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Camping and Mountaineering in Yosemite National Park

Handbook of Yosemite National Park (1921)
by Raymond H. Bailey

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Camping and Mountaineering in Yosemite National Park


By Raymond H. Bailey

Manager of the Camping Tours Department, Yosemite
National Park Co.

Few of us indeed are so well adapted to modern conditions of living that Nature’s call to play Gypsy a while finds no response. There comes a longing to revert to the natural ways of living our early ancestors enjoyed, and to throw off for a time some of the shackles with which civilization has bound us.

Pure, cold, sparkling water, not from a pipe, but from a mountain spring; the murmur and fragrance of the breeze among the pines and fir trees; and the song of birds and the call of the wild creatures of the forest, grip the imagination and are woven in with a desire for recreation and relaxation. Thus a wish is born for a taste of simple living out in the open, away from the haunts of man and free from cares and responsibility.

This wish is quite universal. It finds expression in "Weary Willie" with his tomato can boiling over a cheery fire beside the railroad track, living off the land as he goes. But it also exists in high places. While the rest of the Belgian royal party stopped at the hotel but a few miles distant, Prince Leopold chose to camp out beside Bridalveil Creek, spending the night in a sleeping-bag beneath the pines, gathering firewood, and eating flap-jacks in such numbers as only a growing boy can encompass. Even the apartment dweller, bored with the daily drudgery of the compact and convenient kitchenette, finds delight in her culinary duties as she cooks such delectable dainties as fish, bacon, and browned pancakes over an open fire; and one unaccustomed to the simplest duties at home discovers pleasure in service and the self-reliance which comes with each new task learned while camping.

It is doubtful if there can be found another spot on earth with so many conditions favorable to camping out in the open as are found in the Yosemite National Park and other near-by regions in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. This is where John Muir spent so much of his time, and of which he wrote so beautifully, and after all his world-wide travel he declared that he still loved it the best.

The weather is ideal for camping in the summer and fall—pleasantly warm during the day without being hot, the nights ranging from cool to cold according to the altitude. Day after day is clear, without a cloud in the sky, and the heavens are marvelously bright at night. The freedom from rain is one of the most delightful features, there being no storms for weeks at a time. When they do occur they are usually brief afternoon thunder showers, recurring perhaps for two or three days. Except for a large piece of waterproof canvas for an emergency, little or no provision need be made by the camper against rain; the use of tents for shelter in this region are the exception rather than the rule.

Annoying flies, insects, and other pests are practically unknown with the exception of mosquitoes, which are troublesome in some places only for a short time after the snow has melted from the ground, leaving temporary pools of water in hollows. But even mosquitoes are usually lacking or can be avoided in choosing a camp site.

The air is invigorating, and water, abundant everywhere, is crystal clear and icy cold. The many mountain streams and lakes throughout the park, teeming with trout, make a fisherman’s paradise.

Virgin forests of pine, fir, cedar, and scores of other species, dotted with flower carpeted meadows, extend to the slopes of the rugged snow-capped peaks which beckon to those below to come upward and enjoy the magnificence of the views they command.

Only a very small portion of the park is accessible to the tourist stopping at the hotels and lodges in the Yosemite Valley and its immediate vicinity. But the whole park is open to the camper, inviting him to leave the beaten paths and to explore regions seldom visited, to view beauty and grandeur in solitude, to fish where no other fisherman has just preceded him, and to enjoy the pleasures of camping in lovely spots at will, without schedule, and without a thought of the outside world which seems so far removed.

The Camping Season

The season well suited to camping on the floor of the Yosemite Valley, which is at an elevation of about four thousand feet, usually extends from May to October, inclusive. April and November are often delightful, but provision should be made for occasional storms and cold weather. In other portions of the park the camping period is shorter, depending upon the amount of snow on the ground, which, in turn, is dependent largely upon the altitude—July, August, and September being the best months.

During the first of the season there is the greater volume of water which is advantageous for its scenic value but sometimes undesirable for the best traveling and fishing in the higher sections. Wild flowers are in their prime somewhere during all the season, at increasing elevations as the months progress. In fall the coloring is beautiful, the air is crisp and invigorating, and the number of visitors is small. July is the month of greatest travel.

Where to Camp

The Yosemite National Park is one large camping ground. Wherever there is wood and water, and feed if there is stock, there is a potential camp. Trails lead to all parts of the park, and it is a poor trail indeed which does not pass at least one good camping spot every hour or two. Auto roads are fewer but afford many camp sites, especially the Tioga Road, which passes Lake Tenaya, through Tuolumne Meadows, and over Tioga Pass, connecting with the roads to Lake Tahoe on the north and to Los Angeles by way of Owen’s Lake to the south.

The choice of a camping place or camping itinerary is largely a matter of the objectives sought and the time at one’s disposal. If mountain climbing and high alpine scenery is desired, the crest of the High Sierra forming the easterly boundary of the park will afford the best in this line. There is hardly a section where excellent trout fishing is not to be had, but the best near-by points are to the east and northeast of Yosemite Valley, and it is still better farther north where it is less frequented.

As a fixed camp or auto camp, Tuolumne Meadows is unusually well located, there being innumerable lakes, streams, waterfalls, peaks, and varied points of interest within a day’s walking distance. Rodgers Lake is probably the gem of the park, and is noted for its splendid fishing as are also Benson Lake and Matterhorn Creek, near by.

The Northerly portion of the park is least frequented because farthest from the Valley, but it is rugged and interesting, and well worth while for the one who has three or four weeks to spend.

