Monday, October 25, 2010


We had a terrific rainstorm last night and the river has leapt to an extremely high flow. The average volume at Pohono Bridge is about 30 cfs for this week. Because of the good rains of early October, it's been flowing at about 100 cfs for the past week. Since yesterday the river has engorged to over 5700 cfs and is still rising by the minute! This is not quite flood stage, but is higher than it gets during most spring runoffs. It's too dark to go see it at the moment, but Yosemite Falls and all the other falls will have gone from trickles barely worth a photograph to gushing cataracts that'd make the newspapers in May. We've seldom seen such a tremendous surge overnight: from 100 to near 6000 cfs in a matter of hours.
Tioga Road was closed by snow on Saturday morning and remains closed today. Glacier Point Road is still open. This wasn't a cold storm, but it was forecast to deposit 1-2 feet of snow up high. We're a few weeks ahead of the average winter closing date for Tioga Road, but it may be closed for a spell to allow plowing and some melting.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Fall foliage is looking good in Yosemite Valley now. The sugar maple (pictured) is like one very small glimpse of Vermont; an exotic species we especially cherish for 2-3 weeks a year. The native maples are bright yellow for the most part now. While it's been warm for the past couple of weeks, there was a tiny bit of frost on the lowest parts of Valley meadows a while back, so we could say that we're in Indian Summer. Black oaks are shelling Yosemite Village with a healthy acorn crop - a good time to be an Indian. Deer, pigeons, bears, woodpeckers, etc. are eating and/or storing lots of that mast now. Mule deer bucks have lost their velvet; a time for visitors to be cautious about approaching too closely with their eager photography.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Illilouette Gorge

The sugar maple is peaking now, its bright blaze of surreal orange dominating that part of the old village like a column of flame. The native maples are getting brighter, too (the Fern Spring corner has a new, pale light now), though many are still entirely green. Oaks aren't yet very colorful; some are just browning. Cottonwoods are mostly still green along the river; even up higher, the aspen are just begining to color. Dogbane is one of the brightest natives in the Valley now.
I made a trip up Illilouette Gorge to the base of the waterfall yesterday; a bouldery scramble. Don't try this unless you're up for considerable steep clambering. Some light rain slicked the rocks a bit, but it was nice to be out where no one else was, across the canyon from the busy Mist/Muir Trail. Sagebrush, Brickellia, and plenty of Douglas-fir. Band-tailed pigeons overhead, a canyon wren in the rocks. One primate looking at a waterfall.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Some geo notes

The big storms early last week caused a spike in river volume and turbidity which tapered quickly. This week's warmth is causing the river to rise just a bit as the previous week's snow melts into the upper Merced watershed. The gully that drains Cathedral Spires sent a debris flow of sand and gravel several inches deep on to Southside Drive. A 3-part rockfall from near Horsetail Fall sent up a big dust cloud from the bench below El Capitan's East Buttress two days ago. Last week a local girl was seriously injured by a large slab of rock that fell near Church Bowl; she appears to be recovering well.
The famous sugar maple is just starting to show some red/orange color. Invasive locust trees are finally being removed from the Old Yosemite Village site. The meadows are the most yellow part of the Valley, with most of the oaks and maples still getting started in colors.
Oaks are dropping acorns, and Torreya is dropping its odd green 'drupes' in the localized pockets where that tree grows.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Weather and change

Nice weather forecast this week, with a small chance of rain/snow up high tonight. Tioga Road was re-opened; watch for ice early in the morning, though. After this coming Friday backpackers won't be allowed to park on the Tioga or Glacier Point Roads until next summer. Half Dome's cables are being de-rigged, so you have an excuse for not climbing up there until next May.
Oprah Winfrey had a couple of nice nights camped at Lower Pines Campground last week. Golden-crowned Sparrows have shown up with their plaintive whistles in El Portal. The summer's big fires (not at all big) have been quieted by the 2-3 inches of rain from a week ago and those trails near White Wolf and north of Hetchy have been re-opened. A couple dozen new fires were started in last week's lightning storms, but most are small and fuels are wet so only a few near roads/buildings need to be suppressed by our fire crews.
The NPS observes a Columbus Day holiday today, while some celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day in recognition of 8-9000 years of history that vastly pre-dates Euro-American arrival in Yosemite (and still continues). Plans to fix up the heavily used shoreline of (what we now call) Tenaya Lake come up for public comment next Monday; see for the planning section. It's your chance to weigh in on how people visit the lake named for Yosemite's best known member of the First Nations.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

China Parks

Just back from another outstanding visit to Yosemite's two sister national parks in the mountains of China. Our group witnessed firsthand how Huangshan provided inspiration to James Cameron for some of the fantastical landscapes in "Avatar." We also had great discussions with Jiuzhaigou rangers about the challenges of protecting resources in a popular park. Close encounters with pandas concluded a terrific exploration. We look forward to bringing more Yosemite-philes to hike in China next fall.
Meanwhile in Yosemite, autumn has arrived with lightning and rain. Black oaks, redbud, bigleaf maple, grape, and poison oak are turning bright yellow. The Merced River is up in volume and quite turbid with runoff sediment. Tioga Road has been closed for several days now due to snow up high.