July 24th, 7:18pm
Foresta, Yosemite West, and Wawona are all areas settled before Yosemite became a National Park. Today, they remain active communities within park boundaries. Over dinner, we spoke with Kathy and Kylie Chappell, mother & daughter, and inheritors of the historic Flying Spur property in Foresta from pre-eminent Yosemite historian, Shirley Sargent.
Foresta was first founded in 1912 with plans to establish a cultural arts center. The Flying Spur property was rediscovered when Shirley’s father, while on a hike, came across the remains of a stone chimney. Further research led them to discover this was the former property of Theodore Solomons, an explorer and one of the earliest members of the Sierra Club. He is also credited for creating the trail that is now the John Muir Trail. Shirley and her father convinced the Solomons to sell this land to rebuild the Flying Spur property. Here, Shirley wrote many books on Yosemite history (including a book on Theodore Solomons himself), and a few novels, like “Yosemite Tomboy,” which all still grace park bookstore shelves today.
Flying Spur looks much different today than it did in Shirley’s days. After a major fire devastated the community in 1990, and another in 2014, Foresta is no longer a lush forest that the name suggests. A 13 year lawsuit against the Park Service was settled, and a new agreement allowed property owners to rebuild and lease their property as vacation rentals. After Shirley passed, the Chappell’s rented their Foresta home — most notably to Dean Potter, a well known rock climber in Yosemite who tragically died in a base jumping accident off Taft Point in 2015.
Kylie now lives at “the Spur,” creating her own community of friends and guests who visit the park (like us!). For Kylie, it took a semester in New Zealand to realize the natural beauty of the landscape of her Yosemite childhood. She returned to Yosemite, and now works as the Outdoor Adventures Coordinator at the Yosemite Conservancy. She describes it as the perfect job for someone who grew up here, who now spends their free time climbing and “peak-bagging” — a new term we learned for summiting peaks. Kathy now lives in nearby Mariposa with her husband; both retired schoolteachers, and intrepid adventurers.
Photos featured in this post are from our first visit in Fall 2014, just a few months after the El Portal fire.