Thursday, March 15, 2012

Vernal Equinox

Equinox arrives next week, when day length matches nighttime. Though they were closest on Monday night, it's still worth getting out in the evening to see the close positioning of Venus and Jupiter. They're a bright pair, impossible to miss as long as you have a view to the west for an hour or two after sunset. (You can actually see Venus with the naked eye all day, too, if you know where to look in the blue sky.) Though smaller than Jupiter, Venus is the more brilliant because it is closer to Earth.
Light precipitation off/on in Yosemite this week, with snow level remaining above the rim so far. We expect snow on the Valley floor this weekend. In the Merced Canyon below the park boundary, greenery is soaking up the moisture; great numbers of flowers are in bloom. Dense poppies cover the south-facing slopes in the area burned by the Telegraph Fire of 2 years ago. In contrast, last summer's Motor Fire area is generally not greening up well. Buckeyes are leafing out, elderberry leaves are barely emerging, and redbuds are just starting to show.
The waterfalls are below average in volume now, but it's good that we're adding some fuel this week for later runoff.
Contractors lucked out with dry weather and have re-opened the Big Oak Flat Road (connecting Yosemite Valley to Hwy. 120).
Superintendent Neubacher is contemplating adding more sister national parks - one on every continent is a goal. Asia and South America are already covered. We like the idea of Yosemite having this measure of global significance and await news of coming partnerships (and opportunities for travel to visit new relations.)

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Poppies and Teddy

The Merced River canyon below the park boundary has an early abundance of wildflowers including slopes covered with poppies in places. We've had a few modest storms over the past couple of weeks, adding a bit of snow above 5000 feet. The wet has brought out fiddlenecks, cranesbill, popcorn flower, baby blue eyes, paintbrush, red maids, etc. I haven't been up the South Fork but I bet it's getting colorful.
Chorus frogs are singing in various places, California ground squirrels are emerging in some spots, a turkey vulture was seen in the Valley this week. In El Portal, flickers and titmice have been 'singing.'
While spring tiptoes in at low elevations, we had a bit of frazil ice in Yosemite Creek this week, too.
The park has a new official place name: Roosevelt Point. This is on the south rim of Yosemite Valley, just west of Sentinel Dome, near the top of Sentinel Falls. Some scholars believe that Muir and Roosevelt camped near here on the second night of their 1903 trip together. They're usually described as having camped at Glacier Point because that's a better known landmark than the forest near Sentinel Dome, and because of the famous photo-portrait of the two men at Glacier Point. Sentinel Creek would've been the most reliable water source for a camp, so it's likely that they actually spent the night there.
TR will be coming to Yosemite Conservancy's Spring Forum on March 31 in the form of actor Alan Sutterfield. He and John Muir (Lee Stetson) will chat about their time together and their passion for park stewardship. Muir visits us again on John Muir Day, April 21, this time in the person of actor Frank Helling. He'll be strolling with Muir's great-great grandson, Robert Hanna for one of the Conservancy's field seminars.
We pursue Muir's footsteps again in July, backpacking on a field seminar to where he recognized the first known glacier in the Sierra. Climate change (as even Muir realized back then) has removed all but relictual evidence of the glacier's presence. We visit a living glacier in August's field seminar trek to the north slopes of Mt. Lyell.
History lives on.