Special U.S. Citizen Naturalization Ceremony at Glacier Point


Candidates line up to check in at the Glacier Point Naturalization Ceremony

Sixty-five people became naturalized citizens of the United States at Yosemite Valley’s most famous overlook on June 27, 2013. In a special ceremony commemorating Independence Day, candidates received their own American flag before taking the Oath of Allegiance. They then recited the Pledge of Allegiance as newly certified U.S. citizens. Conducted at the Glacier Point amphitheater, the ceremony takes on particular significance as the view overlooking Nevada Fall with Half Dome looming in the background reminds citizens of what is known as “America’s Best Idea” – the national park system.

Kari Cobb NPS Photos

Superintendent Neubacher addresses the citizen candidates              Kari Cobb NPS Photos


Candidates take the Oath of Allegiance

The ceremony’s speakers included Yosemite Superintendent Don Neubacher and representatives from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services offices in Fresno and Sacramento. The citizen candidates came from all around the world including Mexico, Fiji, Cambodia, Russia, and Guatemala.


A new U.S. citizen leads the others in the Pledge of Allegiance


Yosemite Mounted Patrol


First order of business for a new U.S. citizen: apple pie             Kari Cobb NPS Photos

The new citizens were joined by their family and friends as they celebrated the end of their journey to become American citizens with the presentation of colors by the Yosemite Mounted Patrol, a rendition of the National Anthem, and servings of apple pie courtesy of DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite.

Favorite Yosemite Spots: Gaylor Lakes Basin


Photo by Beth Pratt

As part of an ongoing series, we’ll feature the favorite places of Yosemite community members and park visitors. Gaylor Lakes Basin is a favorite spot of Beth Pratt, who lives in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in the town of Midpines and often works in Yosemite. Beth is the California director of the National Wildlife Federation and works to conserve and raise awareness about California’s native wildlife. “My annual rite of spring involves a hike to one of my favorite spots in Yosemite on the day Tioga Pass opens. In some years I am hiking through snow, but my first glimpse of Gaylor Lake from the ridge, whether iced over or shimmering blue, is like greeting an old friend. The Gaylor Lake basin contains Yosemite’s greatest hits: a beautiful subalpine basin filled with shimmering blue lakes surrounded by spectacular granite peaks. You don’t have to work too hard to access it as the trail leaves from Tioga Pass and in just over a mile you’re at the first lake. This is also my favorite hike in the park for wildlife. I just named it one of the top seven spots in the country for CNN – not because of the mega-fauna, but because of the pika and frog viewing opportunities, two critters I love. The rocky slopes near Gaylor Lake make ideal pika habitat and the threatened Yosemite toad sings his annual love song here each year—a melodious trilling that can be heard throughout the basin in spring.”


Photo by Beth Pratt


Photo by Beth Pratt

The Gaylor Lake Basin, just over the ridge from the east entrance to Yosemite National Park, contains five subalpine lakes: Upper, Middle and Lower Gaylor Lakes, along with Upper and Lower Granite Lakes. The Gaylor basin’s namesake memorializes park ranger Andrew Gaylor who served in Yosemite from 1907 to 1921 and died of a heart attack while on patrol at Merced Lake. It is also home to the long abandoned Great Sierra Mine and the cabins of those who mined here – a testament to the mining history of the Sierra Nevada. The hike to the basin affords a spectacular 360 degree view of the High Sierra including Gaylor Peak, Tioga Peak, Mount Dana, Mount Gibbs, Kuna Peak, Mammoth Peak and the Cathedral Range.

