Only You Can Prevent Firefalls

firefallyosemiteI don’t know why it is,
but sometimes, you’re
just moving ahead
with your day,

— and bam
something triggers a memory
for apparently
no rhyme or reason.

You’re not even sure
you’re remembering it right –
— so you look it up,
and there it is.

I was in the gym talking
to a guy about his trip
to Yellowstone….

.. and a vague memory of a
travel photograph of
my Grandmother suddenly
popped into my head.campcurry

She was standing in front
of what looked like a waterfall —
— but it was nighttime,
there was a bunch of cabins,
and in the background,
instead of water, there was fire.

She was still pretty young in the pic-
— if I remembered it right —
but what the hell
was she standing in front of?

I remembered that there
was a place they liked to stay
at when they went west on road trips…..

So I dug out her old photo album.yosemite
I couldn’t find the picture I wanted.
But I found the place.

It turns out
it was called Camp Curry
in the Yosemite National Forest.

( It’s actually still there —
going by the name
of Half Dome Village. )

Built in 1898, it was little
more than a tent-camp
when they visited in the 1930’s–

But it was one of the
stranger places that
my grandparents liked
to visit when they touredyosemite
the National Forests.

Because, at night,
you had the best view
of an event they used
to hold in Yosemite
(until the early 1960’s)
that was called
“The Glacier Point Firefall”.

It would start
with a ceremony —
— every summer evening
at precisely 9pm —

The assembled crowd would
start to sing
” Indian Love Call ” ,
while the ” Fire Caller ”
at Camp Curry would radio
(or yell ) to a “Fire Master”a
3200 feet up on
the top of the mountain.

“Hello, calling Glacier Point!”

“Hello, Camp Curry!”

“Is the fire ready?”

“The fire is ready!”

“Let the Fire Fall!”

“The Fire Falls!”

And with that signal,
a huge bonfire of Red Fir
would be pushed over
the edge of Gracier Falls —

The spectacle must havecampcu
been something to see….
and I remember how excited
my grandmother would get
telling us about it.

Bill Lane, who was the
Fire Caller for many years,
described the feeling after the fall :

“Then there would
usually be a pause,

and I have seen
many people cry

at the end of the program.
And it would be
what would match

seem like minutes,
although it

was probably
30 seconds or so,

then there would
be the sound

of a few people
bold enough to clap,

to break what was really
almost a spiritual experience.
And then pretty soon the
crescendo of the clapping,
and you could
hear the clapping

from the meadows, and
then from all over the valley.”

If you went up to the top of
Gracier Falls to see where
the bonfire was built,
there was also an interesting sign
close to where the fire
went over the mountain
every night —

it read:bonfire

” It is 3,000 feet
to the Bottom

And no undertaker
to meet you

There is a difference
Between bravery
and just plain


You don’t see signs
written with such plain speaking
or clear thinking anymore….

And although in these
days of wildfires and droughts,hosetail
the whole ‘firefall’ thing
doesn’t really seem to be all
that good of an custom to revive
(not that anyone has
really seriously suggested it )

— still,
one has got to wonder
just what we’re missing.

The National Park Service
has been promoting a site
called Horsetail Falls as a
natural substitute for
the original flaming firefall,

— and I guess that’ll
just have to do —
but somehow, I don’t think
it would feel the same.

Ahh —
the reverie of history, huh?






!!!!!!! HOY !!!!!!


16 thoughts on “Only You Can Prevent Firefalls

  1. Bet your grandma was a cool lady!
    I’ve been to Yosemite. It’s a beautiful place to make memories.
    HUGS!!! 🙂

  2. ktz2 says:

    A quite interesting post, about something I’d never heard of before!
    Of course the vintage stuff is like icing on the cupcake. .
    For some reason my first thought is that the singer is Jeanette MacDonald? (Whoever she is, geez louise, my earwax got melted. .)

  3. Mrs Fever says:

    It’s a wonder they never set the hills ablaze. That looks dangerous.

  4. kerbey says:

    Oh, btw, I read the title and thought you were going to rip into the cheesy 70s band and destroy my fondness for “You are the Woman” and “Just Remember I Love You.”

  5. kerbey says:

    What an interesting piece of history! So odd that someone even thought that up to do. I’d like to do see it, but I’m certain “The Indian Love Call” would not be PC these days. And like you say, there’s plenty of fire going around. Now I shall try to forget the awful warbling lilt of the vocalist in that video. 😉

  6. slmret says:

    The firefall was one of those jaw-dropping spectacular events that one will always remember the sensation of watching it from the meadows. Yosemite is a special place — I’m happy to have seen the firefall, but also happy (for all the reasons mentioned) that they discontinued it.

    • The fact that you got to see it is very cool — it’s one of those things that you can’t see anymore, and that makes me sad- despite the excellent reasons for not doing it.

      • slmret says:

        It was a really cool thing to watch, but I remember thinking it was a pretty scary thing to do — the meadows are pretty marshy, so wildfire was probably not as much of a threat as it would be today. It’s one of those things that were discontinued for so many good reasons that one wonders why they were ever allowed in the first place!

  7. julespaige says:

    You reminded me of a photo I have of one of my grandmothers who was in Florida – and had a big mac caw or parrot on her head and on on each out stretched arm… a touristy thing to do but – she was smiling.

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