How to Go

There are about as many gradations in the manner of camping as there are campers. At one extreme are those who would go light like John Muir, for days with but some tea and a few crusts of bread, or like another mountaineer whose only excess clothing was a single sock, that each of his hard-worked feet might have a change of raiment on alternate days. Then there is the "Tin Lizzie," with parents in the front seat and bulging with progeny in the rear, the back and sides packed and draped with every conceivable household article, Lares et Penates and all, until the identity of the conveyance is completely concealed except for the rattle. The student with a month’s growth toward his first beard, traveling with a donkey, Stevenson fashion, and the luxurious limousine parked beside the Tuolumne River are equally in keeping as types of camping to be found.

The stationary or fixed camp appeals to those whose desire is to be settled in some beautiful spot, to rest, or use the camp as a base for excursions to near-by points of interest. As the transportation of equipment and supplies is simplest on this kind of an outing, the amount of comfort and luxury which may be indulged in is a matter of personal taste. In the Yosemite Valley, beside the Merced River, are a number of camping places, some for autoists, and others for those without machines, prepared by the Government with piped water and sanitation provisions, and assigned to campers at the office of the Park Superintendent. The Tuolumne Meadows are also particularly well suited to camping in a fixed spot for those who wish to loaf or fish or to make side trips to the many near-by points of interest.

But in order to see much of the park it is necessary to move camp from place to place. The most independent and least expensive means of travel is afoot, carrying the total camping equipment and provisions on the back. This is enjoyable for good walkers with strong backs, but should not be attempted by any not wishing strenuous, hard work. Those carrying their own loads should observe the Rule of I. 0. U.—Inches, Ounces, and Utility—discarding all but the real necessities, for a pack which feels light in the morning grows very heavy before the day’s tramp is done, and robs such a trip of much of its pleasure

Many enjoy walking on the trails who do not wish to be burdened with carrying their outfits. Burros and pack mules may be used for this purpose. Only animals accustomed to mountain trails and broken to packing should be taken, as other animals are likely to prove useless, if not dangerous, on the trails. If there are but one or two pack animals it is usually advisable to tether them out with long ropes so as to keep them from wandering away from camp. The best stand of grass should be selected, as free from trees and snags as possible, and the animals shifted to new locations at frequent intervals, as it takes considerable green feed to keep a working animal in condition. If there are several animals, it is customary to hobble a mare, or one or more of the more adventuresome animals, and place bells on others to help locate the band. Grain need not be taken for the animals if care be exercised in selecting camps where the food is good, but a little grain fed the first morning or two is often helpful in keeping the stock near camp.

About every second or third year the park is visited for its annual outing by the Sierra Club, a conservation and mountaineering organization which has taken a leading part in the preservation of the forests and other natural features of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and in the development of National Parks. Approximately for the whole month of July, about two hundred of its members and friends walk from camp to camp, some ten to fifteen miles a day, the commissary and transportation of the entire outfit being provided by the organization. This is a delightful way of camping in the park, inexpensively and relieved of all cooking and packing.

Riding horseback, with pack animals to transport the outfit over the trails, is still another way of camping out, and a most delightful way of getting about the park with the greatest amount of comfort. Care should be exercised to take only saddle animals and pack animals which are accustomed to mountain trails, and double cinch saddles are advisable. If it is desired to lighten the work of such a trip, this can be done by engaging a guide, packer, or cook, or the whole trip may be arranged, outfitted, and conducted by the Camping Tours Department of the Yosemite National Park Co., which also conducts certain definitely scheduled camping trips which anyone may join.

Automobile camping is becoming very popular, and when the new highway is completed into Yosemite Valley will undoubtedly increase very greatly. But as yet it should be understood that although the roads are very good of their kind, still they are mountain roads, steep and rough in places. They are safe for careful driving and for machines which are in good running order. Brakes should be in first class condition, and two spare tires are advisable. The motor trip from Yosemite to Lake Tahoe by way of the Tioga Road and the Leevining Creek Grade is particularly fine, and there are good camping places along the route.

What to Take

The question of what to take and what not to take on a camping trip is a most important one. To be without real necessities can prove very annoying but to be burdened with a lot of unnecessary things very often mars the comfort and pleasure of a trip. It is well to take just as little as is consistent with comfort, but that little just right, keeping in mind that it is the general tendency to take entirely too much in a desire to play safe. If the means of transportation be knapsacking, the load of necessity must be cut to a minimum, whereas it can be materially increased if carried by pack-train or automobile.

There are a number of good books on the subject of camping which deal in minute detail with such subjects as clothing, personal effects, camping equipment, packing-outfits, cooking utensils, provisions, cooking, selection of camp sites, etc., which will prove quite helpful to a camper. No attempt will be made here to cover these subjects in detail, but a few suggestions as to some items, particularly as related to conditions in this park, may be of service. Since there are so many types of camping, and as no two experienced campers will agree on many details regarding camping, each prospective camper will have to judge of the applicability of the following suggestions to the particular conditions of the trip contemplated.

Clothing should be durable, of medium warmth, and comfortably large. The following list is suggested as suitable for a month’s outing:

2 suits medium weight underwear
2 woolen and 1 cotton shirt (or waists)
6 prs. socks or stockings (medium to heavy)
1 outing suit or old business suit
1 extra pair trousers, riding breeches, or skirt of khaki, corduroy, or whipcord
1 sweater
1 pair stout walking shoes with puttees or leggings (or light boots, if preferred)
1 pr. comfortable light shoes for camp
1 pr. gloves or gauntlets
1 soft felt or cloth hat with fairly wide brim
2 bandannas and 3 khaki handkerchiefs
1 pr. flannelette pajamas

For riding or hiking, riding breeches are most commonly worn by women, or riding habits if much time is to be spent in the saddle. Short skirts, however, but a few inches below the knee, and worn with shorter knickerbockers of the same color, are suitable for general wear if preferred.

