Sunday, September 25, 2016

Summer Adios

We had a rainy day in the Valley last week = the end of summer's endless blue skies. Park visitation is slowing down, and my overstuffed schedule is slowing enough to pick up these notes again; I should acknowledge that my field season is just not the time for me to have much desk time. Last year showed an increase in visitors and this year is up 20% over that; some say we'll reach 5 million visitors by year's end. The publicity around the NPS centennial and low gas prices are likely factors in the growth. The portion of European visitors seems to be up despite the poor exchange rate for them.

Bucks have lost their velvet. Dogwoods sport bright red berries. The river dropped to 30 cfs (and bumped up a bit from recent high country precip). There were hints of snow in/above Tuolumne. Indian hemp is turning its brightest yellow, but oaks, maples and cottonwoods are still green. Lower down, the poison oak is nearly bare now.

Lyell 'Glacier' continues to shrink away; last winter's roughly normal snowfall did not grow the ice much. Our bighorn sheep herds are doing well. The past 2+ weeks have shown a steady sequence of small, shallow earthquakes beneath the southern Clark Range. Our fire season has been minimal; one lightning fire started 12 June near Chilnualna Lake and has crept through only about 300 acres in 3 months- the kind of low-intensity fire we need more of.

Traffic flow in the Valley is exciting at the moment, with construction on the road and parking in the Yosemite Village day parking area. If you come for a visit between now and next spring, you'll find some disruptions to driving and parking, but the end result should be a nice improvement. Also in the spring, Mariposa Grove will reopen to the public - great changes are taking place there, too.