Wild Inspiration For The Masses
Yosemite National Park: Yosemite Valley, CA - Photo Credit: Ravi Dhanjee
Everything about Yosemite is fascinating. 750,000 acres of land, 800 miles of trails, countless mountains and cliffs ringing the valley, dozens of waterfalls, rivers, and lakes peppered throughout - all with their own unique stories to tell.
A trip to Yosemite National Park does not satiate, it only stokes an increased desire to discover its hidden secrets, to see for oneself all this vast wilderness has to offer. Unrivaled in beauty, unparalleled in majesty, Yosemite has developed a mystique unmatched by other National Parks that are otherwise as highly regarded. Yosemite is like the most addictive of drugs, a mere taste leaves you desperate to go back to experience more, to learn all there is to know about such a magical place in preparation for the next opportunity to dive back in.
Yosemite has long been a source of inspiration for all who experience its splendor. It inspired John Muir to lobby government agencies to protect the pristine beauty of wilderness areas across the country. It inspired Teddy Roosevelt to camp with Muir for three days in Mariposa Grove, a trip that would shape his conservationist agenda and lay the foundation to ensure the preservation of the National Parks and Forests that we continue to enjoy today.
Yosemite National Park: Yosemite Valley, CA - Photo Credit: Bryan Donoghue
Some of the greatest American artists have been both directly and indirectly inspired by Yosemite. Ansel Adams’ most famous photography captures the valley at its finest. Before him, the nature photography of Carleton Watkins helped inspire Abraham Lincoln to enact the Yosemite Grant, to ensure this beautiful forest would be preserved for public use - even as the Civil War raged on. Watkins was often accompanied by famed landscape artist Thomas Hill, who brought to life on canvas images of the park that grace the halls of the US Capitol building to this very day. Today, Yosemite Renaissance sponsors a robust Artists In Residence program to ensure the park’s natural beauty will continue to be painted by some of the best and brightest of the modern art community.
The bounty of Yosemite has inspired physical feats in addition to artistic. The climbing exploits of legends like Tommy Caldwell and Alex Honnold have been well-documented in film. In Honnold’s case, one could argue a bit of insanity may have been mixed in with inspiration, as his ‘Free Solo’ climb was done with no ropes, harnesses, or any sort of equipment to save him from falling thousands of feet to his death should he have made a single misstep. Honnold’s climbing inspired a film crew to document his conquering of the infamous El Capitan, which won an Oscar for Best Documentary in 2019.
Yosemite National Park: Yosemite Valley, CA - Photo Credit: Paul Engel
Unfortunately, Yosemite’s proclivity to inspire physical feats can result in tragedy as well. In 2015, world renown BASE jumpers Dean Potter and Graham Hunt met with calamity after a jump from Taft Point into the valley went horribly wrong. Of the thousands of hikers who make the ascent up Half Dome on an annual basis, not all of them make the return. Accidents while climbing, hiking, and scrambling off-trail result in hundreds of Search & Rescue operations within the park each year. With great inspiration often comes great danger - and regardless of the amount of training or preparation, Yosemite does not discriminate. The simplest of mistakes can result in unmitigated disaster if one is not sufficiently careful.
In some cases, the aforementioned mystique of Yosemite has been known to inspire stories of the occult as well. The cold, evil wind gusting around Po-ho-no (known today as Bridalveil Falls) has long been rumored to send unwary travelers plummeting to their doom. Grouse Lake, high in the mountains, is known for the sound of a crying boy, beckoning hikers to enter the lake so they can be dragged down into the depths below. Even the Ahwahnee Hotel, located on the Valley floor, has been said to be haunted for decades. Perhaps less occult, but equally chilling - the interior of the Ahwahnee inspired much of the set design for Stanley Kubrick’s horror classic “The Shining”.
Half Dome: Yosemite National Park, CA - Photo Credit: Ravi Dhanjee
Over four million visitors come to Yosemite every year - some to find inspiration, some to find some sort of gratification, some just to find picturesque vistas for selfies. Regardless of motivation, all have the conservationists and pioneers of the past to thank for Yosemite continuing to be the Mecca for outdoor enthusiasts that it is today. A more fertile ground for the imagination is difficult to find anywhere on the planet - how one chooses to bring that imagination to life is entirely up to the individual. Throughout every season, around every bend of every trail, on top of every cliffside and spanning every waterfall - Yosemite is majesty incarnate, and must be witnessed firsthand to truly begin to comprehend.
“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.”
- John Muir
Yosemite National Park: Yosemite Valley, CA - Photo Credit: Hiten Patel
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