Sunday, December 17, 2017

Why Yosemite's Cathedral is my Sacred Space

I’ve titled this Weblog Yosemite’s Cathedral to refer generally to the overall park’s great potential for facilitating sacred experience and more specifically to highlight the spiritual potential of the Cathedral Peak-Tuolumne Meadows-Tenaya Lake area. 

This is an area that I’ve been connected with spiritually since the mid-1970s when I was a graduate student assisting on a black bear research project. 

We spent most of the summer in the staff tent cabins in beautiful Tuolumne Meadows. I spent most of my free time trekking about in the surrounding mountains-- including summiting Cathedral Peak. 

Cathedral Peak is an extraordinary mountain with great character and charm. The entire Sierra Nevada Range is widely recognized for its beautiful glacially-sculpted and polished mountains and domes, its meadows, canyons, waterfalls, rivers, grand conifers, and mild climate. In my opinion, Yosemite is the heart of the Sierra and Tuolumne Meadow is the heart of Yosemite. 

The outstanding geological feature of Tuolumne Meadow is the ice-carved and spired Cathedral Cirque and the most eye-catching feature of the Cathedral Cirque is Cathedral Peak itself. A century before, John Muir claimed Cathedral Peak to be his preferred house of worship:   

No feature, however, of all the noble landscape as seen from here seems more wonderful than the Cathedral itself, a temple displaying Nature’s best masonry and sermons in stones. How often I have gazed at it from the tops of hills and ridges, and through openings in the forests on my many short excursions, devoutly wondering, admiring, longing! This I may say is the first time I have been at church in California, led here at last, every door graciously opened for the poor lonely worshiper. In our best times everything turns into religion, all the world seems a church and the mountains altars.

I've done quite a bit of world travel, and continue to do so, but I decided when I retired in 2007 from California State Parks that I would commit myself to digging deeply in my favorite spot of my favorite park and see what nourishing waters I might find. Each year I continue to be amazed at the beauty and blessings that well up in these artesian wellsprings.

Every sacred space needs a boundary to encourage a different set of attitudes and behavior than our ordinary ones. Ancient Greek temple precincts were defined by a tenemos, a

My semi-permeable boundaries of Yosemite’s Cathedral are defined by a six-mile radiused circle centered on Cathedral Peak. This body and soul playground is big enough to keep me exploring and creating for the rest of my life while being small enough to keep me focused. This mandala encompasses all the High Sierra Camps except for Merced and has along its boundaries: Waterwheel Falls, the lower Lyell Canyon, Vogelsang Pass and Mt Hoffmann.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Looking for John Muir's Ghost in Hetch Hetchy

On the last day of August, 2017, joined the University of the Pacific's Special Collection's one-day expedition to find and photograph John Muir's sketch sites during his 1895 visit to Hetch Hetchy. But, in the intervening 122 years since Muir's visit, his beloved "Hetch Hetchy Yosemite" has been inundated by the City of San Francisco's O'Shaughnessy Dam and Reservoir, which was finished in 1923. Muir and his Sierra Club fought unsuccessfully for over ten years to stop this invasion of Yosemite National Park and he died soon after the dam was authorized by Congress. We did our best to imagine Muir's "sauntering" route and camping spots which are now covered by a few hundred feet of water.

The day began with smoke from various California forest fires and the temperature was well above 90 degrees Fahrenheit during our five-mile round trip. But, at the foot of Wapama Falls we were rewarded with the discovery of perhaps the exact flat promontory rock where Muir sketched in mid-August, 1895 a scene looking toward what is now the dam.

Note: If you click an image they enlarge and you can scroll through the images.

Our Muir research expedition team with a copy of Muir's drawing made from this spot
My rephotograph of Muir's 1895 sketch view

Entrance Station Welcome
Looking up Hetch Hetchy Valley toward Kolana Rock from the entrance road

Up canyon from the dam

Down canyon from the dam

The trail begins with a tunnel after crossing the dam

Panorama from the foot of Wapama Falls

John Muir's Ghost at the Iron Door Saloon in Groveland

University of Pacific's Special Collections staff discovering Muir's Ghost

Photo of Muir taken at end of his August 1895 saunter from Tuolumne Meadows down to Hetch Hetchy [hanging in Iron Door Saloon]

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Yosemite's Majestic Gaylor and Granite Lakes

Just six hundred feet above the Tioga Pass Ranger Station lies Gaylor Pass which gives you entry to an alpine paradise when the winter snows have receded. In early August 2017, David Witt and I decided to take a break from our previous four hard days of mountain, pass, and dome climbing to enjoy the beauties of Gaylor Peak and Gaylor and Granite Lakes. We had to keep moving ahead of hungry mosquitoes in some spots but we thoroughly enjoyed our day in the Gaylor Basin.

Click any image to enlarge and to scroll throught these photos of our day.