Special care should be taken to have comfortable, good-fitting shoes, and it is well if possible to break them in before starting on a trip. Shoes with broad toes and low, flat heels, of the Munson type of last, with soles heavy enough for cone-headed Hungarian nails, are good for trail work and mountain climbing But avoid crowding the soles with nails, as too many result in a poorer grip than none at all; and there should be no nails in the shoes for riding. If shoes a half size larger than usual are worn with two pairs of socks, one medium cotton and one heavy woolen pair, friction is reduced, and there is less danger of blisters. When the feet become toughened, if two pairs of socks prove uncomfortably warm, one may be discarded by using cork inner soles.

Heavy, high boots are to be avoided if much walking or climbing is to be done, but stout-soled, light-topped, ten- or twelve-inch boots, just high enough to hold the trouser legs, are particularly good. Appearance is sacrificed, but greater freedom of movement is obtained than with high boots or with riding breeches, shoes, and puttees.

Basket-ball or similar shoes with heavy rubber soles are good for smooth rock surfaces, comfortable for camp use, and are used almost exclusively by some hikers for all-around service.

As ordinary shoe laces wear out quickly on walking trips, it is well to take an extra pair, or better still, some buckskin laces. If ice work is to be encountered, a set of baseball cleats screwed to the soles of walking shoes is good, but unless this kind of climbing is particularly sought on some of the glaciers, there is no need of them in this park.

Although generally there is very little use for a rain-coat, a very light weight one is occasionally handy in the event of a storm, and a bathing-suit is also convenient on occasion.

Personal effects are likely to become burdensome unless care is taken to eliminate all but the truly useful ones. A very few toilet articles will suffice. Watch, knife, and compass are very useful, and one should never be out in the mountains without a map and matches. With the one there is very little likelihood of becoming lost, and with the other comparative comfort may be enjoyed even if caught out over night. Many a person has experienced inconvenience, anxiety and discomfort, if not danger, because of trusting to someone else to carry these very necessary articles.

An excellent Topographic Map of Yosemite National Park is published by the U. S. Geological Survey, and may be obtained by remitting 25 cents by money order or cash to the Director of the United States Geological Survey, Washington, D. C. The map is 28 1/2 by 27 inches; the scale approximately 2 miles to the inch; and the roads, trails, and names are printed in black, the streams and lakes in blue, and the relief in brown, indicated by contour lines representing 100-foot intervals. This same map, folded and bound between paper covers, may be obtained by remitting cents. It will not stand a great deal of usage without tearing along the creases, but the flat map selling for 25 cents may be mounted in durable form convenient for carrying in the pocket by cutting it into sections along the lines indicating each io minutes in latitude and longitude, and pasting these sections 1/4 inch apart on muslin of a little closer weave than cheesecloth.

The U. S. Geological Survey also publishes a Map of Yosemite Valley, 35 x 15 1/2 inches, scale 2000 feet to the inch, with 50-foot contour intervals, which will be mailed upon remittance of 10 cents in coin. This is a splendid large-scale map of Yosemite Valley and its immediate vicinity, but does not cover the rest of the park.

These maps may also be purchased in Yosemite (by personal application, but not by mail) at the office of the Superintendent of the park or at the general merchandise store.

Tinted glasses are often useful for relieving the eyes from the glare of the sun on the rocks, and quite indispensable on glaciers or large snow fields. A pedometer, adjusted to the length of one’s step, is good for approximating the distance traveled in walking. A small electric flashlight or the smallest size acetelene camp light or some type of folding candle lantern comes in very handy at times. If mosquitoes should be encountered, a bar of mosquito netting or a small vial of oil of citronella (repellent) might not come amiss. Stout twine is often in demand.

Adhesive tape rivals the safety-pin as "handy man" about camp. By applying it to the portion of the foot where soreness first begins to manifest itself, a blister usually can be avoided, and it is good for holding gauze or wrappings in place. Tape may be used to secure the cover on an opened can, seal the holes in a can of milk, patch a cracked watch crystal, effect hasty repairs to clothing, and accomplish many original acts which readily suggest themselves.

Take no fire-arms, as hunting is prohibited in this park, but be prepared with finishing tackle, for trout are plentiful. California Royal Coachman, and Gray and Brown Hackle flies with peacock body, are universally good, and many others do well according to the local conditions. Numbers eight and ten are the sizes generally used. The necessary State Fishing License may be secured in Yosemite. The daily catch of trout is limited to twenty fish, providing, however, that in no event may more be caught than are to be used. It is hardly necessary to suggest a camera and and ample supply of films for a trip into a region of such beauty and magnificence.

Sleeping equipment is a most important consideration, since about a third of one’s time is spent in bed. The type of bedding is largely a matter of choice, but as experienced campers differ materially as to the best, more than one will be mentioned. All bedding material is best if dark in color, so as not to show the dirt. Three wool blankets of about five pounds each are ample for cold nights in the higher altitudes, and two are sufficient for usual needs. A 10-ounce canvas about seven feet square when folded will serve as a ground cloth and also an extra covering. If the blankets are folded lengthwise and sewed along the bottom and side, or fastened with large safety pins or small blanket pins, this sleeping-bag will give greater warmth and comfort. The canvas may also be made into a bag.

