BEFORE MAN, THERE WAS A PLACE OF BREATHTAKING BEAUTY, A LAND FOREVER WILD, FOREVER FREE.
The Indians called it Ahwahnee. We know it as . . .
YOSEMITE . . . a timeless land of vast, unspoiled riches . . . where ancient tribes walked the sacred ground in peace and harmony.
YOSEMITE . . . a paradise on earth that lured settlers like Joseph Walker to cross the towering Sierra Nevadas and brave the perils of a great unexplored wilderness in search of fame and fortune.
YOSEMITE . . . a coveted prize for those who would plunder its rich resources, it would take visionaries like John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt to protect this pristine land and preserve it as a sanctuary for generations of Americans to come.
Painted on an authentic, larger-than-life canvas, filled with the men and women who made history, here is the epic story as spectacular in scope and stirringly beautiful as YOSEMITE itself.
YOSEMITE —some of its people & events
—From Yosemite Thunder Author Notes
"The main characters in Yosemite Thunder are fictional, but a pair of fugitives like Jacinta and her husband, the brave and desperate Spanish captain, might have brought the 'black sickness' into Ahwahnee. (Ahwahnee Chief) Tenaya himself spoke of this terrible epidemic and judged that it happened about 1800, forcing the remnants of his once numerous people to flee their beloved Ahwahnee and live among the Mono Indians. Chief Tenaya was born near Mono Lake on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. When he grew into manhood, he led The People back to Ahwahnee after a twenty-year exile.
". . . the ordeal of (the) Joseph Walker party's near starvation during their attempt to cross the Sierras in 1833, is a dramatic page of American history. This group of explorers were the first white men to look down into Yosemite but were prevented from entering it by the valley's sheer cliffs.
"The Mariposa Indian War was an infamous campaign during which the Ahwahneeche and their culture were almost destroyed. James Savage and the major events of that pathetic conflict are woven into the fabric of this novel. . . . There was a Fresno River Reservation and Tenaya's favorite son was shot down while trying to escape his captors. It is said that young Muaga's death almost broke the spirit of the last true chief of the Ahwahneeche. Tenaya and several of the tribal elders were murdered during a game of 'hand' by the Mono Indians and it seems reasonable that the last of The People scattered, some fleeing to hide in Yosemite and Tuolumne, others simply giving themselves over to the care and protection of the Americans or else intermarrying into other cultures.
"James 'Grizzly' Adams was a swashbuckling character and great fun to research and write about. And yes, he did capture Gentle Ben and the mighty Samson. . . and took them to San Francisco where he opened the Mountaineer Museum and later toured with Barnum and Bailey. The death of 'Gentle Ben', as well as Adam's own sudden death in 1861, received national attention.
"John Muir was born in Dunbar, Scotland, in 1838 and grew up in Wisconsin with a passion for the wilderness. After walking a thousand miles to Florida and then arriving by ship in San Francisco, he hurried to Yosemite and fell in love. Muir never held public office, but his appreciation of nature and his unwavering advocacy of wilderness preservation marked him as someone far ahead of his time. Muir was also a gifted inventor and student of the natural sciences. His glacial theory was at first ridiculed and then wholeheartedly accepted by the academic community. His notes, observations, writings and even his wilderness sketches are national treasures and are as relevant and brilliant in their clarity as they were a century ago.
"Muir never considered himself adequate to the mission of saving all wilderness. He was a poet, yet found writing to be a laborious task which he described as "rigid as granite and slow as glaciers". But everyone who met John Muir avowed that he was a spellbinding speaker, and it mattered not if Muir were seated around a Sierra campfire or standing before a huge and adoring audience.
"As I researched Yosemite Thunder, I was touched by the tragic and premature death of Florence 'Floy' Hutchings. In the excellent book, Yosemite, Its Discovery, Its Wonders and Its Peoples by Margaret Sanborn, there is a picture of Floy taken, I would judge by the sadness in her dark eyes, about the time that she had to leave her beloved Yosemite. She was a beautiful girl and her untimely death was mourned by everyone. If you visit Yosemite, be sure to stop by the old pioneer cemetery and pay your respects to Floy Hutchings, along with many of the other pioneers that you have met and become acquainted with in this novel.
"Yosemite Thunder ends on a note of hope in 1903 as we see John Muir and President Theodore Roosevelt together at Glacier Point, each committed to saving a valley desperately in need of federal protection. There was every reason for them to be hopeful. On June 11, 1906, the valley of Ahwahnee finally joined with the surrounding wilderness to become Yosemite National Park. Thanks in large part to John Muir and President Roosevelt, Arizona's Petrified Forest and the Grand Canyon also became National Parks.
"Sadly, John Muir's last years were filled with disappointments as he and the Sierra Club fought to save the beautiful Hetch Hetchy Valley from being flooded as a water and power supply for San Francisco. Muir and the Sierra Club waged a long and courageous battle, but finally exhausted their appeals and Hetch Hetchy was flooded in 1913. Today, that once-beautiful valley's hanging waterfalls and spectacular granite formations overshadow an ugly, silt-filled reservoir, and one has to study old pictures of Hetch Hetchy to appreciate the lost beauty that earned it Muir's sobriquet of the 'Tuolumne Yosemite.'
"Today, the environmental legacy of John Muir lives on throughout the world, and the United States is blessed with hundreds of national parks, monuments and historic sites, all administered by the National Park Service. Each is unique in its own historical significance yet all share a common natural beauty."