –

Yosemite Chapel

December 27, 2009

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing
We are now coming out of winter. Well, I know we just officially began winter, but did you know that the days are now getting longer? Oh yes, a minute of sunlight  more each day.  Won’t be long until we’re back on the trail with sunset  hitting after 8 pm. Until that time I’ll try to fill the void with fun and exciting tales of Yosemite and Half  Dome. 

Undated archive photo of the Chapel

Today we chat about  the Yosemite Chapel. It’s the oldest building still standing in the Valley. The Chapel was built in 1879 and was originally near the base of the Four Mile trail. In 1901, it was taken apart and moved to its present site on Southside Drive. Major restoration was done and it was damaged in the 1997 flood. 

'97 flood high water mark at chapel

The Yosemite Valley Chapel was given Historic American building status by the National Park Service in 1965 and entered in to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

Inside the chapel

Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Spring is here. The sky is blue. Birds all sing as if they knew. Today’s the day we’ll say I do and we’ll never be lonely anymore. Because we’re goin’ to the chapel and we’re gonna get married . . . Goin’ to the chapel of love  .” – The Dixie Cups
*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch –

James Hutchings

December 26, 2009

 Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

First off, I hope you loyal readers had a great holiday… and that you got the red Radio Flyer wagon you asked Santa for. Enjoy the time off and get recharged. Burn off a few of those mashed potatoes. As students of Yosemite and Half Dome, we all strive too learn as much as we can. Today we talk about James Mason Hutchings.


Things were starting to happen soon after the first whites stumbled into the valley in 1851. The first “official” documented tour was led by James Hutchings in 1855. Thomas Ayres, the well known San Francisco artist,  made drawings of the Valley’s sights. Hutchings loved the place so much and saw a dollar around every tree, that he published a periodical called “Hutchings’ Illustrated California magazine.”  The purpose of which was to attract tourists from the east with $$$ to view this new wonder. The magazine ran from 1856 to 1860. Seeing a flood of city slickers heading west, in 1864 he purchased a hotel built by Buck Beardsley and G. Hite (of Hite’s Cove fame). Hutchings followed his magazine with a book called “Scenes of Wonder and Curiosity in California.” He was a one-man Dept of Tourism! The Yosemite Grant of the same year led to government control of the Valley leading to disputes with the early “settlers.”  Hutchings wanted to be the head cheese and dictate “admission fees” for the park. Luckily that did not happen.  He died in 1902 when visiting the park and his horse reared and tossed him out of his buggy. Ouch. He’s buried there with the granite tombstone bearing the inscription: “Pioneer of Yosemite.”

Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Actin’ funny I don’t know why, ‘scuse me while I kiss the sky.” Jimi Hendrix

*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch –

How the Earth was made

December 25, 2009

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

Yosey, as in Yosemite

We don’t have cable. Oh my, no cable TV at Mr. Half Dome’s cave?  We use a rooftop antenna and are happy with the 2 hours a week we watch. I get my cable fix at my health club.  I run the treadmill and stair-step to Discovery and the History channel.  Keeps me going to see the end of each show!  Yesterday, I caught a great show – “How the Earth was made.” I poked around and found that there is a whole series done by History. A few minutes of goggling showed that the History channel has a DVD box set on the series.  The show I saw was something that I have wanted for years – a baby-talk animation of earth’s formation from Day 0 to today. The deal of how water got formed, how the seas came about, where oxygen came from, the formation and subsequent break- up of Rodinia, the supercontinent, into Pangaea then Gondwanaland and Laurasia, the Global ice cap and melting. Whew. It all seems clear now.  Well, as part of the series, History is doing individual shows on major parts of the planet. They are rolling out a DVD on Yosemite. Apparently it is being broadcast now, but the DVD will be ready to ship on Jan 11.  Their website hope says: “The Sierra Nevada, North America’s highest mountain range, contains one of the most awe-inspiring geological features on the planet: Yosemite Valley . . . was it carved by gigantic glaciers or a cataclysmic rifting of the Earth?”  Hint: As John Muir said, Glaciers.

Unrelated thought worth quoting: “And laying his finger aside of his nose, and giving a nod, up the chimney he rose. He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle, and away they all flew like the down of a thistle. But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight, Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.” Clement Clarke Moore

*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch –

Harness chat

December 24, 2009

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing

To wear a harness or not when going up the Half Dome cables? This seems to be a never ending discussion. After the 2 falls off the cables in June (1 fatal) I see more people with “Uncle Fred’s homemade harness” around their gut. Many are just a web strap tied to a carabineer. I saw a group of Japanese tourists descending with straps around their shoulders connected to 2 carabineers. Better but still bad. For the record, I don’t think you need a harness to safely go up the cables. But since the only rule is that you can’t camp on top, do whatever brings you peace of mind. The major flaw with homemade Gerry-rigged devices is that they typically use non-shock loaded straps. This means there is no give and when you fall; you have nothing to break your acceleration gradually. The result can be a sudden jarring of the dynamic forces leading to a snapped strap  – boink – and down you go or you snap your vertebrae.  Here’s what’s recommended by climbers. This one is made by Black Diamond and goes for $80. 

