I recently visited Yosemite National Park after decades of absence. In 1993, I spent a summer there as a Trainee park warden and got to know and love the park deeply. On this trip I saw its transformation under the impact of climate change. It was devastating.
Coming into the park from the south, up California 41, I looked at mountains that seemed to be strewn with giant charred toothpicks. Ferguson in 2018 decimated this once beautiful forest.
More trees were dying, victims of insect infestations encouraged by warming temperatures and milder winters. The waterfalls were pathetic streaks in the wind, shadows of lush white ponytails that poured down the summer I lived there.
Forest fires, dead trees and decreasing waterfalls are natural phenomena. But these problems are exacerbated by climate change , according to the National Park Service.
With the The heat is worsening - it hit 104 degrees in the valley this month - you can't enjoy being there that much. The west coast is battered by these three terrible cousins, drought, heat and forest fires. When will the warm weather leavesome unforgettable vertical hikes out of reach, like the summit of Half Dome?
Yosemite's last two glaciers are retreating rapidly. They will most likely disappear within a few decades, threatening the summer and fall water supplies in these mountains. By the time I visited the first week of July, some of the high country streams - which animals and backpackers relied on - were already dry. The river running through the valley, the Merced, was low and listless. When I lived next door years ago, it was so swollen with sleet and the rapids so loud that I had to close my window before making a call.
Evidence of our global warming is all around us. But many of us have been able to take comfort, if only slightly, in knowing that the most cataclysmic fallout is yet to come.ore far, that they could be avoided. Perhaps the gradual nature of the worsening conditions we see every day has lulled us into a sense of complacency.
've seen in Yosemite looks like an alarm clock that came too late.
The park is an international treasure, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and climate change is destroying it. If we can't even protect protected lands, what about more vulnerable targets of climate disaster, like the people we care about?
That Edenic Summer For So Many Years A few years ago stewards like me worried about things that now seem pitiful: tourists throw rubbish, climbers drill holes in El Capitan. We broke the rings of fire because we thought they were marring the desert.We patiently explained to backpackers how to hang their food to keep it away from bears.
The principles of 'leave no trace' were our religion . We thought we were protecting a sacred place. But we were learning to swim when a tsunami hit.
Back then, I fell in love with the awe-inspiring beauty of Yosemite. But during those months of reaching dee p in his canyons and meadows along the veins of the hiking trails, what impressed me the most was his power, his invincibility. Those 3,000-foot cliff falls and tumultuous waters were beautiful, but they were also menacing. The power of Yosemite - and by extension, that of nature - seemed limitless.
The park's majestic chunks of granite have been there for ages. Part of the Sierra Nevada chain thatforming the backbone of eastern California, they were spiked into peaks millions of years ago. Later, a glacier carved out the valley in a U-shape. We humans, I was sure, couldn't do anything there in comparison.
Now, almost 30 years later, in what may be the most profound shift of all, the power dynamics between humans and Yosemite have shifted. Seeing nature so vulnerable is not only depressing, but evil, disorienting and frightening.
"It is reminiscent of that moment when an adult child begins to feel his parent not just as a caregiver, but as a person who is starting to need care ", Alejandro Strong , an environmental philosopher who founded Apeiron Expeditionsto guide people on nature trips, said me after I got home.
We talked about the transcendentalists. "Emerson, Thoreau, Fuller - their stories about nature are that it 's perfect," said Dr. Strong. “You would learn from this teacher without limits. Nature was pure truth. He offered access to the infinite, a substitute for God. Yosemite on his knees shows how naive he was to think so.
We've had him upside down from the start. Nature has never been invincible - and we know that because we could have hurt her so much, says Dr Strong. Because we have had a long period of st capacity until recently, we thought nature was almighty, that she would be here forever. "We are shocked by this now " he said.
I knowwent to Yosemite with my 13 year old son Beau. I wanted to introduce her to a place that I have talked about all her life. He is an avid hiker who climbs gentle mountains in state parks outside of New York City. It was time, I thought, to drop his socks. I didn't expect to leave Yosemite writing some kind of obituary about it.
That first glimpse Beau got of the valley - its colossals polished granite walls facing each other - always delivered. Yosemite is not over yet. He had seen a lot of photos of this sight, but he said: "I had no idea it would look that pretty.
This that he didn't see, because he wasn't there before, was the surprising void in the right side of the postcard. With this year's below-average snowpack, Bridalveil's fall was a trickle earlier in the year.or it would not have been before. I wish he had had the chance to see him as he was before.
Susannah Meadows is the author of "The Other Side of Impossible: Ordinary People Who Faced Daunting Medical Challenges and Refused to Give Up " and is working on a book about a female high school football quarterback.
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