Joseph LeConte

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Have you been to the LeConte Memorial in Yosemite Valley? Many people have seen it and quite a few stop and visit but few know why it’s there.

Joseph LeConte, came to California not seeking his fortune in the gold fields, but to teach geology. For a summer trip he arranged a trip to see the much talked about “Yosemite”. LeConte’s trip across the Central Valley, up the Sierra foothills, through the Mariposa grove and down into the Valley is one of true adventure and pioneer spirit. He slept on the ground, ate hard bread they made over the campfire everyday, and bathed in the cold mountain streams and rivers. LeConte and his party braved fierce mountains storms in the High Sierra and climbed tall peaks with John Muir before crossing the Sierra on their way to Lake Tahoe and then on home. After returning home LeConte published his journal from the trip never knowing it would kindle a fire drawing record numbers to Yosemite to experience this magical place he’d written of.

A noted professor of geology, LeConte was a founding member of the Sierra Club and worked tirelessly on behalf of Yosemite until his death at Curry Village on July 6, 1901.

In his memory, the State of California allowed the Sierra Club to build a lodge that would serve as a reading room and information center for park visitors. The lodge, originally located between Curry Village and the talus slope below Glacier Point, was dedicated on July 3, 1904. It soon became a point of contention between the Club and the Curry family, who had plans to expand their campground. To the dismay of the Sierra Club, Jennie Curry had the lodge dismantled and rebuilt where you can visit it today, across from the Housekeeping Camp.

LeConte’s book, A Journal of ramblings through the High Sierra of California by the university excursion party, is truly magical and one of my favorite reads whenever I long for Yosemite. If you’ve got some time, pick up a copy. You won’t regret it.

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