Mojito Parfait from Ahwahnee Pastry Chef Paul Padua

Photo courtesy of Brett Archer

Photo courtesy of Brett Archer

Just in time for the first day of summer, Chef Paul from The Ahwahnee shares his personal recipe for a super easy summer dessert:

Mojito Parfait with Macerated Berries:
serves 12

Ingredients for the Lime Curd:
3 egg yolks
3 whole eggs
6 oz granulated sugar
5 oz fresh lime juice
zest of one lime
2 oz rum
4 drops mint extract
4 oz butter unsalted
1 pint whipped cream
2 oz powdered sugar

Ingredients for the Rum Macerated Berries:
2 T chopped fresh mint
1/2 pint blackberries
1/2 pint raspberries
1/2 pint strawberry quarters
1 whole orange peeled and cut into wedges
2 oz rum
2 oz powdered sugar

Combine the egg yolks, eggs, sugar, lime juice and zest, 2 oz of rum and mint extract into a 2 quart sauce pot, stir with a wire whisk and cook on medium heat. With a rubber spatula, continuously stir and scrape the bottom of the pot until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Do not boil, or it will curdle. Remove from heat immediately and transfer to a bowl. Place in an ice bath and stir in butter until melted and well incorporated. Set aside to cool.

Whip the cream with the powdered sugar until stiff. Fold whipped cream into lime curd. Combine all of the berries and orange wedges with the chopped mint in a bowl. Drizzle the powdered sugar and rum over and toss vigorously. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit to marinate for five minutes.

Layer Macerated fruits and mojito parfait to almost the rim of your favorite summer classy glasses. Decorate with fresh berries, citrus wedges and a sprig of mint. Enjoy!

Favorite Yosemite Spots: Upper Cathedral Lake


Photo by Kristal Leonard

As part of an ongoing series, we’ll feature the favorite places of Yosemite community members and park visitors. Olmsted Point is a favorite spot of Kristal Leonard, who lives and works in Yosemite Valley. Kristal is also one of the Valley’s most prolific photographers, often spending time in the backcountry to capture the perfect Yosemite moment. You can see more of Kristal’s work at Kristal Leonard Photography.

“One of my favorite places in Yosemite National Park is Upper Cathedral Lake. This beautiful alpine lake, along with its companion Lower Cathedral Lake, is situated in the Yosemite high country at the base of Cathedral Peak. It is far enough from the road to seem remote but it’s easily accessible via a seven mile round trip hike. My husband and I planned an overnight trip to the upper lake in August last year. There was a 30% chance of thunderstorms that weekend, which was exciting for me as a photographer considering how beautiful the high country gets during or after a thunderstorm. After a 3.5 mile, moderately strenuous hike, we arrived at the lake and found a campsite away from the water but with an amazing view of the lake and surrounding peaks. The thunderstorm was clearing right before sunset so we were treated to beautiful clouds and reflections on the lake. After dark, another thunderstorm moved through the region, so I set my camera up for timed exposures to see if I could capture the lightning that was hitting the nearby and more distant peaks. The next morning, everything was so fresh from the recent rains. We stayed for breakfast and then packed up camp and hiked back to Tuolumne Meadows.”


Photo by Kristal Leonard

Cathedral Lakes is a favorite backcountry destination in Yosemite’s high country due to the relatively easy hike that takes you into the backcountry. Part of the John Muir Trail – the famous hiking trail that is part of the cross-continental Pacific Crest Trail – the trail to the Cathedral lakes takes you through classic Sierra Nevada alpine environment. Accessible only for a short time each summer when the Tioga Road is open, Upper Cathedral Lake sits at an elevation of 9,585 feet, while Lower Cathedral Lake just lives up to its name at 9,288 feet. Both lakes provide views of the steeple-like formations of Cathedral Peak. In 1869, John Muir climbed Cathedral Peak and wrote in My First Summer in the Sierra, “A mile or so to the westward there is a handsome lake, and the glacier-polished granite about it is shining so brightly it is not easy in some places to trace Front of Cathedral Peak the line between the rock and water, both shining alike.”

Alligator or Lizard?


Photo courtesy of Harry Vanderburg

Alligator lizards, large scaly lizards with slightly prehensile tails, are native to most ecosystems in California with the exception of the highest elevations and most of the deserts. Since these lizards are active during the day, you may come across a particular subspecies – the Sierra Alligator Lizard – on the trails in Yosemite. This lizard species is easy to recognize due to its size as they can grow up to 12 inches in length including the tail. However, Sierra alligator lizards don’t bask on the sun-warmed granite like many other lizard species in the park. Instead, they seem to prefer sunny spots with cover nearby, in case they need to disappear.

