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Graeme Churchard, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

11 Iconic Facts About Yosemite National Park

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Graeme Churchard, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Yosemite National Park is internationally known for its spectacular waterfalls, soaring monoliths (El Capitan and Half Dome might ring a bell), and overall stunning landscape, but there’s more to this California park’s history than its naturally picturesque views.

1. IT WAS HOME TO THE COUNTRY’S FIRST PARK GUARDIAN.

Outdoorsman and conservationist Galen Clark wasn’t the first person to find Yosemite’s Mariposa Grove, but he is thought to be the first person to count and record the giant sequoias there. In 1864, Abraham Lincoln transferred the future Yosemite park to the state of California, and two years later Clark was named the guardian of Yosemite, a role that allowed him to educate park visitors and conserve the wilderness he loved. He is buried in the Valley Cemetery surrounded by sequoias he planted.

2.WHEN THE TIMING IS RIGHT, ONE OF THE PARK’S WATERFALLS GLOWS.

Andrew Kearns, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

On evenings in mid- to late February, some visitors are lucky enough to spot the glow of Horsetail Fall, shining like a ribbon of fire down the side of the cliff. The way the setting sun hits the water gives it the appearance of being aflame. For the best view, set up in (or just east of) the El Capitan picnic area.

3. IT IS REVERED AS THE BIRTH PLACE OF ROCK CLIMBING FOR SPORT.


Yosemite’s granite monoliths and challenging climbs make the park a major attraction for rock climbers. In the years after World War II, adventurous visitors have flocked to Camp 4, a campsite in the park known for welcoming some of history’s most famous climbers while they conquered the granite walls. Both amateur and world-class athletes have trained, traded techniques, and set up shop at the grounds, which earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.

4. BUFFALO SOLDIERS WERE SOME OF THE PARK’S FIRST PROTECTORS.

The Buffalo Soldiers were African-American Army soldiers who in 1899 were assigned to patrol Yosemite and other protected areas in the West. The successful military regiment became some of the country’s first backcountry rangers and had several responsibilities, among them protecting Yosemite from poachers and fighting forest fires.

5. YOSEMITE’S MOST FAMOUS HOTEL WAS USED AS A WARTIME HOSPITAL.

Ray Bouknight, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

When socialites of the late 1920's rejected the primitive lodgings in the area, the idea for the Ahwahnee Hotel, a luxury hotel on park grounds, was born. Years later, it was leased by the U.S. Navy to serve as a naval hospital during World War II. The facility was originally meant for psychiatric rehab but transitioned to offering more holistic treatments for patients.

6.THERE’S COMPETITION FOR SOME OF THE MORE COMFORTABLE CAMPSITES.

Yosemite offers a select number of High Sierra campsites for those who want to backpack through the high country during the day without worrying about where to camp at night. Each camp provides meals, clean water, and access to bathrooms and canvas tents (complete with comfy beds and wood-burning stoves). You'll have to enter a lottery system to nab one of these in-demand sites.

7. THE SODA SPRINGS CABIN IS NO PLACE TO GRAB A DRINK.

The Soda Springs Cabin is a small historic structure built in the late 19th century by John Baptiste Lembert, the first white man to settle in Yosemite’s Tuolumne Meadows. The roofless cabin protects the Soda Springs, which are named for their gaseous, bubbling nature.

8. DRIVING THROUGH ITS TREES WAS A POPULAR PASTIME.

One of Yosemite’s most famous giant sequoias was the Wawona Tunnel Tree. Located in Galen Clark’s beloved Mariposa Grove, the Wawona tunnel was carved in 1881 and was a favorite photo op for tourists until a snow storm knocked the tree down in 1969. Luckily, you can still visit the aptly renamed Fallen Wawona Tunnel Tree.

9. YOSEMITE COULD HAVE BEEN THE SITE OF WORLD-CLASS WINTER SPORTS.

Originally considered a summer destination, Yosemite became a popular location for winter sports in the early 20th century. The park’s improved winter activity offerings inspired Yosemite’s bid to host the 1932 Winter Olympics. Though the event was held in the United States, the honor went to Lake Placid, New York instead.

