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Lights and Shadows of Yosemite (1926) by Katherine Ames Taylor


Pi-wy-ack—Legend of Pi-wy-ack, or Vernal Falls

Every year, before the Great Spirit spread his snow-blanket over the Valley of Ah-wah-nee, it was the custom of the Mono tribes to cross the mountains to enjoy the venison feasts with their neighbors. With them came their women, who outnumbered those of the Ah-wah-nee-chees. At one such feast, Wa-lu-lah, a Mono maiden, stirred the fancy of a young warrior of Tenaya’s band. Through all the time of feasting he watched eagerly for the love-sign in Wa-lu-lab’s eyes. But all the love had gone out of Wa-lu-lah’s heart the preceding year when her voice rose in the funeral wail beside the pyre of her dead Mono lover.

When the feast was over, she returned with her father to their Mono home, with never a thought of the Ah-wah-nee-chee warrior.

But her face was ever before him, and his desire grew, till, finally, with the clearing of the trails in the spring, he crossed the mountains to the home of the Monos. There he smoked the peace pipe with the chief of the tribe, Wa-lu-lab’s father.

That night he stole Wa-lu-lah while she slept, and carried her to a bower he had prepared for her, in the home of his tribe. Silent and submissive, knowing it was useless to struggle, she walked before her captor, while hate smoldered in her eyes. Silent and submissive still, she ate the food he brought her.

But no sooner had he taken his place among the braves of Tenaya for the evening meal than, warily as a trout, quietly as a fawn, she slipped out into the forest to the trail which led away from Ah-wah-nee. Swiftly she ran, but scarcely had she passed through the spray of Pi-wy-ack, the White Water, than she heard shouts behind her, and knew that the Ah-wah-nee-chees had discovered her flight.

Nearer they came, and nearer, till upon the edge of the Emerald Pool her pursuers overtook her. With a wild cry she unloosed the canoe which floated in the shadow of the ledge, and with quick strokes paddled to the middle of the stream, where the water ran swift and deep and strong.

Erect, defiant, with her long black hair tossing on the wind, she guided the canoe to the current which glides over the edge of the

Vernal Falls, where the Merced River plunges with steady roar 317 feet. PHOTO BY BEST STUDIO
PHOTO BY BEST STUDIO
[click to enlarge]
Vernal Falls, where the Merced River plunges with steady roar 317 feet
cliff and dashes itself to pieces on the rocks below. And even as the young chief sprang into the icy water, in one last effort to reclaim his stolen bride, the boat slipped over the edge of the cliff, and the spirit of Wah-lu-lah sought refuge with that of her Mono lover with whom she had kept faith.

“I do not know of any place where the tranquil beauty of shadow can be so well seen and felt and studied as in this deep, serene valley. On this unlimited canvas light paints with a mighty brush, in broad half-miles of cobalt and purple and gold and grey. There is continual variety in noting the day-long, quiet changes; continual variety and continual discovery. One may have studied El Capitan and the Sentinel and Half Dome a score of times, and think that one knows them through and through and yard by yard; but the next observation will show some clouding of color or massing of shadow that quite alters your conception. Even the solid outlines seem to change, and a slant of sunlight or a skein of mist will upset the most fixed topographical conclusions.”

J. Smeaton Chase in “Yosemite Trails.”

Groves of Quaking Aspens greet the traveler along Yosemite Trails. PHOTO BY ANSEL ADAMS
PHOTO BY ANSEL ADAMS
[click to enlarge]
Groves of Quaking Aspens greet the traveler along Yosemite Trails


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