In 1977, Yosemite National Park was a much different place. Rock climbers traveled the world over to live modest lives in their camping packs and enjoy some of the biggest and best wilderness the world had to offer. Hippies came from all over the west coast to take LSD and enjoy the massive rock formations. Waves of tourism that you see today didn’t exist in the 750,000-acre park and true seclusion could be found.
The area consisted of a small community of enthusiastic youngsters living the lives of bright-eyed hobo sportsmen and calling themselves The Dirtbags. They were obsessed with rock climbing and they were poor – until January of 1977, that is. That winter would see an economic boom for that lucky group of Yosemite loyalists and wilderness junkies, one that came in the form of a green plant.
In January of 1977, two employees of Yosemite’s Ahwahnee Hotel decided to go for a snowshoe hike. The park was in the middle of one of its worst droughts in a hundred years, so they could hike further than usual for that time of year. That day, they were able to reach all the way up to the Lower Merced Pass Lake, where they made a terrifying discovery.