Yosemite Valley... 1971... Edward Abbey article in LIFE


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Trad climber
It ain't El Cap, Oregon
Topic Author's Original Post - Feb 23, 2010 - 06:03pm PT
Way back when, September 3, 1971 to be precise, Life magazine did a special issue called "The Endless Weekend." Along with photos of all the gear you should buy (Gerry Everest sack with Kelty frame 3.5 pounds, $57 and... it was red, white and blue!) and a multi-page article on some wanker climber named John Stannard there was this piece about the degradation of Yosemite Valley. An interesting read almost 40 years later...

Credit: Ihateplastic
Credit: Ihateplastic
Credit: Ihateplastic
Credit: Ihateplastic


Boulder climber
Feb 23, 2010 - 06:34pm PT
A version of that essay is published in The Journey Home as "Return to Yosemite: Tree Fuzz vs. Freaks."

It will be interesting to see how he revised it, assuming the version in the book is a revised version.

Below "A holy place." He writes:

Keep it like it was.

Social climber
Paradise Island
Feb 23, 2010 - 07:05pm PT
Does it make sense to post this article on the Edward Abbey thread instead of starting a new one?

Ideeho-dee-do-dah-day boom-chicka-boom-chicka-boom
Feb 23, 2010 - 07:08pm PT
sinister redolence of Cannabis sativa


Boulder climber
Feb 23, 2010 - 07:11pm PT
Here's a good one.

Instead of let them pluck their banjos and share their hepatitis cigarettes all night long,

the book version has let them pluck their banjos and pass around the hand-rolled hepatitis all night long.

Trad climber
It ain't El Cap, Oregon
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 23, 2010 - 07:57pm PT
BooDawg... I shall place a link over there so people can enjoy it here.

Social climber
Mt Carmel, Utah
Feb 24, 2010 - 05:34pm PT
I would think the version in the Book is Abbey's version, before the editor's of Life toned it down...

Jratimus Maximus

Trad climber
Feb 25, 2010 - 08:00am PT
I spent the spring of 1970 and '71 in the Valley, just another long-haired hippie dope smoking rock climber. We had our campsite ripped off, which I reported to the Rangers. Don Utterback, a LE Ranger in the Valley took my report and treated me well. A few weeks later, while in attendance at a boisterous and late night party, Rangers swept in and busted the party. Don saw me there and said, "Tom, why don't you just go back to your campsite before things get messy here". I appreciated being treated respectfully by him. A few years later, while on my way back east from Yosemite, I stopped by the Ozarks Nat'l Scenic Waterway, a newly formed NPS unit, and paid a surprise visit to Don where he was then stationed. He was nice enough to take the afternoon off and take me down the river in his boat. That was sometime in the mid-'70's. Don went out of his way to be nice to me, even if I was just another hippie rock-bum, and I never forgot his kindness to me. I often wondered what happened to him. A few months ago, after much Internet sleuthing, I located Don where he had retired after his last NPS post at Great Smokey Mtn NP. I was surprised that he remembered who I was. I thanked him for reaching out and being kind to me 40 years ago when I was a 25 yr. old dirtbag climber.

Mckinleyville, Ca
Feb 25, 2010 - 01:29pm PT
That Abbey article is priceless, doesn't matter the editorial nuances of one version or another, the essence is still a diamond. I like how the last paragraph ends with "a holy place". Sorry, but I want to share this:

I miss (love) the physical geography and terrain of the Valley itself. But I still remember the mystical experience of beholding the site of the unfathomably huge walls for the first time. Arriving at the Valley floor; stepping out of the car with some fellow Sierra Club members, though bone-weary from the long friday night drive after another week of high school, I was stimulated and alert by the growing feeling of anticipation. It's fall, and at 1:30 am, the outside air is about 36 degrees. You look up in the sky and the stars are so bright you can imagine hearing them twinkle; it is majestically silent except for a distant muted roaring from legendary waterfalls. The broad black shapes rising up to the sky seem close and the darkness hides their heighth, but you sense something about the scale which you never possibly imagined before. Maybe some moonlight is on the north wall, which drives you crazy with longing to know more of this new vertical universe. I slept very little, from excitement. That feeling of arriving at the big mountains or rocks, to climb, is forever alive in my soul. It is a reason to live.

Mountain climber
East Bay, CA
Feb 26, 2010 - 07:31pm PT
At the risk of getting flogged, I will go out on a limb and say that this article really describes my first valley experience rather well. New to thes state, I had never been and had a few days last August (2009) so I went. I was lucky to find a partner at Tuolumne and got a few nice days in on the rock. But my initial experiences in the valley did not make me want to revisit any time soon. Yes of course the rock is incredible but I was amazed by the sheer amount of people there and the amenities required to serve them. It was really kind of sad and reminded me of the time I made a mistake and took a detour through Yellowstone in July one time.
I'm looking forward to this coming season and erasing that negative initial impression.
Abbey was certainly onto something when he wrote this way back in 1971.

