Yosemite Nature Notes evening presentation

Yesterday I did something that I rarely make the time to do – I went to one of the Evening Programs put on by either NPS or DNC Interpretation. After a long day at work, it can be hard to motivate for anything other than a relaxing evening at home. However, this program was being given by film-maker, Steve Bumgardner, on the making of Yosemite Nature Notes which I love. Plus Tom planned to spend the evening at a YWPHI meeting, so I thought I’d check it out.

I’m glad I did. I’ve seen most of the Yosemite Nature Notes videos before, especially the most recent ones, but even I saw some new stuff, like the the previews of episodes to come, and enjoyed listening to Steve’s take on the park, on filming in the park, and sharing Yosemite’s magic with people. I suppose it isn’t that surprising that a guy who makes his living telling stories on film, can put together a fun series of stories in person too.

We got to watch three of the finished YNNs, starting with the most recent video on Horsetail Falls, the Glaciers Episode, and then the Big Trees Episode which narrowly won out over the very popular Frazil Ice video as the parting shot. Plus, a couple of shorter pieces – some ‘making of’ shots, and a timelapse of Yosemite’s crowded spots which drew out-loud giggles from the crowd in many places.

During the making of sequences, Steve talks on camera about how difficult it is for people to get to remote corners of the park, like Mt. McClure and Mt Lyell where the glaciers still live, and the pleasure of being able to share some part of that experience with people via camera. I hadn’t thought of these films in quite that way before, but it’s true. I’ve been asked if there’s enough to do in Yosemite for 3 days, and these films are the start to a visual answer to that question. If I think about all the things that make Yosemite special, the ideas for film topics goes on and on. I’m looking forward to the upcoming Moonbow episode, and whatever comes of the backcountry ski/backcountry hut footage. What about the High Sierra Camps? Big Time? Climbers and Big Wall climbing? Each person who has spent time in Yosemite has this running list of things in their mind of what makes this place so special. There are rafters, and hikers, and painters, and people that hang a hammock out by the river and spend all day with a good book. What kinds of things do they think are amazing? What else belongs on that list?

Ski to the Mariposa Grove

Tom and Bruce on the NFS trail to the Mariposa Grove
Tom and Bruce on the NFS trail to the Mariposa Grove

Sometimes it’s easy to get focused on the great things to do inside the park, and as a matter of fact, there are a lot of great things to do inside the park, but there are some great things just outside the park too. With Badger Pass Ski Area closed for the season, a small group of us thought we’d ski up the Mariposa Grove road and visit the giant sequoias. Fortunately, the road the the grove had been recently plowed in preparation for getting the road open to the public, so when we got there, there wasn’t really anything to ski on. Disappointed, we opted for an instantly improvised Plan B, which turned out to be so much better than Plan A.

The transfer station just outside the park boundary isn’t a very auspicious trailhead, but there were several families there picnicking in the parking lot and playing on the snowbanks. We snapped on our XC skis and headed straight off into the woods guided by Tom’s unerring sense for fun, and it wasn’t long before we run right into blazes that looked suspiciously like trail markers along a nice wide road/trail, and then even trail signs with faded lettering and icons of XC skiers. Goal!

Giant Sugar Pine just inside the Park
Giant Sugar Pine just inside the Park

Now, we’d planned to ski the Mariposa Grove road, so we hadn’t brought a map or compass, but Bruce had this crazy idea that there was a road that cut over to the Giant Sequoias. Still, as we wound our way along this perfect little ski trail, we decided that we were probably going in exactly the wrong direction. Then, as we approached our third set of trail signs, Tom, who had been the most convinced of us all that we were NOT going to see the big trees said, “Now, this is the sign that will say that it’s 1.5 miles to the Mariposa Grove.” And. It. Did!

After just a little more skiing, we skied over the still half-buried gate marking the park boundary, and come across one of the most amazing sugar pines I’ve seen. (We haven’t been to the Rockefeller Grove yet, where the biggest of the big sugar pines are supposed to stand, but these were pretty amazing.)

Stream crossing
Stream crossing

A sense of anticipation drove us on. I couldn’t wait to see those sequoias, and then just as we started feeling like we were getting close, a fast running creek blocked our way. Tom sure-footed and confident immediately found a way across, but both Bruce and I vetoed the crossing as being too sketchy, and we decided to ski upstream for a little while to see if we could find anything more reassuring. The next opportunity was an fat downed log lying across the creek. In the summer time this would have been an easy crossing, but with snow piled high on the log, the footing seemed less certain, more slippery and more likely to collapse or do other unexpected things. Also, it was high enough that I imagined a tumble before a head first splash into the freezing water below. Tom forged the way – kicking his feet carefully to test the snow beneath him. Bruce bravely carried his skis across, but I asked Tom to carry mine so I could focus on my footing. It went just fine. Easy even.

Once that hurdle was crossed, we headed off again with excitement until we crested a small ridge and popped out just across the road from the Grizzly Giant. We had lunch, shared the view of the trees with a few people who’d walked up the road from the parking lot, and then even though there really is no place like the upper grove in winter, opted to ski back down our trail to continue the rest of our day, celebrating the whole while our extraordinary luck that the main road to the grove had been plowed.

Tom with the Grizzly Giant in the background
Tom with the Grizzly Giant in the background

Which season is it?

Two weeks ago, Tom and took a leisurely walk through Cook’s Meadow and noticed that the Redwing Blackbirds had returned for the spring season. It’s warm and sunny again, but after the intervening storm, I got to thinking about those optimistic birds, and what they made of the intemperate weather. Finally got around to drawing it out.

Actually, the warm temperature has created trouble of its own for us. All the melting snow is slowly puddling up on our property, and Tom spent the day digging a drainage trench and carrying buckets of water out of our crawl space. Fortunately, DNC facilities let me borrow a sump pump so that we’re not going to have to do that in shifts throughout the night! Tomorrow’s forecast for warm rain over all that snow uphill of us still has us biting our nails, but it’s going to be ever so much better with that pump!

In a certain twist of irony, as we battle too much water in the crawlspace, we’re also dealing with no water in the tap. The county guys have been here for a couple of days and with all the snow and melting they can’t even find the source of the leak, much less work on repairing it. The water has been out for about a week now, and the county has decided to save money by not having their crews work through the weekend.

We’ll be fine, of course. It’s like camping, with the bonus of heat and electricity, but after the big storm, lots of us are ready for a return to normal, and of course the renters that had planned to stay this weekend weren’t very excited about the lack of water. We found them a place to stay in El Portal, at Yosemite View Lodge, so they’ll be fine, but we’re sad to see them go.