Thursday, June 21, 2012

Solstice Dreams

Yesterday was our longest day for enjoying Yosemite. A thin trace of smoke from the 234-acre controlled burn near Hodgdon Meadow added dimension to the Valley skies - surely a sign that it's summer.
The Merced River would normally be flowing at over 1400 cfs at Pohono Bridge on this date; today is just over 200 cfs. Yosemite Falls is light, but still photo-worthy; it won't be in a few weeks, and it'll completely disappear in August. Mirror Lake still has water in it -as well as people in it, enjoying the gentle flow for cooling off.

Draperia, Azalea and Spicebush bloom in the Valley. Tanagers and both vireos are still singing; grosbeaks are quieter. Saw Vaux's swift over the Visitor Center yesterday. The Conservancy was a sponsor of last weekend's successful Mono Lake Bird Chautauqua - lots of birds and even more great birders.
The museum has a new exhibit in the gallery: historic landscapes that include Ayers, Moran, Jorgensen, Beirstadt and Obata. It's there to the end of September.
There was a 2.4 earthquake 16 miles beneath Crane Flat on Monday afternoon - an unusual place for this, but the Sierra is very much a living range.
Visitation has been busy but not as busy as last year when lots of media attention to above average waterfall flows drew extra crowds early in the summer.

The Conservancy has a wonderful art course coming up in mid-July: "Tuolumne Meadows Pastels" with Moira Donohoe. It's a great chance to improve some skills in a remarkable landscape.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Summer is On

Memorial Day weekend started with snow and road closures.

The holiday weekend featured the predictable crowded roads and difficult parking in Yosemite Valley and at Glacier Point. It's been an interesting experiment to try separate lanes for cars and buses in the east end of the Valley. I was camped near a quiet meadow where I saw no one, but a bear and a great grey owl. Such is Yosemite.

El Portal was in the mid-nineties all week, all grass and forbs are brown. The Merced River is running at 25-30% of average volume. The waterfalls are shrinking noticeably. Sentinel and Ribbon Creeks barely trickle to the river now, Woski Pond is down to about 30' at its widest point.

Birds and flowers are still plenty active. Two vireos, grosbeak, tanager, a few warblers, 2-3 flycatchers, and the hermit thrush are heard as you get up above the Valley. Seems like we've been seeing more Vaux's swifts in the Valley this season. Azalea is perfuming Valley meadows now, cow parsnip is opening. Dogwoods fade, but are still nice higher up. Noticed a monarch in the Valley this morning, as milkweeds are just starting to open. Pale swallowtails are abundant this year.

Tuolumne Meadows hosts artist Moira Donohoe in a pastels workshop in mid-July; should be nice time to get beauty on to paper with her there.