On the black, charred earth left behind after the tragic rim fire burned the northwest portion of Yosemite National Forest, small green plants, ferns and other shrubs, have begun to push through the ash. Also, the Yosemite Riverside Inn, at the center of one of California’s most massive and tragic fires in tiny Groveland, Calif., has announced that it plans to reopen on Oct. 1, inviting tourists to “come see the rim fires (sic) devastation.”
An illegal campfire ignited the Aug. 17 blaze--California's third-largest fire in history--in Stanislaus National Forest, beginning a 400-square-mile path of destruction across the 1,400-square-mile forest. It scorched canyon walls in 25 watersheds, perhaps damaging fish stocks and drinking water, and then spread into Yosemite National Park.
Some areas of Yosemite that burned were truly unique, and some trails, like those offering views of Yosemite's giant sequoia, remain closed. Those areas lost can’t possibly return to their previous glory within our lifetimes, but, mercifully, many of the most famous areas of the park--the village, Mirror Lake, Nevada Falls and areas around the Half Dome--were spared.
While the plants will grow back, small towns dependent on the Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite for their livelihood are probably facing a much more difficult future. Will people stay in Groveland when so much has been lost around it?
The Yosemite Riverside Inn offers comfortable rooms for about $100 a night, including Wi-Fi for $5 (although they ask people not to stream video because the signal is not strong), and a free, unspectacular breakfast every morning at 7 a.m. But a big part of the charm that this tiny “resort” offered before it was closed by fire was a few lawn chairs and massive, lush trees along a meandering, rocky river. The hotel which should reopen tomorrow, has vacancies.
Downtown Groveland includes a grocery store with fresh produce, a coffee house with an open mic for poets on Friday nights, and some small restaurants, including one that serves hamburgers, Chinese food, pizza and some fairly spectacular milkshakes. In short, a lot of nice people, and perky waitresses, working hard to give visitors something they want as they pass through on their way to Yosemite from San Francisco.
Hopefully, this small town will grow again, just like the forest. Yosemite should still be on anyone’s must-see list, despite the losses on its western expanses. But as you drive in, make sure you stop off for a fabulous shake, a bushel of apples, and perhaps a bed for the night.