They call it the Via Ferata. Notice the 2 lanyards and carabineers (2 are needed to go around the poles on the Half Dome cables.

The name comes from a WW1 technique of adding ladders and holds onto almost vertical ridges to allow troops to access them. Today in Italy and France climbing using the Via Ferata technique is a big tourist industry. The harness is so named to pay honor to that experience. But you are not done yet. Kick in another $45 for a real mountaineer’s harness to attach to the lanyards.  If you are interested the fine staff at the Yosemite Mountain store can fix you up.

 Unrelated thought worth quoting: “There need be no lasting sorrow for the death of any of nature’s creations, because for every death there is always been a corresponding life” – John Muir, 1873

*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch

Rent a bike

December 23, 2009

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing
Stick this one in your file of “things to do. Did you kown that you can rent bicycles at Yosemite? Probably but have you ever done it? Where? How much? Here’s a photo of the inside of the rental shack. It’s onthe west side of Curry Village next to the ice rink. Look fo rth ebig green tent. Looks like a few shy of 100 low rider cruisers ready to go.

How  much? Well in 2009 here were the rates.

Dunno what 2010 will bring; but we can bet the prices won’t go down. What caught my eye was the notice that helmets are only “recommended” for adults. Hmm. My head is as fragile as a kid’s. Seems like parents would insist that everyone have a helmet on. Funny that a national park doesn’t mandate it with all the attention to safety. I have a friend who went over his handlebars and it took him a few months to get back into the groove.

In other news, Tom Medema moves from acting to the real Chief of Interpretation and Education at the park. He will manage the group responsible for interpretive services. The Division also manages the park’s Curatorial and Museum Management Program, the Public Involvement and Outreach Program, Public Affairs, and the Education Branch.
Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Civilization and fever and all morbidness that has been hooted at me have not dimmed my glacial eye, and I care to give only to entice people to look at nature’s loveliness.” – John Muir, Oct 7, 1874

*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch –

Walk in Muir’s footsteps Part 2

December 22, 2009

Half Dome – Yosemite Musing
In follow up to yesterday’s tome about walking to Yosemite, I’d like to introduce you to Donna and Peter Thomas

In period wear, save the hiking boots.

They are an interesting Santa Cruz based couple. They are literary artists in the olde tyme sense of the word.  They’ve written a few books including Half Dome – A Climbing History, a $100 collectible printed on paper hand made by Peter. Like their other books, this was done on his hand set letterpress. The 130 page work has wood covers. Only 130 copies were made.  This is cool by itself, but even more fascinating was their April 2 – May 14, 2006 walk to Yosemite. They did a lot of research trying to replicate John Muir’s 1868 route.  A major problem was that Muir wrote little about his route and tended to talk more about the flora along the way than landmarks. Plus the terrain was way different 150 years ago.  The Thomas’s spent hours at the University of the Pacific – Stockton reading relevant documents and maps. Muir generally kept a diary log of his life, but again little is known about his trek to Yosemite. They pieced together references to the hike found in many letters and books (some written after Muir’s death) to capture the essence of his trip. Basically, the route goes down into the Santa Clara Valley, goes east at Gilroy and over the Pacheco Pass (Hwy 152). From there into the Central Valley towards Gustine then along the Merced to Lake McClure and onto the Coulterville Road, past Bower Cave and to Crane Flat and Tamarack Flat then behind El Capitan into the Valley. Remember, John Muir’s goal was to get out of San Francisco and go to “Anywhere that is wild.” Due to space limitations on this blog, I need to send you to the Thomas’s excellent website <HERE>. I’ve never met them but will send them this blog link and see if we can meet for lunch on the Santa Cruz pier to ruminate about the trip and their interesting lives.

PS – Gang, I saw Avatar today in 3D (be careful there is a 2D version) – 5 stars. A mix of The Matrix and Star Wars.

Related thought worth quoting: “Then it seemed to me that the Sierra should be called, not the Nevada or Snowy Range, but the Range of Light. And after ten years of wandering and wondering in the heart of it, rejoicing in its glorious floods of light, the white beams of the morning streaming through the passes, the noonday radiance on the crystal rocks, the flush of the alpenglow, and the irised spray of countless waterfalls, it still seems above all others the Range of Light.” – John Muir, 1912
*Mr. Half Dome – Rick Deutsch –