Thursday, May 27, 2021
Tuesday, June 9, 2020
Entrance gate kiosks have plastic sheeting between you and a ranger. Rangers are wearing facemasks where necessary, but I've yet to see a Class A uniform facemask. I really hope visitors will obey the rules and practice a shared common sense for staying healthy while SARS-CoV-2 is still expanding its range. Staying home is the best way to keep healthy, and while coming to Yosemite is the opposite of that, a visit here can be done cautiously if everyone is attentive to the hazard.
Extensive patches of Clarkia are blooming at lower elevations. Buckeyes are also maxed out, but starting to fade. Azalea, cow parsnip, globe gilia, and plenty of lupines are to be found in the Valley. Birds are still singing, with the two vireos dominating most of the day. We saw two peregrines at river level near El Capitan Bridge the other day, the female struggling to gain height with some heavy prey (possibly a duck). Two falcons also harried a juvenile golden eagle away from El Cap the same morning. We have 15 known nesting pairs in this park - a remarkable density of predators, and a good indicator of ecosystem health.
With some recent cool days and some clouds, the Merced River is running at about 20% of normal volume. It's going to be a dry, dry summer.
Tuesday, May 5, 2020
The paved roads are still here, all the built environment of hotels, shops and all the housing for 1500 employees and their families is here. The infrastructure stands ready to host 4 million visitors - so this is very different from what Hutchings or Monroe would've seen for a Valley without lines of cars and acres of parking. The Valley is most like a ghost town now; all but abandoned in what should be busy season. The isolated community is getting out a bit on trails and its fun to see families biking around the safe, quiet roads.
Clarkia has started blooming west of the park and dry canyon slopes mean that the foothill growing season is tapering off. The corona pathogen hasn't reached into the park as far as we know and it is not at all tapering off in the state. There are only guesses about when Yosemite will reopen for visitors and what limits on visitors there might be. We'll all need to be patient for a while before re-populating this ghost town.
Tuesday, April 21, 2020
He'd come to San Francisco by ship from New York (via train across Panama), took a ferry to Oakland, and walked to Yosemite from there, via Pacheco Pass and the Coulterville Free Trail. He was expressly focused on seeing Yosemite, as he'd read about the Valley and the sequoias back east. We often picture him alone but he journeyed with another traveler, who'd been on the ship with him. He and Joseph Chilwell spent about two springtime weeks exploring Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove (he went right past the sequoias of Tuolumne and Merced Groves unawares), and he met Galen Clark along the way. The Valley and Grove were already protected lands, granted by Washington, D.C. to the care of Sacramento a few years prior. After their visit he and his companion left the mountains to seek ranch work in the lowest foothills near Snelling.
Somewhere on this short trek, Muir turns 30. How excited he must've been, exploring this new place at this vibrant time of year - and how daunting to be solo without Instagram, Zoom or TripAdvisor. Was there cake? Candles? Any presents? Did he even tell anyone it was his birthday? Just over a year later, Muir returns to the mountains with the sheep. It's a couple of years after that point that he starts to transition from the life of a transient laborer to that of a writer/naturalist, then conservationist and widely known public figure.
I think we are lucky to have had someone as generously-minded as Muir (and Clark, whose 206th birthday was 3 weeks ago) passing through Yosemite. I truly hope that someone wished him a happy birthday, raised a glass, or thought of him from home in Wisconsin or Scotland. May we all give a moment today to turn our thoughts to Muir's contributions to our lives...
Monday, March 9, 2020
We are curious to see what COVID-19 does to Yosemite visitation this season, where people over 60 are advised to stay home, large gatherings are to be avoided and many people don't want to travel. My May trip to our sister national parks in China has cancelled, but I hope to go in September. With our park getting at least 25% of its visitors from other countries, we expect to see less of the world in Yosemite. The park will be here nonetheless.
Tuesday, December 24, 2019
Slash piles are putting up smoke in the Valley now.
We are disappointed that our well-regarded Superintendent has been re-assigned to Denver by NPS HQ, but we are pleased to have the respected Cicely Muldoon arriving to cover in a temporary role that we hope will become permanent.
We've just renewed our sister park arrangement with Huangshan National Park in China for another five years.returning there and to Jiuzhaigou in May.
Saturday, June 29, 2019
The partial opening of Tioga during the past week, with one-hour morning and afternoon windows is something new. While cars can't stop on the transit (except to drop-off or pick-up backpackers with permits), the windows have been heavily used by visitors and locals moving between eastern and western California.
NPS has generously allowed bicycles to ride Tioga during all daylight hours. This is one of the best bike rides on earth and is a terrific national park experience. Birds, running water, and the purr of bike tires - so nice!