The following quotation from an Outing Announcement of the Sierra Club describes a lighter weight sleeping outfit recommended for use in this region: "This should consist of a sleeping-bag made by doubling two wool comforts, so as to give the bag the greatest length, and sewing securely across the bottom and two thirds of the way up the side. This bag should be lined and covered with gingham or sateen, which should project a foot or two beyond the top as a loose flap. The wool comforters may be sewed up into separate bags as indicated, and one lined and the other covered. One bag can then be slipped inside the other for ordinary, use and removed easily for knapsack trips where economy of weight is desirable. A tall person will require extra length comforters. Blankets are too heavy and cotton comforts are not desirable. A waterproof sheet or covering at least six by six feet should be taken. Canvas and the ordinary rubber blanket are entirely too heavy for this purpose. The most serviceable and satisfactory material is waterproof silk (balloon silk). It is strong, durable, perfectly waterproof, and very light. A piece five yards in length, cut in half and sewed together along one side, will make a large sheet that will protect the sleeping bag from the ground and form a covering as well."

One thick lamb’s wool batting comforter is lighter and has about the same warmth as two ordinary wool comforters, and an eiderdown quilt is still lighter for the same amount of warmth but not so serviceable. If a sleeping-bag is used it should be so made that it is capable of being aired easily. Should the bedding prove inadequate for the coldest nights, a hot-water bottle, heated rock, a pair of soft woolen bed socks will probably solve the difficulty by keeping the feet warm. A small down cushion makes a very light but comfortable pillow. Air cushions are less comfortable but more convenient.

Suitable packing equipment adds to the comfort and convenience of a camping trip. A hiker’s whole outfit may be rolled up inside sleeping-blankets and carried over one shoulder, but it is preferable to use a pack-sack or pack-harness for greater convenience and comfort, and in order to secure a better distribution of the load; this permits of the use of a light-weight sleeping-bag which is much warmer for its weight than blankets. Even for carrying lunch and other light articles on the trail, a small knapsack or rucksack with straps over both shoulders is much more comfortable and permits greater freedom in walking than a bag carried on but one shoulder.

In packing animals, the use of coal-oil boxes (the cases in which two five-gallon cans are shipped) slipped into kyacks or strapped in canvas slings, greatly facilitates the packing of provisions or equipment without danger of injury from pressure of the pack ropes. Dunnage bags of stout canvas three feet long and eighteen inches in diameter (when packed) are very convenient for packing sleeping equipment and personal effects.

A pocket roll is most useful in packing and carrying one’s effects. Again quoting from the Sierra Club’s Outing Announcement, a description for a pocket roll follows: "It should be made of denim or drilling, as follows: A piece three feet square is first taken as a back, and three box-plaited pockets, each of a foot deep, and one above the other and extending the entire width, are securely sewed to the back and bound with tape. The upper pocket can be divided into three divisions to hold small articles. All these pockets can be closed with flaps or tied with tapes. Into this roll all one’s belongings except bedding can be packed, and it can be arranged with eyelet and cord, and hung to a tree when in camp."

As cooking utensils are bulky and hard to pack at best, care should be taken to have them of convenient shape and size, and nesting one inside the other as far as possible. Some of the kettles at least, should be of granite or enamel ware, so as to render them safe against acid while cooking or holding certain fruits. or vegetables. Tight-clamped covers for these kettles will make it possible to carry such foods from one camp to another. Nesting ten- or twelve-inch galvanized buckets are handy for cold water, hot water, and dishpan. Be sure there is an extra can opener.

Fireless cooker, Dutch oven or folding reflecting oven, shovel, and axe, are all good if consistent with the means of transportation, but none are necessities. Some type of folding stove, grate, or fire irons is very convenient, and a great time-saver when shifting camp often. Two iron bars 1/4 inch by 1 inch by 3 feet long, having riveted to each end folding legs of the same material 15 inches long, pointed at the ends, make a very good set of fire irons when driven into the ground about 5 inches apart at one end to hold the smaller cooking utensils, and about 8 inches at the other end for the larger ones.

Provisions should not as a rule include many canned goods containing a large percentage of water unless the transportation is a minor consideration. Dried fruits and vegetables go much farther for their weight and bulk. It is well to plan for variety in the diet, as this can be done with a little thought without increasing the weight or expense. Small cloth bags are good for packing broken package- or bulk-goods, for paper sacks will soon go to pieces.

On a camping trip one craves sweets and fats much more than normally. One quarter pound per day per person is about the average amount of sugar used. Jams and jellies and an abundance of dried fruits go well. Bacon is the regular stand-by, and ham comes next. An average use of bacon and ham (principally bacon) is about one fourth to one third pound per day per person if used freely. If the grease is saved for frying fish and hot cakes, making gravies, etc., little lard or other fats need be taken for shortening and cooking. Hot cereals for breakfast and tea as a beverage are generally liked, even by those who seldom care for them at home. Beef extract, bouillon cubes, and powdered soup are convenient as soup stocks.

Butter as now packed in convenient one-pound tins cannot be distinguished from the fresh, and there is now some very successful powdered milk in grades from skimmed milk to cream. While not quite so instantaneously available for use as canned milk, it is much lighter and less bulky, and is generally preferred to canned milk because of a more natural flavor.

About five pounds per day per person is considered a normal allowance of provisions if they include those which are watery and bulky, while just about half that amount is sufficient if the foods are all concentrated such as would be suitable for a knapsack trip.

What can be Supplied in Yosemite

A tourist or "dude," as more frequently designated by the guides and packers, may come to Yosemite with never a thought of camping out and, if the notion suddenly appeals to him, either purchase or rent everything essential for a comfortable camping trip. The Yosemite National Park Co., operating under concession from the Government, conducts several departments which will be of service to a camper, and all rates and prices will be found reasonable, being controlled and authorized by the Government.