Alligator lizards live in western states from Washington to northern Baja California, west of the Cascade and Sierra Nevada mountains including islands off the coast of southern California. They live at elevations from sea level to 7500 feet and isolated populations of a subspecies occur in the desert east of the Sierra Nevada, known as the Panamint Alligator Lizard. Alligator lizards may have earned their name from the snake-like undulation they utilize to swim, similar to the way an alligator uses its tail. Common to many types of lizards, the tail of an alligator lizard is easily broken off, and the lizard may intentionally detach its tail as a defensive tactic. As the detached tail writhes around for several minutes, this distraction may deter a hungry predator. Eventually the tail will regenerate, though never in quite the same condition as the original. During the spring breeding season, the male lizard grabs on to the head of a female with his mouth until she is ready to let him mate with her. Besides keeping her from choosing another male, this behavior may demonstrate strength and suitability as a mate. The video of a large alligator lizard below was captured in the fall in Yosemite Valley.

El Cap Meadow: Project Yosemite’s Favorite Spots


In an ongoing series, we’ll feature the favorite Yosemite places of filmmakers Sheldon Neill and Colin Delehanty, the creators of the stunning Yosemite HD time-lapse video that became a runaway favorite online with over 3 million views on Vimeo.

The Story

Colin: “Through the spring and summer months the grass grows tall and green in Yosemite. These grassy meadows are great places to observe the valley since they are normally right at its center. El Capitan Meadow is my favorite. It sits at the foot of El Capitan, one of the world’s most popular wall faces for rock climbing. As you walk further from the road El Capitan comes into view and if you look close enough you can find climbers thousands of feet above the ground. After relaxing in El Cap Meadow for awhile it’s nice to have the Merced River close enough for a quick dip.”


Sheldon Neill and Colin Delehanty of Project Yosemite

Sheldon Neill and Colin Delehanty of Project Yosemite

One of the most prominent granite monoliths in Yosemite Valley, El Capitan soars roughly 3000 above the valley floor. Rock climbers often take three days or more to climb to the top, although speed climbers can cover the distance in only a few hours. On the other side of the meadow, views of Cathedral Rocks provide a perfect counterpoint to the Captain. Bordered by Northside Drive and the Merced River in Yosemite Valley, this popular viewing area has plenty of parking in pull-outs on the left side of the road. During the summer months, the Yosemite Conservancy runs an “Ask a Climber” program to answer climbing questions and give you an opportunity you to look through powerful spotting scopes at the climbers above.

Read more about Colin, Sheldon and Project Yosemite.

We’re collecting more pictures and stories about favorite Yosemite spots. Keep checking back for more.

Wolf or Coyote?

Have you ever seen a wolf in Yosemite National Park? The canine creature with the bushy tail you saw on the side of the road or trotting along the trail was not a wolf – it was a coyote. Though gray wolves once ranged throughout the continent, it is uncertain whether they ever lived in the area of the Sierra Nevada that is now designated as Yosemite National Park. The California range of the gray wolf in historic times is poorly understood, and there are currently no wolves living in the state, despite the visits of Oregon wolf OR7 who wandered into California from Oregon for a short period of time in the winter of 2011. Mountain coyotes, on the other hand, live all over California and thrive in Yosemite National Park.


Illustration from Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks

What is the difference between a wolf and a coyote? Canids share many common dog-like characteristics, but wolves and coyotes differ in a number of ways, starting with their overall size. Wolves are much larger than coyotes and if you ever have the good fortune to spot a wolf in the wild, you will never mistake a coyote for a wolf again. Wolves can be up to six feet long versus coyotes’ average length of four feet. Wolves also stand almost three feet at the shoulder while coyotes only measure around a foot and a half. Wolves have rounded ears and a squared muzzle, while coyotes have distinctive pointed ears and muzzle. Though wolves today are found in very few places in the United States, coyotes are common in developed areas and can become comfortable surrounded by the everyday activities of humans. Please remember to respect the nature of this wild animal and do not feed any coyote that approaches you in Yosemite or anywhere else. Keep a respectful distance from any wildlife in the park and enjoy sighting these magnificent creatures in this beautiful natural setting.