Hetch Hetchy is one of those things that I had never heard of before that everyone else seemed to know about. So I played along and nodded when my friend said how excited she would be to see it, thinking the whole time, “What in the world is Hetch Hetchy? It sounds like a disease.”
Hetch Hetchy is part of Yosemite National Park, but it’s pretty far off the beaten track. Staying at the Diamond O campground in Stanislaus National Forest, we were conveniently close for a jaunt into this distant portion of the park.
The story of Hetch Hetchy is inextricably intertwined with the story of Yosemite as a park. Yosemite is often touted as the first national park, and yet if not for the efforts of the illustrious John Muir, it might never have existed. He is given credit for inspiring Theodore Roosevelt to become one of the greatest environmentalist presidents in the history of the country.
Hetch Hetchy was one of John Muir’s favourite places in Yosemite and so he was quite alarmed when legislation was proposed to build a dam to form a reservoir in the valley. He fought the foundation of the O’Shaughnessy Dam for seven years, but he was ultimately defeated. The dam connects to an aqueduct that is 167 mi (269 km) and provides most of the water for San Francisco (I think I read 80% on a sign at the dam). To me, that is an amazing feat of human engineering, if a somewhat sad story.
I followed the trail through the tunnel and around the other side of the reservoir. Normally, this trail will lead you to two waterfalls, but because of the drought, they were dry…just like Yosemite Falls.