FALL
GALLERY

by TOM BOPP

 

     We're in Yosemite Valley at the moment; the air is turning cool, especially at night (causing the oak leaves to turn bronze and gold). The first rainstorms are knocking the leaves to the ground, giving the air a scent of nuts and mulch.

But before we head to Wawona, there's a connection I'd like to call your attention to...

 

     In Yosemite Valley there's a little chapel that was built in 1879 -- the same year Henry Washburn and his business partner and nephew Johnny Bruce constructed the main hotel building at Wawona (then called Big Tree Station).  In October of that same year, Ulysses S. Grant stayed at the hotel.  Six years later, Sir Arthur Sullivan, of the famous light opera team of Gilbert & Sullivan, was checked in at Wawona in August of 1885 when news came of Grant's death.  An impromptu memorial took place at the chapel in Yosemite Valley, for which Sullivan played the organ (I like to think that he may have performed his 1877 composition "The Lost Chord," and almost surely played his "Onward Christian Soldiers").

     When Johnny Bruce died, two of Henry Washburn's brothers (Ed and John) took a more active role in running the hotel.

     A third brother, Julius, stayed home at the family dairy farm in Putney, Vermont, but was an investor in the Wawona Hotel Company and kept the hotel supplied with various specialty items, including maple syrup.

     In 1903, Julius sent 11 Vermont sugar-maple trees to photographer Julius Boysen, who placed them around his studio in Yosemite Valley.  100 years later only one remains.

     Standing across the road from the Yosemite Chapel, Julius' tree (pictured here) continues to attract photographers, as its leaves turn bright red always a couple of weeks ahead of its neighbors.

 

 

     Heading toward Wawona from Yosemite Valley, you'll pass through a section of forest that was burned in the fires of 1990.  Among the first trees to flourish in the freshly cleared soil were dogwoods, which pepper the autumn hillsides with eye-catching reds, yellows, and pinks. Now young conifers can be seen poking up through the shrubs.