Yosemite Apple Trees- Yosemite's Oldest Living Pioneer
Yosemite Apple Trees date back to the early pioneer days.
The apple trees might possibly be the oldest living things in the Yosemite Valley.
There are 3 distinct apple orchards in Yosemite Valley.
James C. Lamon first came to the Yosemite Valley in 1859. He came to help build the “Upper Hotel” which was owned John Hite and stood near the spot where the Sentinel Bridge now stands.
That same year Lamon filed a preemption claim on some acres located at the east end of the valley near Camp Curry and beneath the stony gaze of Half Dome. There he built a small cabin and planted various fruits such as cherries, pears, plums, apples and nectarines . The most popular with visitors were the apples from the first Yosemite apple trees.
Lamon planted two apple orchards and about 500 trees. Today you can see remnants of these apple groves in the Camp Curry Parking lot and behind the stables near the North Pines Campgrounds.
Each summer the park service looks for volunteers to pick the ripe apples so that bears won’t go after them and increase the chances of human interaction within the valley.
The apple trees in the Curry parking lot are gnarly and unattractive yet they predate the establishment of the park and were planted in Abraham Lincolns time.
James Mason Hutchings is perhaps the best known of all Yosemite pioneers with the possible exception of John Muir (who was not technically a pioneer but an inventor, a worker and a self described tramp)
Hutchings first visited Yosemite Valley in 1855 with a party that included Thomas Ayers who drew the first sketches of Yosemite and sparked the interest of vacationers who wanted to gaze at such marvels. He returned in 1856 and purchased the “Upper Hotel”. Among his employees were James Lamon and later, John Muir whom Hutchings hired to build and operate a sawmill in the valley to provide lumber for building his home and improving his hotel.
The mill saved money on hauling lumber up to the valley by train or wagon. In order to have fresh food for his guests, including fresh fruit, Hutchings planted 160 apple trees near the current Yosemite Elementary School. Several of the remaining apple trees can be found in a small grove just off North Drive just west of the Visitors Center.
The park service has talked many times over the decades about removing the apple orchards as a non-native species. While unkempt
, gnarly and unattractive now, these trees represent a period in Yosemite history when gold miners, enterprising hoteliers, artists and painters and wandering adventurers discovered and lived in this grand cathedral. There is nothing from this period left and, with the exception of perhaps an Indian hieroglyph, nothing man made that is this old.
I hope that the Yosemite apple trees are allowed to live a full life just like the sequoias.
James Lamon and James Hutchings are interred in the Yosemite Pioneer Cemetery which is #2 on places to visit in the Yosemite Valley.
For additional information on Yosemite Apple Trees or how to visit Yosemite click on any of the links below