The General Merchandise Store carries a good line of outing clothes and shoes suitable for camping, cooking utensils, supplies, and a large stock of provisions. It has on sale the folded map of Yosemite National Park previously mentioned, fishing tackle, And the necessary State Fishing License. A limited stock of provisions may be obtained from some of the lodger, in the park outside of the Valley.

The Housekeeping Department can supply a part of any number of persons with a full camping outfit including tent, bedding, furniture, cooking utensils, etc., for a fixed camp in Yosemite Valley, set up ready for housekeeping.

The Camping Tours Department serves those who wish to move from place to place while camping out. Guides, packers, cooks, saddle-animals, pack-animals, and packing and camping equipment can be furnished those wishing to manage their own camping trips. All-Expense Camping Tours at a fixed daily rate per person are planned, arranged, and conducted for parties desiring exclusive service for saddle trips independent of schedules, but wishing to be relieved of all personal responsibility of management and to be able to start on the trail carefree and without loss of time. All riding and packing stock, attendants, sleeping and cooking equipment, and provisions, are included in the charge—in fact everything necessary for a complete and comfortable camping trip except one’s clothing and personal belongings. A number of definitely scheduled All-Expense Camping Tours of from two days to two or three weeks are organized and conducted during the summer for any individuals who may wish to join such parties. A booklet telling of the trips and various activities of the Camping Tours Department may be secured from the Yosemite National Park Company. Photographic supplies may be obtained at the numerous studios in the Valley. Yosemite is well able to equip an unprepared camper with all the necessities for a trip, but should there still remain some articles he may desire, they can be secured quickly and conveniently by parcels post.

There are a number of places in the park where one may secure information regarding camping. The National Park Service has an Information Bureau at the office of the Park Superintendent. The rangers in charge are well informed, maps of the park and Valley are on display and for sale, and the official booklet of General Information Regarding Yosemite National Park issued by the Department of the Interior is there for distribution. The Park Service also maintains a free Nature Guide Service with headquarters in the Government Administration Building in Yosemite. The transportation offices in the various hotels, lodges, and camps, are also prepared to impart information.

The Sierra Club maintains the LeConte Memorial Lodge in Yosemite Valley, and the Parsons Memorial Lodge in the Tuolumne Meadows, where maps and books pertaining to the park are available, and information may be obtained from those in charge. Rangers stationed at various points throughout the park can also be of assistance to campers, and their ’phones are available in case of need.

On the Trail

Before starting on the trail be sure that all fires have been carefully extinguished, and that the camp site has been left clean and inviting for the next camper. The value of an early start to get the most pleasure out of a day’s travel can hardly be overstated; if a long day’s journey is to be made it is quite essential. But even for a short trip, traveling is at its best in the cool of the morning, stopping along the trail may then be indulged in without a sense of hurry, and an early camp can be made in time to fish, swim, loaf, or explore around camp during a part of the afternoon.

Whether walking or riding it is well to start out at an easy pace, increasing it gradually until muscles are limbered and breathing comes easily. Many have a tendency to tire themselves or their animals out during the first hour of travel by exhausting too much of their energy at the start. Endurance at a moderate gait throughout the day is what counts, rather than a speed which cannot be maintained. As a rule it will be found that it does not pay to take steep shortcuts on an up-grade; while saving a trifle in time at the moment as against the longer but easier grade, the additional effort and resulting exhaustion usually more than offset the temporary gain. Excessive drinking of the icy cold water of the mountain streams and lakes is to be avoided when one is hot, as it often brings on illness. Drinking small amounts at frequent intervals can be done with safety.

Most of the trails in the immediate vicinity of the Valley are very well made, and junction points are usually marked by sign boards. Farther into the mountains of the park, where there is less travel, not so much attention has been paid to easy grades or marking of junctions, but with the aid of the topographic map little difficulty is experienced in following any of them.

Except in occasional obscure places, trails in common use are clearly evident by the slight depression worn in the ground. But sometimes in rocky places, meadows, or forests where the ground is thickly strewn with litter, or when the ground is covered with snow, the path underfoot is not distinguishable. To provide against such contingencies, trails are generally indicated by a continuous series of easily recognized marks within sight of each other.

In the forest, the marks are blazes on trees close to the trail, a blaze being a cut through the bark exposing a surface of the lighter colored sapwood. Blazes are cut in various shapes, many trails being marked by those having the form of the letter "T." In rocky places trails are usually indicated by several rocks piled one on top of the other, commonly known as "ducs," "monuments," or "cairns." In meadows, stakes or ducs are sometimes set along the trail if the trail is not marked where it leaves the meadow.

By referring occasionally to the Topographic Map of Yosemite National Park, which no camper should be without, the proper trails at junction points are easily ascertained; and if doubt exists at any time regarding a trail, it may be dispelled by checking its course with that of the trail indicated on the map. In this connection it may be well to make a few suggestions as to how to read this map, for those not accustomed to the use of a topographic map.

Names, roads, trails, boundary lines, etc., are shown in black, and lakes, rivers, creeks, etc., in blue, as on ordinary maps; but the brown figures and lines indicate elevations. Each brown line shows the contour of the land at its particular elevation above sea level, and the space between lines represents an interval of one hundred feet in elevation. At intervals of each five hundred feet above sea level is a heavy brown line with figures every now and then showing its altitude. The elevation of any point may thus be determined by following the contour line passing through it, back to the nearest figures in the heavy brown line next below it in elevation, and then adding one hundred feet for each space separating these lines. The exact elevations of principal peaks, lakes, and other points of interest are also indicated by brown figures.