Aug 2, 2012 - 05:41pm PT
Not having a car in the Valley makes all the difference, I have found.

In the late sixties early seventies I drove to Yosemite from the east coast some three times. My time in the Valley was all about the car. Where to put the bloody thing. Dealing with all the traffic.

I have used the train to get to the last seven Facelifts, and it is altogether different. So relaxed. On the spur of the moment I wander over to the bus stop and get a ride in minutes; or I take a nice hike. Any time I want. I can actually look around. Even talk to people.

A story. A couple years ago rain was pouring down when I came out of the showers at Curry. Grid lock. No busses moving anywhere. So I started walking, past all of the stopped cars. Still nothing moving as I neared the Village. I came very close to knocking on this one guy's window and asking, "Can I give you a lift?" Just to be mean.

Ten steps later I fell into a three foot deep hole obscured by all the standing water.
Serves me right for even thinking of doing it.

The Valley needs signs showing a car with a red slash through it.
Mighty Hiker

Vancouver, B.C.
Aug 2, 2012 - 06:08pm PT
Motion seconded. I drive to and from the Valley, but once there, drive as little as possible. (Exceptions made for YCA business, attending weddings, and such.)
Double D

Aug 2, 2012 - 06:17pm PT
Another Rik Rieder nugget!

Aug 2, 2012 - 10:15pm PT
I went to the valley late winter/early spring this year (February and late march), and I think I like it quite a lot that way. Weather was nice this year, no crowds, no people, no cars. It looked more like Tuolumne then the Disneyland that the valley usually is.

We hiked to nevada fall (started late or we would have gone to half dome), imagine being the *only* person on the vernal falls steps under the water fall. It was sublime.

Sauntered into camp four midday on a friday, no cars in the lot, all the sites empty take your pick. While the weather is too unpredictable and days too short for long multi-day stuff and some of the colder facing slabs (glacier point apron) were frozen over, the climbing was sublime, hit up a bunch of five-star moderates and were the only ones on the route, basically unheard of whenever I'm there in the summer without an ungodly starting hour.

Maybe we got lucky with an unusually warm and dry winter/spring, but damn if it didn't let me experience the valley in what I imagine it was before the explosion of tourism.

right here, right now
Aug 2, 2012 - 11:06pm PT
Nice post Mr Plastic!

+1 on the RRider ditty:
You look up in the sky and the stars are so bright you can imagine hearing them twinkle ... The broad black shapes rising up to the sky seem close and the darkness hides their heighth ... Maybe some moonlight is on the north wall, which drives you crazy with longing to know more of this new vertical universe.

Always the majic out there, summoning.

Trad climber
Hodad, surfing the galactic plane
Aug 2, 2012 - 11:15pm PT
rrider- "It is a reason to live."


Damn good reason!!
Spider Savage

Mountain climber
The shaggy fringe of Los Angeles
Aug 3, 2012 - 12:15am PT
Abbey has a terrible attitude. He would have you visit Yosemite once in your life. Very negative. No solutions. Humans are bad.

His writing is valuable as he represents a certain segment of the population and all the complaining is worth considering. Not to follow his advice but to consider engineering to make the world a better place. Abbey complains and runs away to some mountain top to complain some more.

I am the Anti-Abbey. I love the heart of the city and the humanity as much as the mountain meadow and solitude. I've never had trouble finding solitude a plenty, whether in the high alpine places, in Yosemite Valley at 5:30 AM, or on the streets of downtown LA on a lunch break mid week.

MORE: I visit the Valley 4-5 times a year and never have trouble. Never get stuck in traffic. Never have trouble finding a place to stay. Always positive. But it takes more than one visit to figure out how to do this.

Yosemite Valley is cleaner and more beautiful than any time in the last 130 years thanks to smart engineering and good volunteers like all those who participate in the FaceLift.

I think in another 100 years we could get the Valley back to near virgin but with a population of tens of thousands of people moving quietly and knowingly through the paths, up and down the walls and floating through the sky.

Social climber
Aug 3, 2012 - 12:26am PT
He would have you visit Yosemite once in your life.

Well, for someone as perceptive as Abbey, one visit might be all you need.

Mountain climber
Olympia, WA
Aug 3, 2012 - 01:31am PT
I’ve read this article from time to time and always enjoy the memories it brings back. I remember throwing Frisbee for hours in the meadows, those early “bullet” shuttle buses where one could smoke and ashtrays were standard, the real Degnan’s bakery, the gatherings in Stoneman 24/7, sneaking in for tea and cookies at the Ahwahnee, camping on one of the islands at Happy Isles for a whole week without intrusion, and pouring free coffee from pots into water glasses (and a knife) at the lodge cafeteria. We kinda knew how good we had it.

Trad climber
Shawangunks, New York
Dec 4, 2013 - 01:42am PT
That Abbey piece was great, TFPU.
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