Looking up at majestic El Capitan or watching the sun set over the Tuolumne River's Grand Canyon are rewards in themselves for a visit to Yosemite National Park. But listening to one of the park's ranger-naturalists also adds a dimension that enriches while it informs. More naturalists than ever before worked in the park's back country this season--a happy outcome of higher fees that visitors paid to enter Yosemite and other national parks.
The naturalists personally introduce visitors to the park, as to a friend, explaining what the rangers seek to protect and how the visitors can help. Carl Sharsmith, who has worked out of Tuolumne Meadow for more than 50 years, is an alpine botanist. He teaches a simple lesson: look down--you might see something. Sure enough, there are wildflowers there that we never saw before.
Carla Neasel, Dick Ewart and other ranger-naturalists worked around five High Sierra camps and other popular back-country areas this season, trying among other things to reduce the conflict between black bear and human being. In campfire talks at Glen Aulin camp, for example, Neasel used humor and practical advice on ways to keep bears away from food--and people away from bears.
The program seems to work. Two nights after Neasel's campfire chat telling backpackers to lock up their granola and other snacks in Glen Aulin's stone kitchen, a bear cub broke in the dining-room door and, finding no loose food, fled out a screened window. Except that the bear went away hungry, no one was the worse for it.