The spacing, position, and form of these brown lines tell at a glance the story of the topography of the country. If they are spaced far apart, the land between them slopes gently, while if they are close, together a steep slope is indicated. The form the lines take and their relation to each other indicate the form and nature of the landscape. The size and shape of a mountain, ridge, spur, etc., are indicated, and the position shown as related to other features of the landscape and to the points of the compass. It will be noticed that a contour line in crossing a canyon forms an angle which invariably points upstream, thus indicating at a glance the direction in which the stream flows. A little study will reveal many such short-cuts for reading the features of the map rapidly, so that with a little use, the map will picture the country in relief at a glance.

Trails may then be left if one wishes to cut across country, as it is known in advance what will be encountered in the way of canyons, ridges, passes, etc. But it must be remembered that the map does not show the surface characteristics of the country. A steep mountain side which may be easy traveling if it affords good footing in a forest, may present difficulties ties if it proves to be a mass of broken rock, or may be impassable if it is a smooth granite slope. For this reason it is usually inadvisable to attempt to take horses off the trail into unknown territory, but afoot one can usually find some way around most obstructions.

But before leaving a trail be sure that you have the points of the compass well in mind in relation to the direction in which you are to travel, so that if you should have any difficulty in retracing your steps, the map and compass may be brought to the rescue. In order to square the map accurately with the compass it must be borne in mind that the magnetic north is about sixteen degrees east of the true north in this park, so that while the north and south line of the compass should be parallel with the north and south line of the map, the magnetic needle should be pointing sixteen degrees east of north. With the map spread out horizontally and the top thus pointing accurately to the north, it is usually easy to find one’s location at any time providing a view of some known object can be obtained. By sighting across the position of an object on the map to the object itself, a line is found passing through one’s location, and the intersection of two such lines will definitely establish one’s position on the map.

In Camp

If a comfortable trip is sought, try to make camp early enough to permit of some leisure without having to rush to prepare camp and get dinner before dark. In selecting a camp site a number of considerations enter in. Convenience to a sufficient supply of good Wood and water perhaps come first. As no standing timber, living branches, or shrubbery are allowed to be cut in the Park, dead wood must be depended upon entirely for fuel. For cooking purposes, limbs from one to two inches in diameter usually give best results, with smaller branches for kindling of quick, small fires. If such wood is not found on the ground it is often obtained by breaking the lower dead branches from living trees. This wood is dry even when that laying on the ground may be damp, and being usually brittle, it breaks readily into lengths by striking it against a rock, so that an axe is seldom necessary. An abundance of good feed should be near by for the animals.

Seek level, dry spots for sleeping quarters. The edge of a meadow, although apparently dry in the daytime, is likely to prove damp and cold at night, while a few steps distance into the forest or an elevation a few feet higher will generally secure a dry spot which will be many degrees warmer. Where pine needles are available, a pile of them spread out and used as a mattress will add greatly to the warmth and comfort of the bed. Should mosquitoes be encountered near a meadow, lake, or other spot where there is standing water, they can often be avoided by pitching camp a short distance away on higher ground or on a running stream. It is seldom necessary to seek shelter from wind unless camping in a draw or near a high mountain pass, but it is well to determine the prevailing direction of even a slight breeze so that the fire may be built where the smoke will blow away from camp rather than toward it. The location of the camp with relation to the fishing, view, mountain climbing, convenience for side trips, or such other objectives as may be sought, will readily suggest itself. A tent is not often needed as shelter against storms, but is desired by some for convenience as a dressing room and place for storage. However, it is advisable to have a waterproof fly or canvas of some sort for use in case of rain, and each individual should have a waterproof covering of some-kind for his bedding.

Too much emphasis cannot be laid on the necessity of selecting safe places for cooking fires or camp fires. The danger of causing a disastrous forest fire is constantly present unless every possible precaution for prevention is taken. Usually a sandy or gravelly spot is conveniently at hand, and if not, it often can be made by scraping away the surface covering of pine needles or leaves from an area several feet in diameter. But if the forest floor is thick and does not expose a surface free from roots or leaf-mold, it is unsafe, as a fire will often smolder in such material for hours or even days under the surface before coming to a blaze. A fire just large enough for one’s wants requires the least fuel, is least likely to spread, and is the easiest to extinguish upon departure. If no camp stove or fire-irons are brought, flat rocks with straight edges often can be found, and quite a satisfactory fireplace may be built with parallel sides about six or eight inches apart and three or four feet long. A little piece of candle is often helpful in lighting a fire if small kindling is scarce or the wood is damp.

In frying trout more can be cooked in the pan if the heads are removed, and severing the backbone in several places will prevent a newly caught trout from curling up while cooking. As the heat necessary to boil water is approximately two degrees less for each one thousand feet above sea-level, boiled foods require considerably longer cooking at the higher altitudes. Many canned foods being unsafe when allowed to stand in their tins after opening, it is a good rule to empty all tins of their contents as soon as opened.

It is advisable to make up one’s bed before dark, and to gather enough wood for dinner and breakfast, putting a little kindling in some covered place if dampness during the night seems likely. Covering the food-stuffs will protect them from possible moisture and various small night-prowling animals as well as those which arise with the break of day. Occasionally leather goods such as shoes, straps, and saddles are damaged by small animals at night, unless they are hung up or otherwise put out of reach.

Before leaving camp a little house-cleaning is in order. Make sure that all tin cans, paper, and refuse have been buried or burned, that the water supply has been left clean and free from waste of any kind, that the fires have been extinguished thoroughly, and that no articles have been left behind.


