Wednesday, August 25, 2010

LeConte Lives On

I did a presentation at the LeConte Memorial Lodge in Yosemite Valley the other night about Yosemite's two sister national parks in China. People do get pretty interested when they learn that Yosemite has sister parks, and then even moreso when they learn about the astonishing landscapes of those fellow World Heritage Sites. Yosemite Conservancy is bringing a group to those parks in a few weeks to do some hiking, birding and botanizing.
LeConte is a really unique Yosemite building. It was named for Sierra Club co-founder Joseph LeConte, a geology professor at Berkeley and a friend of John Muir's. A spectacular structure of massive granite blocks, it is further remarkable in that it is run as an educational facility by the Sierra Club. Muir and LeConte's little group of mountain-lovers has an important presence in the heart of their beloved Yosemite to this day.
As a wise man once noted that everything is connected: China has a serious forestry problem in the form of an invasive bark beetle accidentally introduced from the US and which was first scientifically described by LeConte's nephew, John Lawrence Le Conte (sic). The year that the LeConte Memorial Lodge was built by the Sierra Club (1904) is the same year that John Muir was observing botany - in China. It IS all connected...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Cloud Time

Unusual, cloudy day in Tuolumne Meadows yesterday, with lenticular and strato-cumulus coverage and a healthy west wind. The grayness was not in the forecast, so that had some folks worried about getting rained on, but it wasn't that kind of cloud layer.
My group observed an osprey with a fish, being slowly pursued in an upward spiral by what I believe was a female Cooper's Hawk. Eventually the osprey dropped the fish from a couple hundred feet up, perhaps by accident, but perhaps to get the accipter to leave it alone.
Tuolumne has elephant's heads, yellow monkeyflower, purple asters, some paintbrush, groundsel, purple gentian, and lots of yampah in bloom. There are about 6-7 mosquitoes left in Tuolumne, so you can pretty much stow your bugspray til next summer.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

August Water

The Merced River has dropped below 100 cubic feet per second (cfs) at the Pohono Bridge gauging station now. This is about 15% of the annual mean daily flow, but is still a bit higher than usual for this date. Locals who commute into Yosemite Valley for work refer to a different measuring gauge: Table Rock, which is located just upstream of the junction of Hwy. 140 and the Big Oak Flat Road. Table Rock is now 3-4 feet above the surface, but it was underwater without a ripple just a short time ago. It's hard to believe that the river was at nearly 7000 cfs just 2.5 months ago. That's our Mediterranean climate of strongly disparate seasonal precipitation. Rivers in most of our country do not regularly vary their volumes by two orders of magnitude within a year.
Some unexpected cloud cover yesterday moderated temperatures in El Portal, Yosemite Valley and Tuolumne Meadows. More monsoon moisture is probably on the way over the next few weeks, and we are likely to see some small spikes in river flow as rain runoff from the uppermost watershed is added to the low river volume. Any surges will probably not be that visible on Table Rock, but we should see them on the gauging station display.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Reckless Burning in the Valley

Someone lit a fire in the west end of Yosemite Valley mid-day today, across the canyon from Bridalveil Fall. It was a small fire very quickly contained by an NPS engine crew. How or why someone would ignite a fire in this out of the way spot, off of a seldom used trail is hard to explain. Must be August in Yosemite.
Afternoons are hot and dry in the park now though our wet, late spring still has lingering effects. People are still taking photographs of Yosemite Falls, there is spicebush, Lessingia and tarweed still blooming in the Valley, and the river is still 30% above average flow. Raspberries have gone by but elderberries are ripe now.
With a group today we found a bear scat that contained manzanita berries and the wing feathers of a Steller's Jay.
Apologies for the gap in postings; I've been in Sequoia NP backcountry.