A one-year reading project of Yosemite

26 Jan

In 2009, when I was visiting Yosemite during the Christmas, I bought a book called One Hundred Years in Yosemite. I started reading the book in my tent the night I got it. It was a bitterly cold night. I was laying in my tent near Curry Valley. I could hear snow falling on the tent and small pieces of ice dropping off the giant sequoia trees. I couldn’t think of any better place and time to read the book that was first published in 1932. The history that the book covered dates back to 1830s when Britain was about to start the first industrial revolution while China’s last feudal empire, the Qing Dynasty was about to inevitably collapse. But in the Sierra area in the New Continent, it was so quiet and peaceful, just like the way it is today.

About to enter the mysterious Yosemite valley

I finally finished reading the book during the holidays of the past Christmas, a year after I bought the book.

Of course, I rarely spend one year to finish a book. Normally I try to finish a book as soon as possible if it’s good or I quickly switch to another if I found the first few chapters not interesting enough–nowadays, we just can’t afford to waste anytime consuming information that we think is not relevant. But I didn’t want to miss any single page of this book. It stayed on the little desk by my bed so that I could read it when I had a chance and when I was in the right mood.

A snow storm was just over and the sky got clear

Too beautiful to be real

Reading the book was truly a conversation with its author Carl Parcher Russell, a recognized authority on the early Westward Movement and the creator of an innovative curatorial program at the Yosemite Museum that resulted in the acquisition of many valuable relics and records from the past. The feeling of being guided through a century-long history of the stunningly beautiful Sierra area was wonderful, especially for people who have actually seen the beauty and magnificence of Yosemite.

Snow covered Yosemite Valley and the Half Dome

Time is what makes every visit to the national parks such a privileged experience. One year may be a long time to finish a book but it’s barely one page in a history book. 100 years may be a long time from a human standard but it can hardly even be identified from a geology standard. How fortunate a human could possibly be when he could see the great wilderness through his eyes and touch the nature that took millions of years to shape by his hands. Only at that moment, we would truly understand where we come from and how humble we are, like the moment when I was trying to move forward on the snow-covered John Muir Trail and almost fell off the cliff—I came from a world that has been restructured by humans but the rocks of Yosemite remain intact for millions of years.

John Muir Trail, overed with about 2 feet of snow

Vernal Fall

Man v.s the nature

Looking outside my window, the Empire State Building was lighted up by glamorous colors. But who knows 100 years from now what the skyline of New York City would be or if the city will still exist. One thing that can be foreseen is that the Nevada Fall, the Glacier Point and the Half Dome of Yosemite will be the same after 100 years, 200 years and many more years.

Another snow storm before I left the valley


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