I had the opportunity to visit beautiful Tenaya Lake last week and wasted no time getting to the west beach to enjoy the view. As I approached, I was dismayed to see artificial rock piles arranged on the small island not far off the beach. Apparently, someone had thought they could improve upon the view by stacking piles of small granite rocks to look at. Places like Yosemite are preserved to protect the natural landscape, which means that our unnatural additions are not appropriate. When I come to visit a place like Yosemite, I try to leave no sign that I was there. In this way, the next person that arrives will get to wonder at the same natural glory that I did. This "Leave No Trace" ethic should guide our actions in Yosemite and all national parks.
Most people don't think on the scale of just one rock. They don't realize that around that rock, a microhabitat has developed. When you move that rock, you change the specific conditions that exist in that location. This can change the sunlight that lichens on the rock are getting, the water that plants around the rock are getting, and the shelter that invertebrates under the rock are getting. You could be adversely affecting a whole community without even knowing it. Everything in Yosemite has its place. John Muir said it best when he wrote, "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe."
I came back to Tenaya Lake the next day, prepared to take down the rock piles, and they were gone. The only thing better than leaving no trace is to leave the park better than you found it. If you see any rock piles while you are in Yosemite, please help take them down.