Hunting for the Hutchings House
March 09, 2013
James Mason Hutchings was one of the earliest and most important pioneer figures of Yosemite Valley. It was Hutchings that published the first illustrations of Yosemite Valley, his daughter was the first non-Indian to be born in the Valley, and he owned one of the first hotels in the Valley. He purchased the Upper Hotel in 1864 and renamed it Hutchings House. This hotel was located in the old Yosemite Village, which was developed on the south side of the Valley, between Sentinel Bridge and the Four Mile Trailhead. Of the many buildings that were there then, only the chapel remains. The rest have been removed or relocated to the north side of the Valley where the current Yosemite Village can be found. Hutchings expanded his hotel a few years after he bought it, building the "Big Tree Room" around a 175-foot-tall incense cedar tree. Even though this structure is gone, you can still find evidence of the building and the big tree itself. In fact, everyone that enters eastern Yosemite Valley drives right past this tree and probably has no idea of its history. Located on the right, just before the stop sign at Sentinel Bridge, you can see a large incense cedar tree that has been cut off about 30 feet up. While the full tree presented a hazard of falling on the road, this portion was left because of the historical significance. Upon closer inspection, you may also find small markers that were placed on stones at the corners of the room. The rich history of Yosemite is all around us, we just have to know where to look.
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Did You Know?
In Wawona and downstream, the South Fork Merced River provides habitat for a rare plant, the Sierra sweet bay (Myrica hartwegii). This special status shrub is found in only five Sierra Nevada counties. In Yosemite, it occurs exclusively on sand bars and river banks along the South Fork Merced River downstream from Wawona and on Big Creek.