YExplore Media Buzz

YExplore Featured in NPR Podcast & Nationally Syndicated Blogs

By John P. DeGrazio

YExplore Media Buzz Cathedral Peak

YExplore Media Buzz

The travel industry is all about building relationships. Over the years, we have developed several with our guests, writers, and other partners who experience Yosemite on our tours. Recently, we have been featured in some media stories about visiting Yosemite National Park and are very thankful for the recognition as one of the industry leaders for providing custom guided Yosemite hiking tours. Below are links to all three articles that have generated a YExplore Media Buzz. One is an NPR podcast from my very special friend Tom Wilmer, and the other two were on nationally syndicated blogs.

Last week I received a note from Cari Morgan, a writer from the O.A.R.S. Adventure Company, our partner for seven years. Cari “wrote a guest post for the National Park Foundation blog that mentions YExplore.” Cari has written several articles featuring YExplore, and we believe that is the product of us providing exceptional services for their guests in our partnership for multi-sport trips on the Tuolumne River and in Yosemite National Park. We ran one of these trips just last week and the photos of Cathedral Peak are from that multi-day expedition called the Yosemite and Tuolumne Hiker.

Another form of YExplore Media Buzz came from my good friend Tom Wilmer who is the author of an NPR podcast called “Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer” which is a Lowell Thomas Award winning show broadcast from KCBX FM Central Coast Radio in California. Tom and I are good friends and members of OWAC, the Outdoor Writers Association of California. He and I sat down for this interview “Discover Yosemite National Park with YExplore guided hikes” at our spring conference in May 2016 in Placer County, CA. It was great catching up with Tom during that interview and it was funny because we ended it at least three different times. We began to chat at every cut when a new revelation was made that Tom had to include in the interview. Tom is a kind man with a soothing voice whose “journeys” are a true joy to give a listen. You may subscribe to his podcasts on iTunes or via RSS.

Finally, I received a call from Richard Varr, a well-rounded freelance writer, photographer and videographer with more than 25 years writing experience. His blog is titled “Richard Varr’s Travel Blog, Notes from a travel writer” Richard recently made a trip into Yosemite and included some of the quotes from our interview in his story titled “Yosemite National Park: Granite Peaks, Towering Waterfalls and Lazy Meadows“.

I really enjoy speaking with writers and podcasters, especially when the initial interview develops into a lasting relationship. We always welcome YExplore Media Buzz as we continue to provide memorable experiences for Yosemite visitors.

YExplore Media Buzz Cathedral Peak

John P. DeGrazio Yosemite Ambassador of the Week

John P. DeGrazio Yosemite Ambassador

Half Dome Snake Dike DeGrazio Yosemite Ambassador
John P. DeGrazio Approaching the Snake Dike route for his 100th ascent of Half Dome. Photo by Gabriel Mange

Yosemite National Park named me, John P. DeGrazio Yosemite Ambassador in 2016 to help celebrate the National Park Service Centennial. Since then, I have been sharing photos, stories, and social media posts to help promote the 100 year anniversary of the National Park Service. Yesterday, I received another honor from Yosemite. They named me the Yosemite Ambassador of the Week on their Instagram and Facebook pages.

What is really exciting is this announcement came ahead of National Park Week that begins tomorrow. From April 16-24, everyone can celebrate the National Parks Centennial with free admission into every national park. There will also be an Earth Day celebration of the legacy of John Muir in Yosemite Valley next weekend. REI is planning some activities in Yosemite Valley Saturday April 23, and I plan to attend with my family.

You can click on the link below to visit the Yosemite National Park Facebook Page for more information about the celebration.

I was selected as a Yosemite National Park Ambassador for my volunteer work with the Yosemite Gateway Partners Organization where I am currently serving as president. Yosemite Gateway Partners is a partnership of government agencies, non-profit organizations, tribes, individuals and businesses that acknowledge the interdependence of Yosemite National Park and the surrounding communities, and collaborate on and address issues of regional importance to create sustainable cultural, natural and economic prosperity.

So if you see me in Yosemite, please stop me to say hello. I’d love to share a little bit about the park with you. I am also excited to announce I have also created a speaking series program titled “Fostering Yosemite Stewardship in the Digital Age”. This is part of the National Park Centennial Celebration, and I will speak at venues across California about planning responsible adventures in Yosemite and beyond beginning in June. Some locations will be at the Mt. Sage Ecosummit in June and REI Bay Area stores beginning in July. More information will follow soon, and I will create an events page for those who follow this blog.

