There is a misconception that black bears are relatively harmless, at least compared to grizzlies but this is assuredly not the case. This probably stems from size comparisons and the fact that grizzlies are more noted to eat meat as well as plants. The truth is that both can be dangerous and that bears truly do differ between individuals. This can even be in regard to groups of bears and the black bears of Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks are amongst the most aggressive bears in the world. How did this come to be? Well, we taught them to be that way.
Yosemite is one of the first National Parks and certainly one of the first to gain widespread popularity. There was a sizable population of bears and little sense of management of the interaction between the growing number of visitors and the true natives that called the area home long before it became a park. This led to park personnel feeding the bears on a regular basis as a form of entertainment. Bears being smart creatures learned quickly where to find a free and easy meal. Monkey see, monkey do and visitors couldn't be blamed for doing much the same. It led to problems immediately and the park came to realize the danger and implication of feeding the bears but visitors were much slower in making the change. There are people today who probably think there's nothing wrong with feeding wildlife including bears.
Once people stopped feeding them, the bears were still looking for the free food they had become accustomed to. Where else is a bear going to get a bag of potato chips? Bears are very smart and adaptable animals and they learned that food was in cars and soon knew well how to break into cars. They taught their young who taught their young. Yosemite has the biggest problem with car break-ins by bears of any place on the planet and it all stems back to habits they picked up from us feeding them.
By nature, black bears are omnivores and while animal matter makes up only 10-15% of their diet if a person feeds a bear bacon every day for a few weeks he's bound to start looking for more if taken away. We spotted this older bear just off the trail, tearing the bark off a fallen tree to get to the insects within, a typical behavior of a bear in nature. He seemed totally disinterested in us or the good we had in our backpack. That's how it should be and how it would be if people were more careful with their food, their trash, and anything else that might attract a bear. Keep bears wild, healthy and alive. Do not let them get to anything of yours and by all means, do not feed them.
The Yosemite Indians did not have a written language, so through the ages orally passed down stories to explain the world around them. Here is another legend that explains how El Capitan rose from the earth:
Long ago in the Valley of Ahwahnee two cub bears wandered away from their mother. They saw the cool water and went in for a swim. Afterwards, feeling very tired, they fell asleep on a flat boulder near the edge of the lake.
While they slept, the immense rock rose slowly until it towered above them. They were as high as the treetops and clouds.
When the mother bear realized they were gone, she searched and searched but could not find them. Finally, a crane discovered them sleeping atop the huge rock. The mother bear was sure they would awaken and fall to their deaths.
The forest animals wanted to help, but each tried in vane...no one could reach the top of the peak. A small worm came forward and offered to retrieve them. The other animals laughed at this arrogant boast, but the worm began its climb saying, "Too-tack, too-tack, To-to-kon-oo-lah" as he moved up and up the face of the rock.
When the worm was halfway, the massive rock shook--almost dislodging the little worm, but he held on with his front feet. Higher and higher he worked until finally he was atop the rock. All the animal kingdom celebrated! The worm gently coaxed the two cubs down the rock and to safety once again. To note the worm's accomplishment, the rock was named TOTOKONLAH in his honor.
From YOSEMITE INDIANS; YESTERDAY AND TODAY (1941)--Indian Legends by Elizabeth H. Godfrey
Early Yosemite Indians attempted to explain its geologic wonders by weaving beguiling legends about them. By word of mouth, they handed down these stories through the generations. Here is one of them:
A man and woman living in the dry plains heard of the lush and fertile Ahwahnee Valley. They decided to go there to make it their home. They trekked through steep canyons and thick forests; the woman carrying on her back a heavy basket containing acorns and other necessities, plus a papoose carrier. The man followed behind lugging his bow, arrow and staff.
The journey was rugged, but after many days the couple arrived in the Ahwahnee Valley. They were hungry and thirsty. Perhaps because of this, the man lost his temper without provocation and hit the woman across her shoulders with his staff. Frightened, she ran away from her husband.
As she ran the acorns flew from her basket--which later became mighty oaks. Reaching Mirror Lake, the woman's thirst was great, so drank every last drop. When the man caught up with his wife, he could not believe that she had drained the lake of every bit of water. In his anger, he struck her once again.
As she ran, he struck her again and again. She tossed away her basket in order to run faster--this became Basket Dome. Next she threw away the papoose carrier--this became the Royal Arches. The fighting displeased the Gods who decided to teach them a lesson.
(picture #2--Basket Dome)
They transformed the woman into Half Dome and the man into North Dome and although they would have to face each other for eternity, they would be forever parted.
