Dani's Niche

Family history. A novel idea.


Camping in Yosemite,1898:Part Two

Excerpts from Grace’s diary–impressions of Yosemite from a nineteen-year old’s perspective.

A page from Grace’s diary, 1898

June 22 (continued) From here (Artist’s Point) it was only a little way down grade until we came to plenty feed and very good camping ground. So here we camped under trees. Bridal Veil (900 feet) is about half a mile from camp but it is in sight and oh how beautiful to sit and watch the churning. El Capitan stands out boldly on the left while Cathedral spires are on the right and there is no use trying to describe the grandeur of these high peaks for it would be impossible. 

They camped in a meadow with a view of
Bridal Veil Fall.
Photograph by Carleton E. Watkins

June 23 Got up about half past six. Washed and baked bread in forenoon. In afternoon Dan and Alta staid home. (Dan being sick) The rest of us drove down to the tower which is about 4 miles from where we are camped. The road is simply grand. We could see the Bridal Veil Fall better than before. It makes three creeks which are good size. All at once the Yosemite Falls burst upon our view. They fall in three leaps making a distance of 600 feet. The town is in a very pretty place not far from the falls. It consists of a fine hotel, several cottages and store. We all registered our names in the big register and named our camp the Santa Lucia. Drove a short distance out of town, crossed the river and came back through meadows, camping ground and saw large wheat field. 

A sketch by Thomas Ayres of Yosemite Falls.
The High Falls Lithograph appeared in Hutchings’ magazine

June 26, Sunday Will and Maggie went fishing in the morning. In afternoon Dan Lou and I climbed up to the foot of the Bridal Veil Fall. Saw the beautiful rainbow. 

June 27 Monday Moved camp up close to town across the creek from Sentinel Hotel. 

The Sentinel Hotel had an unobstructed view of Yosemite Falls from its location on the bank of the Merced River. The river later changed course and the hotel had to be taken down.

June 30, Thursday Dan, Lou and I went to Nevada and Vernal Falls (Lady Franklin Rock), Register Rock (steps), Vernal Falls, Snow’s Hotel trail up steep Mt. Nevada Falls. 

The Vernal Fall
photographed by C.E. Watkins

The Vernal Falls trail is the oldest, built in 1857. By the 1870s, the trail had a toll house nestled under a fifty foot high piece of granite at Register Rock (off the lower Mist Trail) where hikers were charged $1.00. The shack is gone now as is the hotel operated by Albert and Emily Snow known as La Casa Nevada-The Snow House which was situated at the base of Nevada Fall, 700 feet above the Valley at 5,360 feet. The toll trail went from the end of Vernal Fall Trail up to Nevada Fall. After the Mr. and Mrs. Snow died, the hotel, under new management, received no guests except for visitors who signed the register (now of the most prized possessions of the Yosemite Museum collection). My family’s names are likely within one of the three volumes. A fire destroyed the decaying hotel in 1900.

Who was Lady Franklin? The wife of a lost English Arctic explorer, Sir John Franklin, visited the park in 1863. The story is she sat on this rock to contemplate her husband’s disappearance. Its exact location is uncertain.

Dan had spoken so much about the Firefall off Glacier Point, so we were disappointed to learn it had been discontinued. 

The famous fire fall was a summer attraction from 1872 to 1897, then again from 1900 to 1968.

July 1 Dan and Lou went to Eagle Peak. Will and Maggie went to Glacier Pt. I staid home with kids. 

The trail from Yosemite Falls to Eagle Peak is steep and rocky but the the view from the top is breathtaking. From Glacier Point they could view Yosemite Valley and Falls, Half Dome, Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls. 

Left Yosemite July 4 at 5 o’clock. Walked up the first hill, went as far as toll gate and unloaded Will’s wagon, hitched 4 horses to our wagon and all went on to Mariposa big trees. Came back, ate lunch here and then traveled on to Wawona where we camped over night. Went to the fireworks in the evening.

In 1881, a tunnel was cut (enlarging a fire scar) by the Yosemite State and Turnpike Company as a tourist attraction. The tree was 227 feet high and 26 feet in diameter. In 1969, the 2300 year old tree fell under a load of snow.

The Wawona Tree in Mariposa Grove from my grandmother’s photos.

Our vacation was beyond all expectations, but it was good to be home after four and a half weeks of camping and 450 miles of travel by horse and wagon. 

When we began our journey, I worried about Dan, grieving in his quiet way for his wife and for his mother. Even a strong man like him has limits and I’m sure this last year took him to the edge with a ranch to manage, a drought that forced him to move his and his brother-in-law’s cattle, an ailing wife and two little girls who needed his attention. Lou devoted herself to 

During our time in Yosemite I saw my brother’s countenance change. He seemed to have a good time hiking the trails in the day, embellishing tales around the campfire at night, and clapping for the silly skits of Lou and me and Lou’s recitations of her own poems. She confided that Dan had given her a variety of flowers, picked to add to her collection for drying,  to go with poems she was writing about the Valley’s flora.  

Does he notice, as I, the respect Lou has for him and how she is like a mother to the girls? Can he open his heart to another and let his first love be a happy memory? I must keep these thoughts to myself and patiently wait. 

And I wonder, will I ever have a chance at love? 


Grace married in 1901 and died at 57 years of age.

Dan and Lou married in December 1899 and celebrated more than fifty years of marriage before they passed away, Grandpa Dan at 91 and Grandma at 84. They are buried side by side.

They added a daughter and a son to the family. Their son was my father.

I leave Grandpa and Grandma’s story and legacy for another time.

Copyright by D. Gustafson