Here is the YExplore John P. DeGrazio Yosemite Ambassador Bio Page.

Half Dome #119 Peaches with Mia

My Yosemite Ambassador Story 
By John P. DeGrazio 

2016-NPSCentennial-logo-lg2016 marks the Centennial Anniversary of the National Park Service. When I first learned of the Yosemite Ambassador program to celebrate this anniversary, I was highly impressed with the group of athletes, musicians, and local personalities who were selected. I was profoundly happy for my good friend Les Marsden who is the founder and conductor of the Mariposa Symphony Orchestra. There is no better representative of Yosemite than Les who has masterfully written symphonic poems celebrating the Yosemite Anniversaries that the symphony has been performing at free concerts throughout the Yosemite region.

Shortly after the first group of ambassadors were unveiled, I was approached by Yosemite National Park Superintendent Don Neubacher to join this group and help represent Yosemite during the yearlong celebration. I was chosen as a result of my involvement in a volunteer group called the Yosemite Gateway Partners. My heart jumped, and so did I at the opportunity to foster goodwill in the place I love so deeply. One of my first duties as a Yosemite ambassador was to share a story about my connection to Yosemite. There were so many to choose from, but I decided to recall a recent adventure with my daughter Mia who wanted to hike to the top of Half Dome before her tenth birthday.

Mia spent much of her young life hiking the trails of Yosemite. Most of them were fairly easy. Relatively easy would be more accurate. Every time we would see Half Dome on one of our hikes, which was often, I would ask her if she ever want to hike to the summit with me. “No!”, “never!!”, and “no way!!!” were just some of her responses. But then, one day, there was a transformation in her attitude toward adventure. She was nine, and we were in Zion National Park. I brought her to Angels Landing for a morning challenge up the chains. She was excited but became frightened. I was able to coach her through that experience, and although she was never comfortable on the landing, her desire for adventure grew exponentially that day. On the hike down, she mentioned that she was interested in Half Dome. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing so I feigned excitement.

After a few training hikes that Mia successfully completed, we were ready for our big Half Dome hike together. We packed our gear the night before, and I was certain to include peaches and chocolate in our lunch. Peaches have played a significant role on just about every summit journey I have made ever since a 1997 climb of Mt. Rainier. I met a kind woman at the Seattle-Tacoma Airport who shared a story of her Rainier summit and the reward she chose. When she packed a can of peaches in her backpack, her guide immediately removed it for its weight. She later secretly repacked it and unveiled it on the peak for a shared treat whose sweetness outweighed any of the struggle to carry it to the top. That story has always resonated with me, and I live by her words every day. It’s also why I call this blog the Can O Peaches.

John and Mia DeGrazio on the Half Dome Summit

Mia and I began our journey in the predawn hours under a blood moon. We arrived at the John Muir Trail ready for our ultimate expedition. I have spent many trips standing by the Happy Isles Bridge preparing my groups for the Half Dome hike, but this was a unique opportunity I’ll never forget. She was attentive and ready to go. The photo above is proof of a successful journey, but the rest of this story is shared on my Official Yosemite Ambassador Page of the Yosemite National Park website.

YExplore on NPR Marketplace January 2016

Interview About Increased Visitation to Yosemite National Park 
By John P. DeGrazio 

I recently had the opportunity to interview with Mark Garrison of Marketplace to speak about the recent increase in visitors to Yosemite National Park and the economic impact. We discussed YExplore’s role in the Yosemite community and the importance of adding jobs to our local economy. Here is the link for the article and  the radio interview that is currently airing on National Public Radio.

Yosemite Visitors from across the World to Dewey Point


Yosemite Trail Burritos with the National Geographic Digital Nomad

Exploring Hetch Hetchy with National Geographic
By John P. DeGrazio  

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”–John Muir

I’ve always been the kind of person to say yes to requests for my time often before knowing the details of the duties I am expected to perform. I like to think of it as helping others while feeding my adventurous side. I received an email in October asking if I’d be willing to lead a Yosemite backpack trip for a travel writer visiting Tuolumne County. Naturally, I agreed to guide the 2 day trek without hesitation. While looking over the details of the email, I noticed there was a request for an expert on backpacking in Yosemite to visit the waterfalls of Hetch Hetchy (score) and discuss John Muir and his contributions to the place (double score).

