Yosemite Legends

NEWS UPDATE:  The body found near the base of Vernal Fall has been  identified as Ninos Yacoub, 27, of Turlock – one of the 3 who went over July 19. Saturday they also found another body – it will be examined but is probably Ramina Badal, 21 who also went over.


There are many interesting stories and anecdotes about Yosemite. Here’s one provided by our San Rafael (Marin County – hot tub land) office. It’s called simply Elmer. It relates to the accommodations named Housekeeping. Which is a funny name by itself – perhaps a future blog will reveal why it’s called that. This cluster of 3-sided cinder block “U”s offers basic (I mean real basic) overnight relief. You get some bunk beds to put your sleeping bags on and a shower curtain to close off the sleeping area. Communal toilets. Outside is a small enclosed sitting area and access to the Merced is right outside the door. Wonder if the Merced River Plan will put the kibosh on these?

Anyway, Pat T. and his family of hikers stay there annually and love it. (I’m a tent cabin guy.) Here’s his abbreviated story of ELMER.  Comment if you have ever heard of this. Kind of a Truth or Dare. Send me your stories.

There are several stories out there. The version I heard is that long ago at Curry as visitors arrived to watch the Firefall, a mother lost her son around sunset. Everyone started calling for him. The calling spread from campsite to campsite. He was found, but from that night on, summer campers call for Elmer. But it’s a really a long


 It’s a Housekeeping camp tradition now.


Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Ever since I was a young boy, I’ve played the silver ball. From Soho down to Brighton I must have played them all. But I ain’t seen nothing like him in any amusement hall. That deaf, dumb and blind kid sure plays a mean pinball!” – The Who

*MrHalfDome™ – Rick Deutsch – www.HikeHalfDome.com

About Mr Half Dome - Rick Deutsch

Mr Half Dome. Has written the only half dome hiking guide, One Best Hike: Yosemite's Half Dome. Has hiked it 31 times to day. Lives in San Jose, CA Available for presentations. Carpe Diem Experience, LLC
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17 Responses to Yosemite Legends

  1. Anita M. says:

    We used to go camping to Yosemite every summer, back in the early 60’s. I was told that the call for Elmer was for a “buck” deer. Now I’m confused.

    • There are multiple versions that are the “truth.” It’s still fun to yell E L M E R at night, regardless.

    • Robert says:

      Same for me! First went to Yosemite as a very young child in the early 60’s and the story I heard was that Elmer was a deer. Just did some quick research online and the one story I read posted by the National Park Service mentioned a bear, a missing camper, a possible GI connection, and a 1930’s movie, but no deer. Since the first story I heard was a deer, I’m sticking with it!

  2. Richard says:

    I have been camping in Yosemite for many years. I loved the story sooo much I just wrote a children’s book about it. The Story of Elmer in Yosemite. Check it out! elmerinyosemite.com.

  3. Vernal falls says:

    ” A young boy (Elmer) and his father were hiking up in the mountain one. Elmer and his father got in an argument so Elmer took a seperate trail. When his father return back to camp he noticed Elmer had not returned. He then went in the woods yelling ‘Elmer!’ Sadly Elmer was never found. People call his name in hope to find him.”

  4. James Coulter says:

    “Elmer” was a cry you heard in the 60 thru out the Camp Grounds at night at Dusk. The story was that of a well fed Bear that would show up at the lodge each morning for left over pancakes. Legend has it that back in the mid 30 or 40 that one day the kitchen staff decided to see how many pancakes Elmer could eat. They took a 100Lb sack of flower and made him pancakes and when he they ran out of batter, Elmer was waiting for the next serving of pancakes. No one knows how many Elmer could eat. This was the story relayed by the Park Rangers at one of their camp-side bear presentation. As a teenager I spent many happy weeks on the valley floor, going to the Camp Curry evening entertainment and the Ranger Presentations at the camp sites.

  5. Robert R. says:

    In 1950 or 1951, my family and our dog Elmer went camping at Yosemite. Elmer wandered off one evening, and all of us spent a couple of hours calling his name. People up and down the valley took up the call, which must have confused poor Elmer. Anyway, eventually, he found his way back. The following year, Elmer was no longer with us, but people were still calling his name in the evening. I gather that this has become a tradition.

  6. Kirk M says:

    The “Elmer” call has been going on for nearly 60 years now. It usually starts at right about dusk…and has become a Yosemite campground tradition. Not sure the exact story behind it…but it’s always been fun, and something unique to camping in Yosemite. I’m sure it’s a tradition that will continue for as long as people are camping at Yosemite.

  7. Justin L. says:

    I heard this for the first time last year, my kids would not go to sleep because everyone was yelling out elmer, although at the time i could not tell what the heck they were yelling. Then my mom told me when she was camping 40 years ago, people would yell out elmer, so i googled it and found videos on youtube of people in yosemite yelling elmer. So in lower pines last year, this tradition occurred. I now know to yell back next time.

    • Hector Cruz says:

      Housekeeping camp is really drab and dull. Needs a good sprucing up, yes! It looks as if the pictures are from 1973

      • Mr Half Dome - Rick Deutsch says:


        I agree …I stayed there once and don’t get the attraction. I love the refugee camp at Curry. Earplugs but a real bed and a door that locks.

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