As a rule, mountain climbing in the park is incidental to a camping trip rather than its main objective, for the reason that there are so many splendid peaks which are easily and safely climbed from comfortable base camps. In many of the good camping places well below timberline, visited in the course of an outing, the camper will find himself at such an elevation, and so close to the base of some peak, that it is a simple matter to make the ascent and return to the camp in a single day’s trip. Although many peaks rise to an altitude of about thirteen thousand feet above sea-level, no one mountain of the park stands out in isolation, towering preŽminently above its fellows and thus inviting the special attention of the mountaineer. By this it is not to be inferred that the peaks do not stand out from one another sufficiently to command splendid views, for many of them offer magnificent panoramas of forests, lakes, and snow-clad peaks as far as the eye can reach, and are more than worthy of the slight effort usually required to reach them. But instead of rising alone and from a low altitude they are usually found in groups or in a chain, and commence to rise as individual peaks from a high base altitude.

Sierra Characteristics

The Sierra Nevada Range is a huge block of the earth’s crust tipped so that it rises very abruptly along its eastern edge, but sloping gently toward the west. The apex of this block forms the crest of the High Sierra which serves as the eastern boundary line of the park. The predominating rock is granite, varied now and then by some other formation such as the metamorphic rock of Mt. Dana and Mt. Gibbs. It is generally characteristic of the peaks that-their east and north faces are precipitous, while they slope more gently toward the south and west. Glacial action is strongly in evidence in polished surfaces, carved domes, scoured canyons, and moraines. A few small residual glaciers still remain on the protected northern slopes of some of the higher peaks, where they have cut precipitously walled cirques or amphitheaters well into the mountain sides almost to the very summits.

True alpine conditions of climbing are not often encountered in the High Sierra unless deliberately sought, and alpen-stocks and ropes are very seldom required. Forests extend well up the slopes of many of the peaks, the timberline generally being about ten thousand or eleven thousand feet. Usually but few large snow fields are found after the middle of July, even at the highest altitudes, but there are often patches in sheltered places or where the drifts have been heavy. Practically all of the principal peaks. of the park can be climbed, many of them calling for no special requirements except an early start, endurance, and care to avoid dislodging loose rocks. Some present an element of danger toward the top if the summits are shattered into large blocks difficult to get over or around, and require a steady nerve, and a little skillful and careful rock work.

Near-by Yosemite Peaks

Climbing to the points and peaks about the rim of the Valley may hardly be considered mountaineering, since many of them may be reached by well-built trails all or most of the way, but as some of them command excellent views of the Valley or its surroundings they are worthy of mention in this connection. Glacier Point is probably the finest viewpoint of this kind, affording a good bird’s-eye view of the eastern end of the floor of the Valley and a splendid panorama of the High Sierra peaks. It is connected with Yosemite Valley by a steep footpath, two horse trails, and an automobile road. Sentinel Dome, about a mile and a half to the southwest, permits of a wider outlook on the high mountain country, while Taft Point, Crocker Point, Stanford Point, and other points along the beautiful Pohono Trail present intimate views of Yosemite Valley from various angles along its southern rim.

From the north and west the Valley may be viewed to advantage from North Dome, Yosemite Point, Eagle Peak, and El Capitan, the most sweeping panorama being that obtained from Eagle Peak. The most varied view to be had from such a low elevation is that from Sierra Point, a climb of about a thousand feet on a footpath starting from the Vernal Falls Trail opposite the Happy Isles. The Vernal, Nevada, Illilouette, and Upper and Lower Yosemite falls may all be seen from. this one spot.

Clouds Rest (9924 feet) and Half Dome (8937 feet) command excellent views of Yosemite Valley from the east, and magnificent panoramas of the High Sierra. There is a horse trail almost to the very summit of Clouds Rest and to within about 1000 feet in elevation of the top of Half Dome. The last four or five hundred feet of this latter climb is quite unique, requiring the use of the arms as well as the legs, there being two parallel steel cable handrails where the surface of the rock is so steep that it is impossible to climb afoot unaided.

High Sierra Peaks

There are dozens of mountains in the Yosemite National Park twelve thousand or thirteen thousand feet in height, and a hundred or two above ten thousand feet, from which wonderful views of the surrounding country are to be had. Only a few of the better known or more accessible ones will be mentioned.

The highest of them, which is also one of the very finest viewpoints and perhaps the most interesting peak to climb, is Mt. Lyell (13,090 feet). It is usually climbed from a base camp nine thousand feet in elevation, where the Lyell Fork of. the Tuolumne River emerges into the long meadow of Lyell Canyon. Making an early start, equipped with tinted glasses to protect the eyes against the snow’s glare, and with the face blackened or covered with grease paint to prevent snow-burn, the climb of five and a half miles to the summit is usually made in four or five hours. Following up the west bank of the stream for a little more, than two miles, the McClure Fork is crossed at the head of a Cascade at the 10,600-foot level. Generally after the middle of July it is quite free from snow up to this point. Then the rock spurs separating the McClure Fork and Lyell Fork, with stretches of a large snow field in between, are followed for a little over two miles more, veering a little to the southeast to the foot of the Lyell Glacier. This small residual glacier, nestling in an amphitheater which it has cut into the northern face of the peak, is about three quarters of a mile long and twice that in width, and is usually almost entirely covered with deeply pitted snow, making rather laborious climbing. At the head of the glacier, where the moving ice has separated from that clinging to the head wall, is a bergschrund, usually open to a considerable depth for the greater part of the width of the glacier. But it is generally filled with snow directly below Lyell’s summit, so that it may be crossed where a long, narrow snow tongue extends well up in between the rugged cliffs. Leaving the snow tongue where it becomes too steep for travel, and climbing up the right hand cliff, the summit is reached after fifteen to thirty minutes of steep rock climbing where care must be taken not to dislodge loose rocks. At times when there is very little snow covering the glacier, the bergschrund is so wide open that it cannot be crossed at the base of the snow tongue. The ascent can then be made up the rock wall from the extreme easterly end of the glacier. A splendid panorama of snow-clad peaks, innumerable lakes, the sources of several rivers, and broad expanses of forest may be seen in every direction—a glorious spectacle never to be forgotten, and a lesson in the geography of the surrounding country which cannot be equalled in any other way.

