No temple made with hands

Today, as everyone who uses Google knows – and I guess that’s basically everyone, or at least everyone who might also be reading this – is the 123rd birthday of Yosemite National Park. (Obligatory footnote: you could not visit Yosemite National Park today, however, on account of the US federal government being shut down. As a foreigner I’m a little unclear on what that means exactly, but it definitely means national parks are closed. I also saw a bunch of guys carrying some benches out of the federal courthouse downtown today, but that might have been mere coincidence. Anyway.)

Just a few months before starting this journal I spent a week in Yosemite Valley. Trying to describe it on a large scale is beyond my gifts; let me direct you instead to John Muir’s The Yosemite, with the caveat that if you go there and try some of Muir’s shenanigans the park rangers will want a word. On the small scale, though, there were some fine sights too. For instance, everywhere in the Valley was map lichen (Rhizocarpon):
Map lichen (Rhizocarpon sp.), Yosemite National Park
Rhizocarpon grows very slowly; on the order, according to most sources I’ve looked at, of about a millimetre per year. Now that doesn’t mean necessarily that a patch 2 metres in radius has been growing from a single spore for the past 2000 years, since independent patches can coalesce. It’s still a little awe-inspiring. Also, outer space is no big for Rhizocarpon:

The lichen samples were launched from Baikonur by a Soyuz rocket .. exposed lichens, regardless of the optical filters used, showed nearly the same photosynthetic activity after the flight as measured before the flight. Likewise, the multimicroscopy approach revealed no detectable ultrastructural changes in most of the algal and fungal cells of the lichen thalli… after extreme dehydration induced by high vacuum, the lichens proved to be able to recover, in full, their metabolic activity within 24 hours.
– from abstract of “Lichens Survive in Space: Results from the 2005 LICHENS Experiment”, Sancho et al., Astrobiology June 2007, 7(3):443-454

There were of course also ferns; partway up the trail to Upper Yosemite Falls was this Cheilanthes:
Lip fern (Cheilanthes sp.), Yosemite National Park
I can’t get it down to the species, but apparently ferns hybridize with great glee within their own genus, so I’m determined not to feel too bad about that.

And in the Fen at Happy Isles were horsetails of a kind I hadn’t seen before:
Horsetails (Equisetum sp.), Yosemite National Park
which were identified for me as probably rough horsetail, Equisetum hyemale. Apparently I lost my sunglasses out of my jacket pocket while lying down to take this picture, or sometime around then. Oops.

Anyway.. this is my inadequate way of saying, happy 123th birthday, Yosemite National Park, and many more. I hope people can visit you again soon!

Also, many thanks to my lady wife, who not only conceived the idea of this trip but basically arranged everything.

… no temple made with hands can compare with Yosemite.
-John Muir


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