Saturday, January 7, 2012
I saw a huge scorpion this morning. It was creeping slowly up into the southeastern sky just before dawn: Scorpio, a hint of distant summer. Vega was well up in the northeast- part of the Summer Triangle asterism. It's too close to solstice for these to really be harbingers, but (depending on your horizon; our irregular canyon walls can interfere with the trajectory of change) the sun is rising a bit earlier and setting later than it was a couple weeks ago. Mars and Saturn are also overhead before sunup; Jupiter and Venus after sunset.
The remarkable dry and mild season continues in Yosemite. January snow surveys show a fraction of normal snowpack (13% in the central Sierra) with some sample sites bone dry. Tioga Pass and Glacier Point Roads remain open. It is not true that our ski area is changing its name to "Badger Grass" (photo). While many have observed that this is the latest that Tioga Road has stayed open, others have wondered if instead it's actually the earliest (for next summer) that it's been open to vehicles...
The original road to Tioga Pass was built by hundreds of Chinese laborers. Some of the story of the contributions of non-Anglos to Yosemite is told in this new NPS video. I'm delighted with ranger Chan's research that brings to light more of the details of Yosemite's culturally diverse heritage (and future).
Western Bluebirds are seen at Crane Flat (99% snow-free at 6200'). Great horned owls are calling every night in El Portal, Foresta and the Valley. Chorus frogs are heard here and there, but only individually so far. The Merced River trickles at about 35% of normal flow.