The customary base camp for climbing Mt. Dana (13,050 feet) is about four miles below the summit, at the 9700-foot level on the little branch of the Dana Fork of the Tuolumne River which originates in the canyon between Mt. Dana and Mt. Gibbs. These two colorful peaks of metamorphic rock stand out in contrast with the neighboring gray granite peaks. This canyon is followed up to within a few hundred yards of the saddle between these two mountains, at an elevation of 11,500 feet. Although it is rather rough traveling in some places, horses may be ridden to this point. There is then something over a mile of simple, but rather arduous, climbing to the northwest, over heaps of roughly piled and often loosely balanced rocks. To the usually fine scenery witnessed from a mountain top there is here added a view of the interesting Mono Craters and the beautiful blues of Mono Lake to the east, and a display of the extensive Tuolumne Meadows to the west.

Another mountain in the main crest of the range from which a wide outlook may be obtained is Mt. Conness (12,556 feet), a rugged and imposing peak, but very easily climbed. A horse trail leads nearly to the top from a lovely base camp at Young Lake about four miles to the southwest.

Mt. Hoffmann (10,921 feet) generally climbed from the south, is comparatively isolated and affords a view very well worth while. Cathedral Peak, Unicorn Peak, Echo Peak, and Columbia Finger, a group of peaks to the south of Tuolumne Meadows all approaching eleven thousand feet in elevation, are interesting ascents for experienced climbers. In each case the climb is simple to within a short distance of the top, where the fractured rocks of the summit require a steady nerve and some very careful rock work to avoid a misstep which would be fraught with danger.

Colby Mountain (9700 feet), near the Ten Lakes Basin, commands a view of the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, a magnificent gorge which affords a very interesting but strenuous four or five day knapsack trip from Tuolumne Meadows to Hetch Hetchy Valley.

To the south of Merced Lake is Mt. Clark (11,506 feet), presenting a very clear-cut and regular profile. against the skyline. It stands out at the end of a long spur, commanding a good view of the south-easterly portion of the park, but it is not very often climbed because rather difficult and far from a convenient base camp. The ascent may be made from the northeast with the final climb along the southeast knife edge.

The highest peak in the Yosemite region, Mt. Ritter (13,156 feet), is just outside of the park boundary, about five miles in a direct line southeast of Mt. Lyell. The climb is made up a steep rock chimney on the west side, or across the head of the glacier from the southeast if approached from the Shadow Lake side. It is considered one of the more difficult mountain climbs, but has its reward in a wonderful view of the watersheds of the North Fork and Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River.

There are scores of other high mountains, well worthy of the effort of the climber because of the splendid view they afford, and there is hardly a camping place in the park but has at least a little peak near by to tempt the one who has the spirit of the ditty: "The bear went over the mountain to see what he could see."


Boy Scouts of America. 1919. The Official Handbook for Boys. (Boy Scouts of America, New York) 496 pp., illus.

Chase, J. Smeaton. 1911. Yosemite Trails; Camp and Pack-train in the Yosemite Region of the Sierra Nevada. (Houghton-Mifflin Company, Boston and New York) 354 pp., illus.

Kephart, Horace. 1918. Camping and Woodcraft: A Handbook for Vacation Campers and for Travelers in the Wilderness. (The Macmillan Company, New York.) vol. i.: Camping, 405 pp., illus., vol. ii.: Woodcraft, 479 pp., illus.

King, Clarence, 1902. Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada. (Chas. Scribner’s Sons, New York.) 378 pp., (Yosemite on pp. 165-190).

Le Conte, J. N., 1907. The High Sierra of California. Amer. Alpine Club. Publ., vol. i., No. 1, 16 pp., illus.

Muir, John. 1914. The Yosemite. (The Century Co., New York.) 270 pp., illus.

"Nessmuk." 1884. Woodcraft. (Forest and Stream Publishing Co., New York.) 149 pp., illus.

Sierra Club, San Francisco. 1893-1920. The Sierra Club Bulletin; vols. i.-xi., pls., illus.

Taylor, Jay L. B. 1917. Handbook for Rangers and Woodsmen. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York.) 420 pp., illus.

U. S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 1915, The Handbook for Campers in the National Forests in California. (Government Printing Office, Washington, D. C.) 48 pp., illus.

U. S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service. 1917. The National Parks Portfolio. By Robert Sterling Yard, Chief Educational Division, National Park Service. (Superintendent of Documents, Government Printing Office, Washington, D. C.) 260 pp., illus. ( Yosemite section is a separate pamphlet of 24 pages.)
1920. Rules and Regulations, Yosemite National Park (Director of the National Park Service, Washington, D. C.) 80 pp., illus., maps. (Annually revised booklet.)

Williams, John H., 1914. Yosemite and Its High Sierra. (John H. Williams, Tacoma and San Francisco.) 145 pp., illus.

Yosemite National Park Co., 1920. Camping Tours, Yosemite National Park. (Yosemite National Park Co., Yosemite, Cal.) Leaflet dealing with Yosemite Camping conditions and the activities of the Camping Tours Department.

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