Yosemite Trekker @ thecityedition.com ----- Post #19 - June 22, 2010
Tucked in the woods. The LeConte Memorial is a place to relax with your kids in the summer. The free library has books on the geology, flora and fauna of Yosemite. At night, the lodge hosts lectures on conservation and travel.
The Sierra Club's Little Known Lodge Lies in Plain View
It's Stop #12 on the visitor's shuttle, right there on Southside Drive across from Housekeeping Camp in Yosemite Valley. But the historic LeConte Memorial, which celebrated its centennial in 2004, never seems to get much buzz in the touring literature.
I found this unassuming block of rough-hewn granite with the high-sloping roof while riding my bike one day. Thereafter I became a regular at the facility, gravitating to the little nook where they keep all the old field and trail guides, as well as books on geology. From reading some of the latter, I made the unsettling discovery that that every ten years or so, the explanation for how Yosemite formed long ago totally changes.
A homey place. You'll never see that fireplace lit because the building closes down in the winter. The Sierra Club is trying to raise money to insulate the digs, so they'll be year-round instead of seasonal.
Some people think that a visit to the park is all about hiking to and climbing up iconic monuments. But little things like a trip to LeConte can be almost as pleasurable. Expecially if you're 5-years-old and like to color. There's a huge section here offering various opportunities for artistic expression by the young and restless.
Rememer, it's closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. It's embarrassing to admit how many times I rode over here from my tent cabin on Tuesday, anxious to dig through the field guides in search of a flower's name or the specs on one of the high country trails, only to slap myself on the back of the head.
The evening lectures are usually provided by trekkers and conservationists who've just published a book, but occasionally a ranger or other park employee would give a talk about trail-related issues like search and rescue. This is a nice way to spend an evening with likeminded people.
Chit-chat with the staff. I didn't realize that the volunteers who staff LeConte change every week. There was one woman I met there with whom I debated catastrophic vs. glacial theories. Brief but invigorating, and she asked me to come back another day, which I did. But by then she was long gone.
While not exceedingly spacious, the lodge is so rustic, eclectic and fitting for a national park, you really have to swing by if you get the chance. Sometimes the volunteers are eager to tell you the whole story of Joseph LeConte, a geologist at U.C. Berkeley and former president of the Sierra Club. If you tell them you've visited before, they'll spare you that obligatory mouthful.
Early shuttle service. I believe that's LeConte on the left on an expedition near the park. The photograph hangs on the wall inside the lodge.
But just to fill in the blanks, LeConte supported John Muir's belief that several periods of glaciation carved the valley. (Louis Agassiz is generally credited with the theory of ice ages.) The geologist died in the park in 1901, well before the National Park Service had taken over Yosemite, so the Sierra Club built this lodge in his honor. It opened its doors in 1904 served as the park's visitor information center until N.P.S. built its own.
---The front door of the lodge is about 50 feet from the road, where there's a small parking lot and a bike rack. If you cross the street and enter Housekeeping Camp, you'll find a camp store.
For more info and a video segment from Huell Howser's California Gold TV series, check out the Sierra Club's LeConte Memorial Lodge web page.
And don't forget to make a donation...
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