Friday, January 25, 2013

Best Little Hoarfrost

The recent weeks of steady cold allowed the growth of terrific hoarfrost formations in Yosemite Valley. Spikes and florets and feathers of ice condensed out of the atmosphere onto the ground, river ice, and tree branches wherever moisture and cold combined. A bit of this happens every winter, but this season's displays are exceptional.
Late this week, conditions have thawed. The first Amsinckia (fiddleneck) of the season has bloomed outside the Conservancy office in El Portal. There's a sunny bank where they often show early, and here's our first contestant in this year's mating game. Wilhelm Amsinck never came to California, but was a patron of the Hamburg Botanical Garden and his philanthropy is still rewarded today with us exclaiming his name each spring. (The picture shows fiddlenecks last spring.)

In shady spots further down canyon, Kumlienia (waterfall buttercup) is blooming profusely now. Thure Kumlien was a Swedish naturalist who relocated to Wisconsin a few years before the Muir family arrived there. As John Muir did, he spent as much time in the woods as he could and later taught school for a time. Now his legacy lives on in this genus, the first flower we find each season.

The road into Hetch Hetchy has been closed until an eroding section can be safely stablized.
Steve B. has crafted his best video yet, "One Day in Yosemite." After you watch it, plan yourself several days in Yosemite.
The Conservancy's 'Yosemite Outdoor Adventures' are all on line for the whole year now. Don't miss out on a chance to get out on the trail with us and learn from the best in the field.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

No Ahwahneechee Apocalypse

For what we call 2013 the world continues on its way, no matter our contrivances. The Ahwahneechee did not predict a global apocalypse for this recent solstice, and they were right! Our physical cliffs endure and are not something that needs to be averted. In Yosemite, neither Half Dome nor Yosemite Falls noticed when we replaced old calendars with new ones. The one real change that occurred during our holiday scurryings was that the sun is starting to inch northward in where it rises and sets, and that each new day is a litle bit longer. To be more accurate, the sun isn't doing anything; it's our spot on the world that faces toward and away from the sun at a slightly different angle each day. Solstice is real to Yosemite, our calendars perhaps less so.
It's been quite cold in the park for a few weeks; there's snow and lots of ice in the Valley. Frozen waterfalls like Widow's Tears and Silver Strand (on the south wall, between Bridalveil and Tunnel View)are extra prominent and solid now. If you're thinking about a closer look, KC and JT tell me that Widow's Tears is the longest ice climb in the US.
Feathery worlds of surface hoar can be found in shady meadows early in the day. Small amounts of frazil ice have formed on some creeks. The snow cone at Upper Yosemite Falls is building steadily.
Badger Pass and Crane Flat both have healthy snowpacks for snowshoers and XC skiers. No one is ice skating on Tenaya Lake this winter.
Some of the Summer Triangle asterism is visible over eastern Valley walls before sunup. As Muir wrote it: 'each in its turn as the round earth rolls.'