Yosemite Valley; ice rink, horses, bikes and swimming pools?


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Charlie D.

Trad climber
Western Slope, Tahoe Sierra
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 23, 2013 - 12:03am PT
Perhaps John and DMT are saying the same thing, the voices that are loudest are the ones heard that will create actionable change. Good observation on how things and events have delivered us to where we are today.

Let me push this discussion further to this relationship of man to nature. Take the "social trails" topic for example. Some creative landscape architects some time back had an idea for how to design the hard scape improvements in a city park such as pathways and gathering places. They convinced their client let's just see how this park is used first before we construct the walkways, picnic areas etc.

What they ended up with was a park that represented the naturally imposed pattern of human activity on nature, the way people would use and enjoy their environment. Basically the social paths ended up as hard scape improvements and no other improvements were necessary.

So this begs the question about how we view ourselves? Do the trails that lead out into El Cap Meadow represent how we as humans relate to our environment like any other species? Certainly deer trails represent where they head for food and safety. Surely we as humans aren't some space delivered alien creature superimposed on the earth. We do however have other motives beyond those of deer that feed our minds and hearts. No doubt what we see as evidence in El Cap meadow and on the walls above is in part how we nourish and sustain ourselves.

So is it inconceivable that El Cap meadow represents harmony between man and nature? The frequent use and the destruction that does occur can be mitigated like any other place in the Valley but why would it not be celebrated like other acts of human achievement and appreciation?

Again your thoughts would be appreciated.

Charlie D.

Spider Savage

Mountain climber
The shaggy fringe of Los Angeles
Mar 23, 2013 - 12:15am PT
There have been many positive changes to the Valley over the last 25 years that I have been frequently visiting.

The engineering that lead to the current trail system around lower Yosemite falls is much better than it has ever been.

Mirror lake was a crappy bald spot. Now it's a pretty nice forest. (the lake was long gone decades ago)

Boardwalks through the meadows are fantastic. (though I've read that the meadows themselves are completely artificial cleared by early settlers for grazing and lumber)

I'd like to see that vector continue.

It is obvious that organizing and enhancing channels of human traffic results in more natural square footage to enjoy.

I could do without that bridge even though it is super nice.

But the swimming pool at the Ahwahnee - No way! It's a dinky little thing anyway. Plus, where will I lie and work on my tan if it's taken out?
Don Paul

Big Wall climber
Colombia, South America
Mar 23, 2013 - 12:33am PT
About these social trails. I went to college at Virgina Tech and in the middle of the campus is the so-called "Drill Field" - a throwback to when it was a military academy, apparently it was for parade drills, the size of several football fields. There are buildings all around it, and people just take the shortest path to where they're going. After time a kind of web of paths developed, so the university PAVED them. Not that I am advocating paving trails in yosemite, but there is something to be said for following natural traffic patterns.

Trad climber
Where the Hoback and the mighty Snake River meet
Mar 23, 2013 - 09:35am PT
Closing the Valley Stables is a great idea. Enough going on down there already, and the rides out of Tuolumne are so much nicer. NPS will still need to keep stock around, but DNC is better based out of Tuolumne for servicing the High Sierra Camps. BTW, I'm not a fan of the way that is run. Too much impact on the trails they use.

The Valley is small enough to tour by foot, bike or bus, really don't need horses.
And riding up and out of the Valley, then back down again with a tourist on your back, sounds like animal abuse to me.

But getting rid of bike rentals? That sounds counter-productive.

And I agree with Jesse about the pool, likely will create MORE impact on the river. Which is pretty impacted as it goes through the Valley anyway.
Keep the pool at the Lodge. (Aren't there 2?)

Captain...or Skully

Mar 23, 2013 - 10:54am PT
I, for one, REFUSE to stay on "the path" provided.

edit: Kath is correct.

Trad climber
Less than a second shy of 49 minutes
Mar 23, 2013 - 11:04am PT
Keep the pool at the Lodge. (Aren't there 2?)

Three. . .



Sport climber
Home away from Home
Mar 23, 2013 - 11:37am PT
A very interesting topic of debate, and Charlie, you pose great questions.

I grew up with The Valley as a childhood playground. I learned how to ice skate on the ice rink at Curry ... very memorable...though I never did skate on it again.
Took my kid on a special trip to stay at the Ahwahnee for his 10th birthday, never knew there was a swimming pool there (because we were busy hiking and on adventures) ... doesn't seem necessary.

The ban on bike rentals and horses just seems idiotic ... a ban on non motorized transportation?!?! Huh???

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Mar 23, 2013 - 11:45am PT
Yeah, great logic - spend a bunch of money, burn up loads of energy, create
lots of noise and dust, create even more trash and landfill to remove something
that is already there and that people enjoy and which doesn't really impact
anything other than some moron's sense of ethics.