Digital Nomad Robert Reid from Camp at Rancheria Falls, Hetch Hetchy, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio

I was to host Robert Reid, National Geographic’s Digital Nomad, on a two day journey through one of my favorite places in Yosemite. My original thought was to extensively research John Muir’s involvement in the fight for Hetch Hetchy and prepare some quotes to share. In the end, I decided I was confident in the knowledge I had already obtained about Muir and the history of the area. I also chose to forego researching who Robert was because I wanted him to tell me his story in his own way. When we met, I admitted to Robert that I would have jumped at the opportunity to escape into the wilderness for a couple of days regardless of who I was hosting. I like to believe that despite the way it may sound, he fully appreciated my honesty without being insulted. After a brief gear check in the parking lot, we were on our way.

John and Robert on America’s Almost Important Camping Trip

If Muir and President Theodore Roosevelt were on America’s Most Important Camping Trip in 1903, I would call this the almost important one.  Although we discussed a wide range of topics including what it takes to be a humanist, we both agreed we would not be solving any of the world’s current problems on this endeavor into the wilderness. Instead, we enjoyed many conversations over a 14 mile roundtrip hike to Hetch Hetchy’s well known (Wapama) and lesser visited (Rancheria) waterfalls. Although we did not sit by a campfire, they were prohibited at our elevation, we gathered around the Jetboil and shared stories as I prepared my famous trail burritos.

I was fascinated by all Robert’s journeys around the world, and his stories inspired me to broaden my horizons. His attention to the details of the people he met on his travels was impressive. It was also a joy to witness him rekindle his love of nature while he disconnected from his digital world.

Rancheria Falls from our Campsite by John P. DeGrazio

Nightfall came, and a nearly full moon illuminated our tents as we turned in. It was a restful sleep with the melodious cascades serenading us from the waterfall below. We were camped at Rancheria Falls so I was anticipating bear activity but was surprised to see none when I when I popped out of my tent as the sun was rising. I did manage to venture away from camp for a few brief moments to capture some images along the creek.

Rancheria Creek at Sunrise by John P. DeGrazio

When I returned, Robert had already begun to turn down his tent in an efficient manner. He was determined to use this trip as a springboard for more camping adventures. He very modestly referred to himself as a city slicker, but he displayed a high level of comfort in the outdoors and was longing to stay more than just one night.

We broke camp after noshing on some bagels with cream cheese and smoked salmon and returned to the trail for some photographic opportunities. We continued our discussion on John Muir’s influence on the establishment of Yosemite National Park along with his undying love of Hetch Hetchy. He was well versed on the history of this place so I felt no need to try to impress him with an overabundance of facts. Our conversations were natural and neither tried to change the other’s mind about the politics of Hetch Hetchy. However, we each were in agreement on almost every topic.

Kolana Rock Hetch Hetchy Panorama by John P. DeGrazio

The most consistent aspect of the day was the changing light and how it presented so many wonderful photographic opportunities. Our 7 mile return trip seemed effortless as we continued to snap images until our final walk through the tunnel. We both agreed the unquestioned beauty of Hetch Hetchy will endure for millenia with or without a dam.

Journey’s End with Robert Reid

Robert Reid is the Digital Nomad for National Geographic Intelligent Travel and his own Blog Site, Reid on Travel. He is.. I’ll let him tell you with 36 things about Robert Reid. This is the story he wrote about our encounter titled “Channeling John Muir in Hetch Hetchy”

YExplore Photo in NTA Courier Magazine

Mariposa Grove in Winter 
By John P. DeGrazio 
NTA Courier Magazine National Parks Provide Vivid Experiences

The January 2015 edition of the National Tour Association Courier Magazine was released this week and one of my photos “Mariposa Grove in Winter” was featured in the issue on page 47. The article highlights several unique experiences from national parks in the western United States including snowshoe tours in Yosemite.

Yosemite Mariposa Grove in Winter by John P. DeGrazio

Here is the original photo taken from a trip in the Upper Grove in 2012.

Mariposa Grove in Winter NTA Courier Magazine p. 47 Photo Credit John P. DeGrazio

Here is the photo as it lays on the page.