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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Day 55: Hetchy Hetchy Valley & Dam (7/29/15)

I packed up camp this morning and drove to Hetch Hetchy before heading to Martinez. It was a long road to that passed a few campsites and resorts along the way. Much longer to get there than I thought. Somewhere near the dam I realized I didn't have the map showing the valley view hike a ranger recommended. I saw a ranger station symbol near a backpacking parking lot and pulled over. Then things got weird. I walked up to the ranger station and the ranger walked out and asked if I needed something. I asked for a map and he said meet me at my car. Strange...why not in the ranger station right there? THEN, as I was walking out of the ranger station parking area, three SUV/truck cars pulled up and several men with ear radio things came quickly out of the cars. One man went into the station. They all seems to be switching cars and getting out and i just kept walking to the ranger's car. There was another SUV parked outside the parking lot. I asked the two men (both with ear radios) what was going on and they assured me everything was fine. I got a map from the ranger's car after he met me there, and went back to my car. I read the map and realized the hike I wanted to do started back at the entrance station. I decided to drive back and just head out. It was already mid afternoon and the national park secret service caravan weirded me out. I followed their seven car caravan out of the park and drove on to Martinez (in 108 degree heat - yikes!)

I was not too sad about skipping Hetch Hetchy for painting. Bierstadt painted here before the dam was built and the valley looked completely different. John Muir was adamantly against the construction of Hetch-Hetchy dam. He wrote an empassioned essay called "Hetch Hetchy Valley" in defense of its continued preservation. (Tyler - you NEED to read this essay!!!) He describes the valley as "a wonderfully exact counterpart of the Merced Yosemite, not only in its sublime rocks and waterfalls but in the gardens, groves, and meadows of its flowery park-like floor." He talks about the waterfalls, the tall mountain rocks, and paints a compelling picture of "Hetch Hetchy on a sunny day in June, standing waist deep in grass and flowers, while great pines sway dreamily with scarcely perceptible motion." What a dream. Later he describes a waterfall as "air, water, and sunlight woven into stuff that spirits might wear." Muir is truly an artist with his words, and like I've said before, personifies nature in a way for us to connect with the landscape in an even more meaningful way. The dam, to him, was a "grossly destructive commercial scheme" in "one of the greatest of all our natural resources for the uplifting joy and peace and health of the people." And then, possibly one of the best Muir quotes, is tucked in a paragraph of this essay:

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places in play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike. This natural beauty-hunger is made our magnificent National parks...Nature's sublime wonderlands, the admiration and joy of the world.

This idea of nature, of valuing and protecting it for its aesthetic beauty and incalculable benefits, is in line with the Hudson River School attitude towards nature. These artists furthered the perception of the American landscape as intrinsically beautiful. Muir ends his essay saying we might was well "dam for water-tanks the people's cathedrals and churches, for no holier temple has ever been consecrated by the heart of man."

So, a painting of Hetch Hetchy could have been a neat comparison between how the valley looked then and today...but it wasn't meant to be. This non-painting is for you, John Muir!

Forgot to post this picture yesterday of this squirrel, legs splayed, enjoying a snack on the sidewalk.
Hetch-Hetchy Valley by Bierstadt
Hetch-Hetchy Valley by Bierstadt


1 comment:

  1. Sorry about the dam and the secret service scary guys and no painting....
    Love, mom