There are certain travel icons that should never be re-named: The Eiffel Tower. The Statue of Liberty. The Taj Mahal.
So yesterday, when the news broke that The Ahwahnee, among other Yosemite National Park facilities, is being rebranded because of a trademark dispute with Delaware North, my heart sank in my chest.
What the heck are the people behind this thinking? (I’m throwing a stink-eye at Delaware North—though in the name of full journalistic neutrality, here’s what they have to say for themselves. Something about money? Blah blah blah).
To me, renaming The Ahwahnee the “Majestic Yosemite Hotel” is akin to renaming the sun or moon, or the black-tail deer tromping through Tuolumne Meadows. Families the world over have been staying at The Ahwahnee since 1927, likely as drawn by its elegant monicker—reportedly a take on the indigenous Miwok tribe’s Awooni, or “large mouth”—as its soaring stone and exposed-beam architecture and prime location. The word “Ahwahnee” itself is so fun to say, it’s like a vacation for the tongue. Sing it with me: Ah-wah-neeeeeee! Like a slip and slide, right?
I lived and worked in Yosemite for a summer in college, and remember inhaling as much air in that woodsmoke-scented lodge as I could. I stared as awe-struck at the dining room’s cathedral-esque 34-foot ceiling as I did at Half Dome. Telling friends and family you’re heading to The Ahwahnee means something—it conjures a type of storied glamour rarely found in National Park lodging, and has since long before John F. Kennedy stayed there in 1962. Majestic Yosemite Hotel? That’s a name for a faux lodge copycat, like that one in Orlando (cough, Disney Wilderness Lodge, cough).
Delaware North, if you’re reading this, from your glossy headquarters in Buffalo, New York: this is your chance to be the bigger person. Please let Yosemite keep its iconic names when your contract ends on February 29. Like the earth, we did not inherit The Ahwahnee from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.