Fire on the Mountain

Men argue. Nature acts.” 
― Voltaire

The West Coast was burning. A gender-reveal party was blamed for starting a fire in California that burned over 10,000 acres and shut down Yosemite National Park in September, 2020. We were camped in a dispersed campground in Oregon along the Nevada border with other refugees from California and Oregon waiting to return to their homes. We were waiting to enter Yosemite to housesit for our son and his fiancé.

A week later, we got the OK from our son to enter Yosemite National Park. We passed through apocalyptic looking territory in Mono Lake. The views, or I should say the lack of views, were ominous and terrifying.

Mono Lake
The landscape was eerie and we had to wear our N95 masks because of the smoke.

We drove slowly and cautiously up Tioga Pass because the smoke was so thick that visibility was extremely low.

Fire on the mountain pass

Three hours later we arrived at our son’s house in Yosemite National Park. Cory is the lead naturalist for Yosemite Conservancy. During the pandemic and the fires he became a virtual naturalist reflecting on the silence of the park during lockdown.

Cory describes the solitude, “Yet everywhere I went, something was missing. The absence of people struck me, again and again. Roads were clear, trails were quiet. No families in RVs slowing to take in views they had researched and dreamed about. No adventure-seekers experiencing the thrill of their first hike to Vernal Fall. No awestruck sightseers at Glacier Point. No exclamations of wonder in myriad languages at the base of Yosemite Falls.”

Yosemite is no stranger to fire. Fire records of Yosemite National Park date back to 1930. This historical information has been of great importance in creating the goals and objectives for Yosemite’s Fire Management Program and current Fire Management Plan.

In the 14 years that Cory has lived and worked in Yosemite, he and his friends have been evacuated many times due to fires and floods. Nature acts! Cory’s home is in Foresta, a small area of private homes within the boundaries of Yosemite National Park.

In 1990 a huge fire destroyed about 90% of the Foresta area.  Foresta used to be gorgeous.  Tall, green trees, lots of shade, a deep forest.  The fire did not destroy the large meadow with the two beautiful barns that reside on it, and these are still a sight to behold. 

All of the burned-down houses have been removed, and there have been many new houses built in their place.  These are attractive homes anyone would be happy to rent, including our son and his fiancé.

We spent two months in Yosemite, housesitting for their little rascal Otis the Cat. During those months, we experienced Yosemite mostly in solitude…an opportunity not many people have. We hiked daily without throngs of tourists. We observed the daily foraging of bears without the multitudes of cameras snapping and selfies taken. Our days consisted of checking the air quality, packing lunches for our hikes, and hauling water from the natural spring in Yosemite Valley. And of course, playing with Otis and laughing at his kitten antics.

It was a wondrous time once again reminding us that men argue, nature acts!

Have you encountered a unique experience in a National park? Tell us about it.

8 thoughts on “Fire on the Mountain

  1. Debbie, your pictures are absolutely amazing. I have never seen Yosemite under that light. It’s very sad for the fire but coupled with COVID restrictions, you must have experienced the very best of Yosemite without the tourists.

    • Johanne, thank you so much. Besides making my Covid Art Gardens during the height of the pandemic, I took an iPhone Photography course. I have been perfecting my skills for over a year now and I really enjoy it. It was an amazing experience to see Yosemite in a different light. Sad because of the fires and the smoke and kind of eerie, but wonderful at the same time. Thanks for your comments. Hugs to you and Doug.

  2. That must have been absolutely amazing and you got some amazing and unique photos from your time there. It would be so cool to rent one of those houses but I imagine they’re not only in short supply but quite expensive. Looks quite different from when our older daughter and I were there in March a few years ago.


    • Janet, Cory and his fiancé, Tina, lucked out when renting the house in Foresta. There are only about 10 year round residents, and the rest are summer homes or Airbnb rentals. I am so glad they finally have a beautiful place to live. Before they lived in Yosemite Valley in a small studio apartment. Housing is at a premium in Yosemite.
      I have so many photos of Yosemite. We usually go once a year to visit, but this is the first time we actually lived there like residents for two months.

  3. Darrell, so glad to hear that you continue to live your dream, too! I have always wanted to hike the A/T. That sounds incredible, especially the sunrise at the top of Mt. LeConte. So nice to hear from you. Keep living the dream! It keeps us young.

  4. Glad to see you still living life to its fullest. I don’t think my experiences in the Smokey Mountain National Park are that unique but are certainly memorable. Back packing all of the A/T located in the Smokies was a thrill of a lifetime. Never forget the sunrise at Mt LeConte or climbing Thunderhead or sleeping in a real bed at Fontana Village after days on the trail.

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