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The Old Stagedriver’s Yosemite Yarns (1962) by Laurence Degnan and Douglass Hubbard


HOW THE FIREFALL BEGAN

Firefall
[click to enlarge]

THE OLD stagecoach driver pointed his pipe at the wisp of smoke rising from Glacier Point. “See that smoke? They’re gettin’ ready for tonight’s firefall. Takes a couple of hours for for the fir bark to burn down to embers they can shove over. Want to know how it all got started? Well, nobody remembers for sure but here’s one interestin’ possibility.

“Quite a few years ago, back in the 1870’s, a feller named James McCauley built a hotel (which they’re still usin’) up there on Glacier Point. So’s folks could get up there from Yosemite Valley he and John Conway built the Four Mile Trail. Things were goin’ fine but one night somethin’ went wrong. McCauley had made a blazin’ camp fire out on the point but his guests got cold or didn’t show up for some reason. At any rate it made old Jim pretty sore, after goin’ to all that trouble. Without thinkin’ much he kicked the fire over the cliff.

“Some campers here in the valley happened to be lookin’ up and they saw the burnin’ logs tumblin’ and cascadin’ down the cliff. Later some of them told McCauley what a pretty sight it was and begged him to do it again. Jim saw some possibilities, havin’ an eye for business. When there were folks in the valley he or one of his boys would come down the Four Mile Trail to see if the campers wanted a “private” firefall. If some did they would puff back up and get things ready.

“They had some humdingers, too, with great big burnin’ logs and gunnysacks soaked in kerosene. Now and then just to liven things up a bit they would lower dynamite bombs over the cliff. The McCauley twins, John and Fred, got to keep the money they collected, but they worked hard for it!

“Later on, after David and ‘Mother’ Curry started the Curry Campin’ Company in 1899 Mr. Curry used to call up to the point—he had a powerful voice—‘Let the fire fall!’ and over she’d come. The Yosemite Park and Curry Company’s been doin it almost every summer since though the old folks have all been gone for a long time now.”



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