Bierstadt, Looking Down Yosemite Valley, 1865
On my last night in Yosemite I walked alone through the meadows and listened to the bellowing frogs, maddened with moonlight. Out of a notch in the granite cliff I could see Yosemite Falls, that extravagant gush of milky foam dropping 1,400 feet through space, dissolving in mist, regrouping in cascades below to fall 600 feet more to the valley floor. Through the inner smog of figures and problems I dimly imagined Yosemite as it must have been in 1851 when Chief Tenaya and his little band of renegades were driven out. (Renegades: Indians unwilling to camp in officially designated campsites.) No wonder they hid and fought and escaped and fought again and wept and died. Yosemite Valley was a wild, savage, splendid and precious place then.
The Park Service believes that Yosemite Valley is not the proper location for youth festivals, organized or disorganized. No doubt true. (The frogs, having an orgiastic celebration of their own, might not agree.) But I can think of other things that Yosemite Valley is not the proper place for. It is not the proper place for paved roads and motor traffic in any form. It is not the proper place for gas stations and supermarkets, bars, curio shops, barbershops, a hospital, a lodge, a hotel, a convention center, and a small city of permanent and transient residents. Above all Yosemite Valley is not a proper place for a jail, for administrators, for police wearing park ranger uniforms.
What should Yosemite Valley be? It should be what it once was: the kind of place where a person would know himself lucky to make one pilgrimage there in his lifetime. A holy place.
Keep it like it was.
Edward Abbey, from The Journey Home