10. THE YOSEMITE FIREFALL WAS POPULAR, BUT IT WASN’T NATURAL.

The Yosemite Firefall began in 1872 when James McCauley, owner of the Glacier Point Hotel, first pushed a torrent of campfire embers from the top of Glacier Point. Though the tradition was stopped and restarted several times over the course of nearly a century, the unique bonfire remained a popular tourist attraction until 1968, when the National Park Service officially shut it down.

11. YOSEMITE’S HOLIDAY TRADITIONS ARE ROOTED IN THE RENAISSANCE.

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Described as a Renaissance pageant, the Bracebridge Dinner has been a holiday tradition at Yosemite’s Ahwahnee Hotel since 1927. Famed photographer Ansel Adams, who lived in the Yosemite Valley part-time, directed the elaborate dinner production from 1929 to 1973 and often appeared as the Major Domo.

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Pol Viladoms
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architecture
One of Gaudí's Most Famous Homes Opens to the Public for the First Time
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Pol Viladoms

Visiting buildings designed by iconic Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí is on the to-do list of nearly every tourist passing through Barcelona, Spain, but there's always been one important design that visitors could only view from the outside. Constructed between 1883 and 1885, Casa Vicens was the first major work in Gaudí's influential career, but it has been under private ownership for its entire existence. Now, for the first time, visitors have the chance to see inside the colorful building. The house opened as a museum on November 16, as The Art Newspaper reports.

Gaudí helped spark the Catalan modernism movement with his opulent spaces and structures like Park Güell, Casa Batlló, and La Sagrada Familia. You can see plenty of his architecture around Barcelona, but the eccentric Casa Vicens is regarded as his first masterpiece, famous for its white-and-green tiles and cast-iron gate. Deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005, Casa Vicens is a treasured part of the city's landscape, yet it has never been open to the public.

Then, in 2014 the private Spanish bank MoraBanc bought the property with the intention of opening it up to visitors. The public is finally welcome to take a look inside following a $5.3 million renovation. To restore the 15 rooms to their 19th-century glory, designers referred to historical archives and testimonies from the descendants of former residents, making sure the house looked as much like Gaudí's original work as possible. As you can see in the photos below, the restored interiors are just as vibrant as the walls outside, with geometric designs and nature motifs incorporated throughout.

In addition to the stunning architecture, museum guests will find furniture designed by Gaudí, audio-visual materials tracing the history of the house and its architect, oil paintings by the 19th-century Catalan artist Francesc Torrescassana i Sallarés, and a rotating exhibition. Casa Vicens is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. General admission costs about $19 (€16).

An empty room in the interior of Casa Vicens

Interior of house with a fountain and arched ceilings

One of the house's blue-and-white tiled bathrooms

[h/t The Art Newspaper]

All images courtesy of Pol Viladoms.

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Hate Waiting at Baggage Claim? Here's How to Make Sure Your Suitcase Arrives First
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iStock

Air travel involves plenty of waiting, from standing in long security lines to preparing for takeoff. And even after you land, your trip is stalled until you locate your luggage on the carousel. Luckily for impatient fliers, there are several ways to game the system and ensure a speedy suitcase delivery once you step off the plane, according to Travel + Leisure.

To score true VIP luggage treatment, ask the representative behind the check-in counter if they can attach a “fragile” sticker to your bag. Suitcases with these kinds of labels are often loaded last and unloaded first. (Plus, they receive the type of kid-glove treatment that ultimately helps them last longer.)

Keep in mind, however, that you’ll need a new tag each time you fly. If it looks old, or was issued by a different airline, the crew might not pay attention to it, according to Condé Nast Traveler. Also, consider upping your suitcase game, as quality, hard-shell bags look like they contain delicate or important items. Their appearance—along with the fragile sticker—will inspire baggage handlers to give them special treatment.

Another trick that can shave a few minutes off your wait time is making sure you're the last person to check in, instead of rushing to be first. If you can't resist getting to the airport early, try asking if you can check it at the gate. This could make your bag one of the last on the plane, and thus one of the first taken out. This method isn't surefire, however, as loading and unloading systems vary among flights.

And if all else fails, Thrillist advises that you try upgrading your flight. Some airlines give priority to bags that belong to elite travelers and business class, meaning they’ll be stored separately from other luggage and come out first. Good luck! No matter what happens, at least you can't have it worse than the lady who had to wait 20 years for her bag to show up.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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