Tag Archives: hetch hetchy

What Would John Muir Think About Yosemite….Part 2

24 Jul

A spring or summer day trip by car  through Yosemite Valley most likely will not produce solitude.  If you have ever been to a national park, you know this is not difficult to figure out. My first trip there was no exception, I knew this was coming….the hordes of people and vehicles. While certainly distracting, it doesn’t completely taint the incredible beauty of this world-class place.

Honestly, this kind of overzealous commercial development in our parks does have its perks.  For instance, in Yosemite Valley you have your choice of numerous places to eat or stay or go shopping. The restaurants have cable television, which is great is you are trying to catch a sporting event.  Additionally, Yosemite NP is the only park I know  that has what is basically a full-sized grocery store, complete with its own liquor section. It is actually pretty amazing and sometimes very convenient.

Before I further expound on this subject, I want to share with you a serene, yet magical  image from Yosemite Valley taken by a photographer I respect very much. It was this image that helped inspire this post…

It is called “Paradise” and it was captured in the early morning quiet hours in Yosemite Valley by California photographer Chris Chamberlain.  I didn’t ask Chris exactly where he composed this image, but my guess is it wasn’t too far from the road.  For me, this photograph serves as a melancholy reminder of the incredible beauty of this sensitive area and how imperative it is for our government to manage it properly for the people.

This leads me back to my initial question:  what would John Muir think about Yosemite now? To answer this, it is necessary to provide some  background about a part of  Yosemite NP that John Muir was immensely fond of. For those who don’t know, there is a less visited, often overlooked little slice of paradise  in the northwestern section of the park called Hetch Hetchy. Muir absolutely loved it there.

During Muir’s lifetime , this area was very similar to Yosemite Valley and rivaled  its sheer beauty. All of that changed in 1923 when it officially became a reservoir providing the city of San Francisco with 85% of its drinking water – even to this day. The birth of the reservoir started 10 years earlier when then President Woodrow Wilson approved the plans to dam Hetch Hetchy. The story goes that Muir fought bitterly against this proposal. His inability to stop it eventually broke his heart and led to his death in 1914.

With this mind, I often find myself wondering if  John Muir could have seen 100 years into the future, which valley would he have preferred? The one full of commericial development, traffic, and people with all its amazing natural features. Or the valley submerged under water, retaining only part of its beauty, but much less visited. To me, it’s an interesting question and certainly one to ponder. What do you think? I would love to hear your opinions. We’ll continue this topic in my next post. Have a wonderful weekend!

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