CLOSE
Graeme Churchard, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Graeme Churchard, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

11 Iconic Facts About Yosemite National Park

Graeme Churchard, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
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.

Getty Images

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.

arrow
Big Questions
How Are Rooms Cleaned at an Ice Hotel?

Cleaning rooms at Sweden’s famous ICEHOTEL is arguably less involved than your typical hotel. The bed, for example, does not have traditional sheets. Instead, it’s essentially an air mattress topped with reindeer fur, which sits on top of a custom-made wooden palette that has a minimum of 60 centimeters of airspace below. On top of those reindeer hides is a sleeping bag, and inside that sleeping bag is a sleep sack. And while it’s always 20ºF inside the room, once guests wrap themselves up for the night, it can get cozy.

And, if they’re wearing too many layers, it can get quite sweaty, too.

“The sleep sack gets washed every day, I promise you that. I know it for a fact because I love to walk behind the laundry, because it’s so warm back there," James McClean, one of the few Americans—if not the only—who have worked at Sweden's ICEHOTEL, tells Mental Floss. (He worked on the construction and maintenance crew for several years.)

There isn’t much else to clean in most guest rooms. The bathrooms and showers are elsewhere in the hotel, and most guests only spend their sleeping hours in the space. But there is the occasional accident—like other hotels, some bodily fluids end up where they shouldn’t be. People puke or get too lazy to walk to the communal restrooms. Unlike other hotels, these bodily fluids, well, they freeze.

“You can only imagine the types of bodily fluids that get, I guess, excreted … or expelled … or purged onto the walls,” McClean says. “At least once a week there’s a yellow stain or a spilled glass of wine or cranberry juice … and it’s not what you want to see splattered everywhere.” Housekeeping fixes these unsightly splotches with an ice pick and shovel, re-patching it with fresh snow from outside.

Every room has a 4-inch vent drilled into the icy wall, which helps prevent CO2 from escalating to harmful levels. Maintenance checks the holes daily to ensure these vents are not plugged with snow. Their tool of choice for clearing the pathway is, according to McClean, “basically a toilet brush on a stick.”

When maintenance isn’t busy unstuffing snow from that vent hole, they’re busy piping snow through it. Every couple days, the floor of each room receives a new coat of fluffy snow, which is piped through the vent and leveled with a garden rake.

“It’s the equivalent of vacuuming the carpet,” McClean says.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Warner Bros.
arrow
travel
Rent an Incredible Harry Potter-Themed Apartment in the City Where the Series Was Born
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

The Muggle city of Edinburgh has deep ties to the wizarding world of Harry Potter. J.K. Rowling wrote much of the book series while living there, and there’s even a pub in Edinburgh that named itself after the author for a month. Now, fans passing through the Scottish capital have the chance to live like their favorite boy wizard. As Digital Spy reports, a Harry Potter-themed holiday home in the city’s historic district is now available to rent for around $200 (£150) a night.

Property owner Yue Gao used her own knowledge as a fan when decorating the apartment. With red and yellow accents, a four-poster bed, and floating candles adorning the wallpaper on the ceiling, the master bedroom pays tribute to both the Gryffindor dormitory and the Hogwarts Great Hall. The Hogwarts theme extends to the lounge area, where each door is painted with a different house’s colors and crest. Guests will also find design aspects inspired by the Hogwarts Express around the apartment: The second bedroom is designed to look like a sleeping car, and the front door is disguised as the brick wall at Platform 9 3/4.

Pieces of Harry Potter memorabilia Gao has picked up in her travels are hidden throughout the home, too. If visitors look closely, they’ll find several items that once belonged to Rowling herself, including the writer’s old desk.

Take a look at some of the photos of the magical interiors:

The apartment is available to rent throughout the year through canongateluxuryapartment.co.uk. And if you can tear yourself away from the residence for long enough, there are plenty of other Harry Potter-themed attractions to check out in Edinburgh during your stay.

[h/t Digital Spy]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios