Yosemite in spring: Liberty Caps, waterfalls, and our own “Paddle to the Sea”

Liberty Cap from Nevada Falls

Liberty Cap from the top of Nevada Falls, Yosemite National Park, March 28, 2015

Yes, there’s a reason that Yosemite National Park has named one of its impressive sights the “Liberty Cap.”  Here’s an eighteenth century illustration of a liberty cap and its uses.  (HINT:  it’s on the pole, not on Columbia’s head):


(Can anyone give me a more specific source or cite for this?  The blog at which I found it, 18th Century American Women, doesn’t offer a citation for this image.)  The eighteenth century is everywhere, if you’re alert to it!

But you probably only came here for the vacation snaps.  Here you go:

Yosemite-El Capitan

El Capitan, March 19, 2015

Yosemite HD-LC-Nevada Falls

Half Dome, Liberty Cap, and Nevada Falls, March 21, 2015. You can see the excellent shape of the Liberty Cap even better from this vantage.

Yosemite warning

At the trailhead of Yosemite Peak, March 19, 2015


Cause of death: he didn’t respect the mountain.

Yosemite-Paddle to the Sea close

We made our own “Paddle to the Sea” one evening out of horsetail reeds, and staffed it with a grass-tuft sailor. . .

Yosemite-Paddle to the Sea

. . . and it sailed down the Merced River! We followed it for a while but it got swept up in a current too fast for us to follow.

Does anyone else remember “Paddle to the Sea?”  Growing up in the Great Lakes region of the U.S., I think we saw that movie at least once a year in elementary school.  I was enraptured by it, of course:  dolls and adventure travel!  What’s not to love?


17 thoughts on “Yosemite in spring: Liberty Caps, waterfalls, and our own “Paddle to the Sea”

  1. I have never seen Paddle to the Sea… I think we watched something about Father Sera and the indians in grade school.

    I love Yosemite. I grew up in California with parents who did a lot of car camping. One of my childhood memories is driving up from Long Beach to Yosemite for Labor Day weekend in the family’s AMC Hornet station wagon, complete with cabin tent lashed down to the luggage rack on top. When we arrived we camped in a gigantic parking lot/camp ground on the Yosemite Valley floor (long since torn up and replanted with native species). It was as if the whole San Fernando Valley had uprooted their suburban lifestyle and relocated to Yosemite for the three day weekend. A 1970s American take on transhumance.

    The other memories come from college rock climbing and backpacking trips. I hope I can take the Family L there some day. Yosemite is a magical place, especially now that they have some more refined policies in terms of impact and use.


  2. Thanks, Robin! I’ll track that down. I’m much obliged to you for figuring this out.

    Matt: We stayed in Yosemite Valley and hiked out our motel door each day. Even in March, when typically they still have snow on the valley floor (they don’t this year), it was unbelievably crowded. We were glad to be there in March rather than in June, July, or August, that’s for sure!

    I’ve taken to saying that California has it all, and it has more of everything as well, both the good and the bad. So, mountains *and* ocean–good! Traffic & crowds–not so good.


  3. The image, a woodcut created by Paul Revere, depicts a seated “Britannia, with a wreath and liberty pole with cap; under her robes is the shield of Britain; to the left is a tree with overhanging branches. The woman is opening the door to a birdcage on a pedestal and releasing and freeing the dove of peace. In the distance is a town/city view with church/meetinghouse spires.


    Looks like a great vacation!


  4. I’ve never seen the movie (didn’t even know there was one), but I grew up reading and rereading Paddle to the Sea and imagining canoeing or something, though I grew up in a very different area of the country.


  5. Just Wow! Welcome back. Sounds like it was a great trip!

    I remember the “Paddle to the Sea” feature here with great fondness.


  6. I do remember paddle to the sea; as a result, when I was a kid I was constantly putting boats and bottles with notes into the ocean to send somewhere else.


  7. Having also grown up in the Great Lakes region, I very much remember Paddle to the Sea as it was a staple in elementary school. I read the book, too.


  8. History Maven: thanks for the further intel! I doff my liberty cap to all of you.

    Glad to see that others found Paddle to the Sea as entrancing as I did. I’m wishing right now that our copy of the DVD weren’t in Colorado. . .


  9. p.s. To Friendly Guy: ordinarily, the Yosemite people told us, there should have been snow not just on the peaks but on the VALLEY FLOOR too, but there was none. The only snow we saw was in the far-off Sierras, not on the major formations surrounding YV.

    California has it all, and it has more of it all than anywhere else, except for water. As a Coloradoan who sees most of our water flow out of state for claims in Phoenix and L.A., it’s not just a California issue now.

    If I were younger or more future-minded, I might start buying up real estate in the Great Lakes region or Quebec. These places might become the L.A./American Southwest of the 21st and 22nd centuries, as the people might need to return to where the water is.


  10. My worry, Historiann, and I tell students this early every year in the “U.S.” survey course, as we march from Potosi to Tenochtitlan to the Pueblo/Four Corners area to Cahokia and points east, is that they will live long enough to see the country convulsed with debates over proposals for “National Aqueducts” to bring water from the Great Lakes to the Great Southwest, rather than any reverse migration. Hopefully not, and as I tell them, I won’t see this happen.


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