Tioga Pass closing for Storm

Another year has gone by and I’ve spent far too little time in the high country and on the East Side, so it’s sad to hear these announcements and think that this may be it for the year.  I’ve become enough of a Califonrian, it seems, that the first colder rains of the season make me think of winter.  The snow level is supposed to be above 8000 ft, but it’s started to rain here in the Valley already.  On the other hand, I can’t wait for ski season this year!

Yosemite News Release
October 30, 2008
For Immediate Release

Tioga Road to close in Yosemite National Park

With the arrival of the first winter storm of the season, the Tioga Road in Yosemite National Park will close this evening at 7:00 p.m. The storm is bringing rain to the Sierra Nevada region with significant snowfall expected at higher elevations.

Once the storm has passed, an assessment will be made on the reopening of the Tioga Road.


Second Boulder Day

Le Conte Gully

Le Conte Gully from Stoneman’s Bridge

I stopped on my way to work yesterday morning and took a picture of Le Conte Gully. Like 2 years ago, it is filled with beautiful yellow bushes, that, if you were to go up there, would provide a splendid foreground to Half Dome from a unique perspective in the Valley. The light is a little wrong to see the dog leg in the gully where the boulder came loose, but I was late for work, and this is what I got.

All this makes October 22 a good time each year to contemplate being alive, be grateful for what I have, and to think about how far I’ve come in the intervening time. It’s my Boulder Day. My back is doing great. It aches sometimes, but for the most part it is the lack of strength and flexibility that holds me back these days. Although I’m not really doing much climbing, that has more to do with lack of motivation than inability, and I’ve started doing some running. At one point this summer I did a half-marathon distance. I’m still god-awful slow, but today, on my typical out and back from Curry Village, the distance that usually takes me 20+ minutes, took only 18. So, I’m getting a little faster and feeling a little stronger. I’ve started (just barely) trying to get back into the weight room more regularly too in preparation for the upcoming ski season. I figure if I’m also a little careful about what I eat, I’ll lose some of the extra fat that I’ve put on these last 2 years too.

This year Tom and I celebrated quietly. Tom returned from a few days’ visit to WI to visit Dr. Kingdon in the hospital the night of the 22nd, so we went out for a nice romantic dinner tonight and he even got me a couple of small presents on his way back through Fresno. I’m such a lucky girl!

Fall Color in Yosemite

Yosemite Fall Color at the 120/140 junction
Yosemite Fall Color at the 120/140 junction
Once upon a time, a reporter asked a long time Yosemite Interp Ranger where to find the best fall color, and the ranger replied, “About 3000 miles that way” and pointed east. Ok, so we’re not Vermont, when it comes to fall color. Most of our forests are coniferous, but Chris and I managed to find a few splashes of color today on our way from Yosemite Valley to Tuolumne.

The largest, most impressive display we saw were the oaks right at the 120/140 junction. There are splashes of color along the road as well – a couple of red Dogwoods, and some aspen groves, mostly below about 7000 feet.

Red ground cover by lakes behind Pothole Dome
Close-up of the red ground cover by lakes behind Pothole Dome
The Valley is just starting to come into its own. In addition to the oaks at the junction, the roadways are overhung by increasingly golden leaves, and the dogwoods are getting pink. I haven’t been past the Maple near the Chapel, but it was starting to turn about a week ago, so I expect that it’s beautiful. Chris and I made a mental note to keep an eye on the river by Housekeeping Camp over the next few days. There is usually some nice foliage to be seen there when the leaves turn. LeConte Gully (MY gully) is becoming golden again with those narrow-leaved Golden Armada bushes. That isn’t the proper name for them, but Stavast has an amazing painting of them with that title, and it has stuck in my head that way. I remember those bushes provided a stunning foreground for a spectacular view of Half Dome when Tom and I were in that gully 2 years ago. [Note to anyone not familiar with my history with this gully: if you go up there watch for loose rock.]

Red ground cover near the Tuolumne River
Red ground cover near the Tuolumne River
At home in Yosemite West, the dogwoods have just started taking off. Although the trees in our front yard are only tinged with pink, there is a big bush near Bruce’s house that has gone brilliant in the last few days. The other neigborhood displays are getting there, but still need a few days to reach peak.

Driving up to Tuolumne a week ago, my neighbor noticed some nice golden color around Tenaya Lake, but by this weekend, it had gone mostly brown, or blown away. We did find some nice reddish ground cover around the small lakes/ponds behind Pothole Dome, which were beautiful in their own right, but I’m betting it was more impressive a week or two ago. Of course, Tuolumne is always beautiful in its own right, and every time I’m up there, I wonder why I don’t visit more often.

Field Trip to the Dump

It may not sound like the greatest field-trip destination, but the Mariposa County dump is a fascinating place to visit. People say things like “Americans throw away 1460 pounds of solid trash each year” (Annenberg Foundation) which is a big number but seeing the volume with your own eyes really makes that number something real. And it isn’t just the volume of garbage that is amazing, but the composition of the garbage. I was lucky enough to go on this field trip with the GreenTeam – a group of people in Yosemite working to establish environmentally sound practices within DNC.

While we were at the composting facility, a load of garbage from the NPS dumpsters was deposited in the composting facility. In this pile of trash, in addition to the many garbage bags of trash, we could easily see 2 sleeping bags, 2 tents, and a foam mattress, some looking like they were in pretty good shape. The staff told us that it would be easy for us to go camping with the things they find in the trash in a single day. We speculated that long-distance travelers are simply unburdening themselves of things that they purchase for their Yosemite camping trip, but no longer want to be encumbered with. My co-worker frowns and points out that any homeless shelter would have been happy for donations like that.

In spite of the many recycling bins located throughout Yosemite, we also found plenty of recyclables in the trash. They do the best they can to remove these items prior to composting, but are understaffed, and unfortunately, most of it goes to the landfill instead of the recycling center.
Plastic is everywhere. Composting seems to reduce the volume of the trash by as much as 40 – 50% (based on eye-balling the composting vault that was nearly finished composting), and even after the pre-sort, there is so much plastic remaining in the compost that it goes through a second filtration step and STILL has scraps of plastic, plastic spoons etc. mingled in with what you would think of as compost.

The compost isn’t clean enough to sell, but it is clean enough to be used to cover the landfill – they are required to cover all new garbage with at least 6-inches of material (or a tarp) at the end of the day. Using manure from the Yosemite stables, as well as this plastic-y compost mixed with dirt both reduces their cost in purchasing dirt, and also puts this “waste” material to good use reducing odor and deterring wildlife.

I’ve been proud about our move to biodegradable/compostable materials in the “disposable” items that we have in our F&B units, but visiting the composting facility really made me see how that fits into the trash cycle, and just how much better off we are replacing plastic utensils, cups, packaging etc. with their compostable counterparts.

Curry Village Rock Slide

Just a quick note to let you know that we are OK. There was a fairly substantial rock slide at Curry Village yesterday, and another this morning just before 7 am. Fortunately, there are only minor injuries being reported at this time. Although the guest cabins at Curry Village have been evacuated as a precaution, the rock fall is centered over a different area, and we have not been asked to move from our housing. I’m sure NPS will be monitoring the cliff closely for additional instability.

Geological processes work so slowly… except for when they don’t.