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Darkness loomed over Half Dome as smoke from the Meadow fire billowed into the sky. What had previously been a small fire in the region east of Yosemite Valley spread significantly due to the increased winds on the morning of the 7th, the morning of our arrival, eventually spreading to an estimated area of 4,900 acres, as of the morning of the 11th? While the fire substantially limited which areas of the park we could visit, it couldn’t take away from the power and majesty of Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite was established as a protected area with the passing of the Yosemite Grant, signed by Abraham Lincoln in 1864, – the National Park Service wasn’t established until 1916 – due in large part to the efforts of Galen Clark, who would become the park’s first guardian. Over the next 20 years tourism increased significantly thanks in large part to the efforts of John Muir, along with the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad and stagecoach roads into Yosemite Valley. Determined to protect and preserve the incredible and distinct feature that make Yosemite so unique, Muir and the Sierra Club strove for federal protection of the park, achieving his goal in 1903 while camping near Glacier Point with President Theodore Roosevelt. Yosemite is home to an incredible collection of some of our nation’s most iconic natural features, such as: immense granite cliffs El Capitan, Half Dome, and Sentinel Dome, Lyell Glacier, Giant Sequoia Groves, including Mariposa Grove, and Yosemite Falls, the largest waterfall in North America at 2,425 feet.

As I stood in the Yosemite Valley looking up at the immense granite structures, surrounded by giant redwoods, lush grasslands and the occasional mule deer, I could feel the power that had fueled the desire to preserve this place over 150 years ago by the park’s pioneers. We were limited due to the fire and time constraints, restricting our visit to a fraction of the park, so I’m anxiously looking forward to the opportunity to return and see what other wonders Yosemite has to show me