**From YOSEMITE INDIANS; YESTERDAY AND TODAY (1941)--Indian Legends by Elizabeth H. Godfrey
Alpine habitats are sensitive due to their short growing season, and one that's in the dry climate of California is especially in danger of permanent destruction. When I was a child, we particularly enjoyed walking through the grassy meadows, and impulsively picking flowers. Behind the Awahnee Hotel there was a golf course with manicured imported grass. By the time I was a teen in the 1970's, the meadows appeared to be little more than barren pastureland, emptied of the delicate spring blossoms, littered by trash, overrun by ordinary imported weeds, and crisscrossed and trampled by the ruts of shortcut foot trails. Animals species that lived there became endangered, and erosion of the soil was a major problem for Merced River water clarity. Since the purpose of national parks is not essentially recreational but preservation of wildlands, recent efforts to restore the meadows in Yosemite have focused on bordering off foot traffic, removing foreign plant species, and returning the landscape to its pristine original appearance. In the spring, there is a lovely bloom of wildflowers found nowhere else in the world, many of them tiny, complex, and colorful. Examine these many types of flowers very closely, with a magnifying glass if necessary, but don't pick them. Admire the lovely landscape of the meadows with their backdrop of forests and mountains, but stay on the boardwalks, particularly in spring when the new grow can be easily damaged by the foot traffic compaction. Watch for the ground squirrels, rabbits, fox, deer, and other wildlife that feed on the meadows. In the future, hopefully Big Horn Sheep will be reintroduced to the valley. If you want a bouquet of flowers, go to a florist. If you want a grassy place to spread a blanket and picnic, find a city park. Yosemite has too many visitors for it's meadows to handle the traffic. See the link below for a description of the restoration of Stoneman Meadow. Several restoration projects are underway, but there is still much to be done, as shown my these images.
California, and Yosemite in particular are very concerned with containing trash, and so visitors will find distributed throughout the park special containers for collection of glass, aluminum, and plastic beverage bottles. Please use these recycling containers, and contribute, rather than take away from, to the beauty of the park.
According to the guidebook, "The complete Guidebook to Yosemite National Park" here are some "must sees" by region:
*The view of Valley from Glacier Point- view is unforgettable.
*The Nature Center at Happy Isles- hands on exhibits in the summer.
*The panorama view from Tunnel View- geologic evidence seen
*Lower Yosemite Fall in springtime- waterfalls in spring are in full force.
*Hike to Vernal Falls- Great example of all things Yosemite is famous for..
*Walk to Wawana Point
*Mariposa Grove- Giant Sequoias
* Hike in Hetch Hetchy
*Hike to Merced Grove of Giant Sequoias
I've camped in Yosemite 9 times now (but who's keeping count here). Almost every individual, resident or visiting, that I've encountered within the park, take Yosemite almost like their second sacred home. And you should too...
=== 1. Respect the Land ===
That means be responsible with your own trash (and other's trash, if possible), don't walk on marked wilderness restoration areas, and don't carve on trees, don't write on rocks.
=== 2. Respect the Animals ===
Basically, this means don't abuse or feed the animals. They are supposed to be wild, and humans are just visitors in their homes. Feeding the animals only teaches them to rely on humans for food and less on their own hunting instincts. That will only kill them in the long run. If you're camping, lock all food items in the designated food storage lockers. This will also help keep the bears away from roaming your site.
=== 3. Respect the Rules ===
Rules are made for a reason. If you're camping, and quite time begins at 10PM, stop partying and yelling at 10PM. There are other guests that are trying to get rest. During high bear season, follow food storage rules. When driving, if you drive slower than the rest, you should follow an "unwritten rule" which is to pull over at the next pullout area to allow the cars behind you go ahead of you. Responsible drivers help keep the flow of traffic.
Most of the above are simply common sense, and are applicable anywhere, not just in Yosemite. Have respect for the parks and have fun!
Photo Guide of Yosemite National Park, California:
From Ireland to a Dance in Yosemite
Today is what every father and daughter dream about.
Snow falls gently to the earth and we ask each other for a dance.
A dance of love, respect and of life.
A dance that brings tears to your Irish fathers eyes.
A dance of a wedding.
A dance of a father's & daughter's love.
Our beaming is one of joy & love.
You are my heartbeat, you are my life
You are my daughter
I wrote this after meeting the father & daughter and watching them dance at the Mountain Lodge at Yosemite National Park. Jim Hildreth 02/19/2006
Squirrels are everywhere around Yosemite Valley, everywhere. They are cute and shy and sometimes really brave when they see you having a picnic lunch somewhere. You're not supposed to feed them, they are trying to keep them wild and not too tame. It's great fun to watch them!!
Mariposa Grove contains one of the world's largest sequoia groves. These tall trees grow best in the unique climate present in the area. There are about 500 trees here, many of which are over 2,000 years old.
Grizzly Giant is the largest tree in the grove, and the oldest. It is about 200 feet high, which is actually shorter than some of the neighboring trees, and shorter than the famous Generals Sherman and Grant in Sequoia and King's Canyon NP's, but its trunk is more than 30 feet in diameter, which makes it bigger than its competitors in Yosemite.
During the summer, fires often start in the forest areas, either due to the dry conditions or lightning. While many of the California wildfires are considered a dangerous condition, naturally occuring firest are necessary and useful to the forested areas. Fire information is posted on the NPS website and at the visitor centers. If you're heading into the backcountry, it is helpful to check the status of fires in Yosemite as certain trails or areas close when conditions are dangerous.
After watching the climbers for a while, perhaps you'll be intrigued enough by the sport to learn to climb! There are mountaineering and climbing courses tought in Yosemite if you're so inclined. Check out any of the visitor centers within the valley (easy to find) for more information.
Yosemite is home to some of the most famous of big rocks for climbing: Half Dome and El Capitain (El Cap). You'll want to bring your binoculars with you, as you'll find yourself frequently stopping to stare at the sheer cliffs and looking for climbers.
With grand views all around and plenty of trails of all difficulty levels, Yosemite National Park is a fantastic place for a hike. Trails are usually clearly marked and you shouldn't have a hard time finding safe trash canisters (bearproof) to dispose of food and other garbage, however in some of the more remote areas of the park, this is not always the case, so hike with caution. Check out the website below for more information on specific trails and for additional safety tips.
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