I recently stopped by Yosemite National Park to spend a day with one of the park rangers and gee, dangit what a day it was! My ranger guide Catherine took me to a handful of glorious vistas throughout Yosemite that took me back to cartoon movies from the 90s like Fern Gully and The Land Before Time. Spots like Cascade Fall, Turtleback Plateau and Half Dome are incomparable to anything else I’ve ever seen in person and will definitely deepen your respect for natural life outside of Americas steely cities.
It also deepened my respect for the dominant hold wild areas like Yosemite National Park can have over human life. Especially when people take to vacationing there and whoops! they left their brain at home. Obviously, I passed through Yosemite without having punched my ticket (I remembered my brain). Here are 5 ways that people have gone out in Yosemite in the past.
1. Taking a dive off the falls. Yosemite National Park has a number of waterfalls that are active especially during the spring when the snow starts to melt and rain falls. Cascade Fall, Bridalveil Fall and Yosemite Falls (plural because there is more than one fall) are just a few of Yosemites more popular waterfalls for visitors to check out and also for careless campers to plummet over. Catherine told me stories of people who waded too near the falls for photo opportunities and who instead ended up photobombing the tourists at the falls base in completely avoidable disasters. Once you get caught in the falls current, she told me, there’s pretty much no hope for escape. Better to respect the falls from a safe distance than halfway down them, I say.
2. Becoming a Yosemite popsicle. Yosemite is an area of varying altitudes and temperatures. Perhaps not surprisingly, it’s not super uncommon for campers to be ill-prepared for how cold Yosemite can get during chillier seasons and end up hypothermic. I made the not-so-life-threatening decision to make my visit sans-jacket and ended up pretty chilled in the higher, shadier parts of Yosemite. Having a good experience in Yosemite is all about preparation, whether you’re planning a one-day drive-through or a weeklong campout. Layer up!
3. Bears! I didn’t see any bears during my day in Yosemite but not due to lack of them in the park. Yosemite National Park is home to hundreds of black bears and while Catherine assured me they want as little trouble with people as we want with them, the prospect of running into one during the day instilled me with both excitement and fear. The biggest advice Catherine had in case we did come across a bear was not to turn and run like your “fight or flight” instincts might have you do. This was advice from personal experience. During her time as a ranger at Yellowstone National Park, Catherine had the terrifying experience of coming across a bear and being chased by it. She had made the mistake of hightailing it out of there. Like dogs, bears will chase people if they run for it. Unlike dogs, bears can weigh almost a thousand pounds and are much less likely to end the chase with face-licks and cuddling.
4. Climbing clumsies. People come to Yosemite National Park all the time for the bouldering and rock climbing, particularly up Yosemites iconic faces like El Capitan and Half Dome. Rock climbing is inherently dangerous and accidents happen all the time. Yosemite National Park is no exception. Whether it be from old, faulty equipment or just careless climbing, many climbers have met their end trying to scale up out of the valley.
5. Being hopelessly lost. Venturing off the beaten path and really taking to the Yosemite wilderness is undoubtedly a thrilling experience that I’m looking forward to doing in the future. This visit however was spent entirely on trails with a legit park ranger, so getting lost and disappearing forever into the forest was not something I was worried about. With spotty to no cell phone service in the park, better to put your trust in an old school compass and map when you go all Ansel Adams in Yosemite.
Yosemite National Park, I shall be visiting you again this summer but in the meantime, I’ll be doing my homework to make sure I come back out in one piece once again!