Big Wall climber
Crestline CA
Mar 23, 2013 - 01:08pm PT
One of the problems I have had in the past with the NPS, and their plans, is best explained by what happened after the 1997 flood. They closed the upper river campground (among others)saying that it was necessary to let that area return to its "natural state in relation to the river". So what did they do? They immediately used that entire area as a dump for construction wastes and building materials and any old asphalt or concrete they could collect...and there are still piles of the stuff there today! Makes it hard to believe what they say compared to the reality they impose.

I remember last year when some people came by the Bridge surveying the elcap meadow. I talked with them and they said they were just taking some measurements and that here was no plan to mess with the meadow. Now, of course, they want to fence it in and keep visitors out of it. Unlike Stoneman meadow, the ElCap meadow doesn't lend itself to being "saved" by a single boardwalk. Of course there are "social trails" out into the meadow, but those don't damage the meadow to any real extent, as there are vast acres of just grass and trees, animals aren't dying because the land is ruined!! The meadow is actually full of non-native pasture grass planted when there were cattle in the valley. So what are they restoring?? A cattle pasture!!

To me the ElCap meadow is like camp 4. It is a place that climbers come from all over the world to sit in and marvel at the grandure of the great rock and connect in a deeper way with nature. The people should have some place to stand or sit,in the park, that isn't a boardwalk or a paved path... those take us away from nature not make it better for us to understand. There is a place for those paved and boarded paths but not at the expense of closing the ECM. The park service has shown, in the past, that it cares little for places, like camp 4 and the ECM, that are important to climbers... they still have the lingering "climbers??.. Who cares?" attitude when it comes to projects. Camp 4 would be a dormitory today if they had their "plan" enacted. However, there have been some very commendable efforts by the NPS in recent years with the "Climbing Rangers" and volunteer groups employed to do trail consolidation and other valuable projects... so isn't all doom and gloom, as far as we are concerned. All I would like to see is a little broader vision in some of these plans.

The ice rink... who cares? I do like the sugar pine bridge as it has been a place I retreat to late in the evenings to get a view of the Dome and Yos falls and just to watch the night come on.. a beautiful place. But all the bridges below it also restrict the flow of the river, by their very design!! Maddness, maddness!!!!!!!!!!
Charlie D.

Trad climber
Western Slope, Tahoe Sierra
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 23, 2013 - 08:09pm PT
Tom indeed there is a strong connection between C4 & ECM, these places are part of a Valley fabric that has a long and interesting history of use. One wouldn't be the same without the other.

I would also agree there has to be places where you can walk barefooted along the sandy path and simply lay down in the grass. The experience is part of what connects us to the earth, who doesn't feel the power of our planet and the sense of place there in ECM?

To propose fencing this off for the sake of conservation is a contradiction and represents a solution that only denies what is sought. A place to reflect on days long gone, to bear witness to yet another day of light, to dream, to make no small plans or to let them go. This is what we need as a community that inhabits this special place that I would argue is as natural as any of the other occupants.

Thanks for the comments, this has been good food.

Charlie D.


Mountain climber
Olympia, WA
Mar 23, 2013 - 08:39pm PT
Spending a whole day, or several unwatched hours, at ECM and along the banks of the river there, is among the best ways I know to recreate in Yosemite Valley. The sandbars that make up the beaches in summer are a favorite hang for kids, families and adults too. No impact whatsoever to walking and hanging out on those sandbars. Sleeping in the meadow, too, despite being OB, is pretty easy to to do on western fringes. Laying in that grass, even if it is just a pasture, day or night, is as restful as heaven itself.

Closing ECM off to "restore" it is disingenuous. If they were serious about restoration, they would close off and restore the forest that used to be Camp 6. Instead, it is a disgraceful hodgepodge parking area for cars, buses and dumpsters, all within the river floodplain.

As we use to say, "all roads lead to the Village Store." Follow the money. . . .

Trad climber
Shaver Springs
Apr 4, 2013 - 06:04pm PT
Really! Face it Yosemite is the patsy of the Sierra. Keep it dirty enough to need a shower and make sure there is an outlet for your blow-dryer. Life is good the REI, Padagucci and Eddy Bonehead crowd, they get what they want and the want to be seen climbers get what they want.
Please donít get me wrong the valley is packed full of great lines and allot of talent. However, let face it on any summer day 97% of the people in the valley are not climbers.
I for one think as long as the people are getting there managed wilderness on in valley, it keeps other areas of the Sierra free of needed management.

Trad climber
Apr 4, 2013 - 10:33pm PT
Just spent a day on Touchstone Wall in the middle of the heart of Zion NP. Couldn't believe how much more pleasant it was than the equivalent in the valley. Get rid of the cars. No bias against any one user group, and has a bigger positive impact than anything else proposed. If you're willing to take the shuttle bus, fine, do your little ice skating/horseback riding/El Cap Meadow trampling/bolt drilling/whatever.

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Apr 5, 2013 - 12:04am PT
I grew up with the Sugar Pine bridge each summer in Yosemite. It's beautiful, and like mentioned by someone else earlier, offers incredible views of Half Dome. It would make me very sad to see it taken out. It's been there for about 90 years and they are just now figuring out it causes bank erosion?


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