Yosemite Nature Notes – 3 – Wilderness


[Music] It is interesting,
people think of Yosemite and they think of
Yosemite Valley, and that’s understandable,
given how spectacular it is. And they don’t realize that
95% of the park is Wilderness, designated Wilderness, and that this
huge area extends back from
the rims of the Valley, that is really
quite wild. It amazes people
to learn that the walls of the
Valley themselves are designated Wilderness, that the Wilderness boundary
is just 200 vertical feet above the
floor of the Valley. Some people think
Wilderness is exclusionary, that only a tiny number
of people go there, but actually everyone
who goes to the Valley and looks out through
their windshield is enjoying Wilderness, because that’s what
they’re looking at. Wilderness is a place removed
from roads, from buildings, from permanent structures, it’s a place where the forces of
nature are allowed to be wild. By going away
from the roads, by going away from
the campgrounds, you get to experience the
other 95% of Yosemite. And when you go out there,
it tends to be very quiet, you don’t
experience the crowds that you do
elsewhere in the park. We hiked down from Tuolumne
Meadows, my two brothers and their two sons, headed to
Vogelsang, Lake Merced, and now we’re in
Lower Yosemite, and it’s pretty amazing, absolutely amazing,
I mean, to walk with the pace of the land, we don’t do that much
anymore, do we? Especially in our
society and our culture, there is this drive
to be successful and to always be going
and always be doing, I think this is an
opportunity for them to just take a
deep breath, it’s like a breath, it’s like noticing your
surroundings for the first time, can be a big
thing for someone. I think when you’re in a
day-to-day life, in a city, and things become
routine, you know, and sometimes I think things
are taken for granted. I think it’s just this soul
connection with nature, to try to remember. We get so lost in our
little human worlds and you get to
come out here and just forget
about it all and remember there’s other
things to life, you know. The guy who wrote
the Wilderness Act, Howard Zahniser, said that was the most
important value of Wilderness, was that it reminded people what their true place
in nature is. And we need that. We need the humility
that goes with going out into nature
without all our tools that as
Zahniser said, give us a sense of
mastery over nature and just
being a plain citizen of the earth and
its community of life and remembering our place. When you go out into
the Wilderness, you step away from
our lives in the city, you step away from
our cars and the roads, and you enter into a very
beautiful and simple place. Everything that
you need to survive, you can carry
on your back, I think it does take people back
to the roots of like, yeah, this is all I
really need. Life is broken down
into your basic needs; you are eating,
you are sleeping, and you
are moving, but you are doing it
all through a space that is really caught up
in its own existence, really doing
its own thing. A big part
of the value of having an area
that’s untrammeled, where we’re not
manipulating, is it gives scientists
a chance to go out and see what areas unmodified
by humans look like, how they operate,
how they function. Wilderness is a laboratory to
witness the forces of nature unfold, unconstrained,
and unmanipulated by people. And that could be very
important for future research into perhaps how we solve some
of the environmental challenges that we are currently facing. These Wilderness areas are serving all
kinds of functions that are important
to the planet. These forests are the
lungs of the planet that are
cleaning the air. These watersheds as part
of the water cycle are providing fresh clean water. Having these
undisturbed systems, especially if they’re
linked together with other
undisturbed systems, keeps animal
species alive, keeps these
whole cycles and these complex
interrelationships alive. I think as climate changes,
I think as other ecological calamities increase, we may start understanding
some of those values more. Coming into Wilderness or
wondering about Wilderness and knowing that if
you remove someone from the context of
their normal daily life, place them in
Wilderness it could be an intriguing and confounding
sort of experience. That element
of the unknown and not having
control I think is something
important to know, because there is a lot
of things in our lives that we don’t
have control over. In a lot of ways
that’s the essence of the Wilderness experience is that you are
disconnected from society, it’s up to you,
you are making these decisions, you are being self-reliant. You know no one is there to pick
up the pieces if you blow them. Wilderness is a risky place,
it’s suppose to be, we’re not supposed to take
the risk out of Wilderness by putting signs
and guardrails and cutting down
every rotten tree and making
everything safe, that’s up to you,
that’s up to the visitor to think intelligently
about those things and manage the
risk intelligently and enjoy that aspect
of Wilderness. When you’re back at home, in
a nice controlled environment, those are the things
you talk about too. It’s like the things
you glorify afterwards, like all the bugs
and the blisters, and it’s almost this idea
of like you made it, you can do it, you know, you
are out there in Wilderness and this is what I endured
and it was fun, yeah, in retrospect. That’s what makes it
interesting, you know, seeing a huge lighting storm
from a safe location is an amazing
thing to do. If you’re running
with the pack on, you’re worried about your life,
trying to get over that pass, then you may
not appreciate it, but once you’re in a
relatively safe spot, yeah, it’s fantastic. Same thing with a
lot of other things that we think
of as hazards, huge rushing creek,
it’s an amazing thing to see unless you’re trying
to get across it. And we don’t go
to the Wilderness to seek out
dangerous situations, but sometimes dangerous
situations present themselves in
the Wilderness. And the decisions you
make at those moments are very important and they teach you a
lot about yourself. I think there is an element
of spirituality to it. I think there is an
element of humility. People need to
reconnect and see… find their place
in the world, being in Wilderness, being in the presence
of something so much larger that doesn’t need us, that goes on
without us, that’s doing just
fine without our having anything
to do with it, I think there is a
certain power in that, that people
can draw from. When we come back to our lives
away from the Wilderness, your mind
tends to be clear, you tend to
be at peace, and I think it offers
a great opportunity to look back on your life
and have some perspective. The best thing is whatever
you bring to it, is whatever
you’re open to when you go
out there. I go out there with an open
mind and an open heart, I’m going to get something
good out of it, that’s the best thing. It’s another one of experiences
about Wilderness that it wakes
you up. Wake up, come on out, you know, you’re really
going to catch it, because look at where
I am right now, so good. Yeah.

14 thoughts on “Yosemite Nature Notes – 3 – Wilderness

  1. sigh i cant imagine how beautiful it was when john muir first walked into this pristine valley. No short of inspiration.

  2. To see what John Muir saw visit tehipite valley. It is in Kings Canyon NP and requires a couple of very hard days of Hiking to get there. But You can generally hike the whole length of the valley in the summer and not see a soul.

  3. Yosemite's gotta be the most beautiful place I've ever been in my life. In my opinion, pictures and movies do not do it justice to how amazing it is, only poetry could describe its true beauty. I can't wait to go back some day with my kids, they've got to see it.

  4. Wilderness, wherever you can find it, is a refuge from from what civilization has become and a revelation of what civilization should be like.

  5. Wilderness areas were developed by liberals so they can have power over others to keep them out and play by their rules, only "scientists" are allowed. Libs are the ones who put up all the signs, not normal people. Hypocrites.

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