“Yosemite–The Fate Of Heaven” is a stunning film portrait of Yosemite National Park. Breathtaking cinematography graphically depicts the fragile wonder of the place naturalist John Muir once called “a great temple lighted from above.” The film illustrates how our passion for Yosemite’s beauty jeopardizes the very wilderness we love so much.
Read by Robert Redford, the film’s narration is taken from the diaries of Lafayette Bunnell, a doctor who accompanied the Mariposa Battalion in 1851 on a mission to “hunt down Indians.” The campaign brought soldiers for the first time into the sacred valley home of the Ahwahnechee tribe in the Sierra Nevada. “My astonishment was overwhelming,” wrote Bunnell of the valley’s grandeur. “Here before me was the power and glory of the Supreme Being.” Bunnell understood immediately that his small band would be the first and last white men to see the natural wonder of the valley unspoiled.
More than 130 years later, tens of thousands trek to the park from all over the world to enjoy the valley’s magnificent landscapes and wildlife. The film introduces us to hikers and campers for whom Yosemite is a true shrine, including a free-hand rock climber who “dances” up walls of sheer granite and a woman whose family survived the depression by camping at the park and fishing its rivers. Vintage photographs and observations from Bunnell’s eloquent diary remind us that America’s love affair with Yosemite is well over a century old.
Wrote Bunnell on leaving Yosemite. “Those scenes of beauteous enchantment I leave to those who remain to enjoy them.” Today Yosemite is a protected national park, but that may not be enough to guarantee its future. The continual onslaught of nature lovers–over 1,000 cars a day–only intensifies the conflict between preservation and public enjoyment. Sanitation workers remove 25,000 pounds of trash a day. Work crews toil to repair natural trails damaged by wear. Park rangers protect tourists from roaming bears, and curious deer from potato chip hand-outs. Nature rules here, but human beings, we learn, are both the biggest threat to the park’s future and its best hope.
Watch the entire thing, just like I’m doing now, over at The Creak of Boots.