El Capitan, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California
June 30th marks the 150th Anniversary of the Yosemite Grant Act. Authorized by Congress and signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1864, it was the humble beginnings that established Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove as the first protected wilderness in the country. It also created California’s first State Park, and ultimately led to the creation of America’s National Park System.
In the years that followed, the tireless efforts of conservationist John Muir persuaded the government to protect the surrounding land as well and on October 1, 1890 Yosemite National Park was born. Never one to miss an opportunity to share the beauty and magic of his beloved home in the Sierra, Muir’s eloquent words convinced President Theodore Roosevelt and the state authorities to include Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove within the boundaries of Yosemite National Park and in 1906 it was signed into law.
As part of the on-going celebration, the National Park Service, Yosemite Conservancy, Ansel Adams Gallery, and the California State Parks are hosting numerous events throughout the year. It’s a great time to visit Yosemite, explore the Park’s history, and celebrate America’s Best Idea.
Sunset over the Sierra Nevada foothills from Moro Rock, Sequoia National Park, California
Saturday, June 21st is the Summer Solstice. It’s the longest day of the year and the official start of summer in the northern hemisphere.
Historically Midsummer’s Eve has been a celebration of the solstice dating back to ancient times. It was believed that mid-summer flowering plants had amazing healing powers when picked on this night, and huge bonfires were lit to protect against evil spirits thought to roam the earth when the sun turned southward again.
The word solstice comes from the Latin solstitium from sol (sun) and stitium (to stop), because it appears as if the sun stops its course at this point. The sun doesn’t rise precisely in the east during the event, but rises to the north of east and sets to the north of west creating a longer arc in the sky. The solstice occurs when the sun’s zenith is at its furthest point from the equator. During the event it reaches its northernmost point and the Earth’s North Pole tilts directly towards the sun, at about 23.5 degrees. It’s a good thing too, because without this small offset we would have no seasons!
This year the solstice occurs at 6:51 A.M. EDT, and with nearly 16 hours of daylight it’s the perfect time to explore the great outdoors, have ample time for photography, and maybe even wrap up the day with a barbecue and a bit of stargazing.