Pilgrimage to Yosemite

Hilton Obenzinger, Associate Director of the CRRW Project, presented a talk on the Chinese and the Transcontinental Railroad during the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California’s “5th Annual Pilgrimage to Yosemite National Park Commemorating the Contributions of the Chinese in the Sierra Nevada,” which ran from July 27 to August 2, 2017.

The annual pilgrimage is inspired by famous “mountain chef” Ty Sing and the Chinese American workers who built the Wawona Road in 1875 and the Tioga Road in 1882 through Yosemite. Ty Sing ran a field kitchen for the Chief Geographer of the United States Geological Survey.

In 1915 he cooked for the famous Stephen Mather, first director of the National Park Service, and his mountain expedition of 18 powerful men from the public and private sector. The expedition helped to garner support for the development of the National Parks. The men on the expedition hailed the Chinese cook as “a gourmet chef of the Sierra” and “philosopher of the Sierra.” One of the mountains in Yosemite National Park was subsequently named Sing Peak in honor of Ty Sing, and every year during the pilgrimage hardy participants climb the peak.

The talk, held in the “Grey Barn” in the historic district of Wawona, was open to the public and well attended with many questions and insights from the audience. Other events of the Pilgrimage included a hike along the original Tioga Road, walks to other historic sites, such as where Chinese worked to service the hotel in the area, and demonstrations of Chinese cooking from a hundred years ago.

Though it cannot be confirmed, it is quite possible that some of the Chinese workers who built the roads and staffed the hotels in Yosemite may have also worked on constructing the transcontinental railroad, as well as other North American railroads of the late-nineteenth century. Hilton Obenzinger was greatly honored to participate in the Pilgrimage, and the talk was well received.




Hilton Obenziger gives a lecture on the Chinese Railroad Project to Pilgrimage participants. (Photos by CJ Joee)


Yosemite Park Ranger Yenyen Chan discusses park history with the Pilgrimage group. (Photo by Hilton Obenzinger)


On the banks of the river (Photo by Hilton Obenzinger)


Hilton Obenzinger with Yosemite Park Ranger Yenyen Chan. (Courtesy of Hilton Obenzinger)


Group photo of the CHSSC 5th Annual Pilgrimage on the Tuolumne River (Photo by Jack Hsu)