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Christmas Decorations and Reflections in Yosemite Valley

The leaves had long dropped off of the deciduous trees, their colorful fall displays of reds and yellows long gone. But there are always some colors and shapes to reflect in the Merced River, no matter what the season is. We took a drive through Yosemite Valley to check out the reflections since the last storms raised the water level. We also wanted to see the Christmas decorations along the way and at the Ahwahnee Hotel.

Where:Yosemite National Park
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation Range: About 3,880′
Date: December 6, 2014
Maps: El Capitan Topographic Quad

I just could not help myself. I needed to make a stop along the Merced River to check out the reflections. The trees had lost their colorful fall leaves but the grasses provided the color today.

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Lookie here! Yosemite Falls is flowing again!

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We stopped at the Yosemite Valley Chapel. (First photo by Gail Gilbert) Did you know that this Chapel is the oldest structure that is still in public use in Yosemite National Park? It was built in 1879 and the Chapel’s website (link at end) states the following:

“It was built under the auspices of the Yosemite Union Chapel Association. Their stated purpose was:

‘To erect an undenominational house of worship in the Yosemite Valley.’ They took their inspiration from two Old Testament scripture verses:

Haggai 1:8: ‘Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the LORD.’

Isaiah 2:2: ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.’

The first service was held on June 7, 1879 at its original location near the base of the Four Mile trail, a mile or so from its present site.In 1901, it was taken down and moved to its present site.

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The views of Yosemite Falls from the Chapel.

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We headed over to the Ahwahnee Hotel. Did you know that the present location of the Ahwahnee Hotel was once a village of the native Miwok Indians? The website for the Ahwahnee Hotel states the following:

“In the early 1920’s, Stephen Mather, the National Park Service Director, realized that the Park needed accommodations to suit the affluent and influential traveler. The concept of a hotel such as The Ahwahnee® became the impetus to draw such a visitor.

In July 1925, Gilbert Stanley Underwood was selected as the architect for Yosemite’s new luxury hotel. Due to its remote location, the construction of The Ahwahnee was the most complex trucking endeavor of its day. Over 5,000 tons of stone, 1,000 tons of steel, and 30,000 feet of timber were hauled over the challenging mountain roads. To protect The Ahwahnee from fire, a fate of many of the Park’s earlier hotels, its wood-like facade is actually concrete, poured into rough-hewn wooden forms and stained to look like redwood.”

As we approached the hotel, we could see that the entrance was decorated with greenery and lights. It was very pretty!

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The Christmas Tree in the lobby has a Native American theme to it. Check out the presents under the tree and who they are addressed to.

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We visited many different rooms on the ground floor to see how they were decorated. Wreaths were on most windows and sconces bordered most of the doors. Each room had a slightly different style.

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When we exited the Ahwahnee Hotel, we spotted the sleigh at the entrance . We just could not resist taking our picture in it. This would also make a great family Christmas picture location!

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The reflections in the pond in front of the Ahwahnee Hotel had some pretty darn nice reflections in it. That was a very nice surprise to finish off our day in the valley.

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The holidays are a fun time to visit Yosemite National Park. The water has started flowing back into the creeks and rivers, the falls are flowing again and there is a special feel of that Christmas spirit there right now. The ice skating rink is also open and ready for you. But then again, each season has its own unique sights and sounds to experience in Yosemite!

Additional Information:

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