Farewell to Yosemite Stables Crews

YVStablesGroup-1356The summer of 2015 was the last time to take a commercial trail ride in the Tuolumne Meadows area of Yosemite National Park. Come fall, the Yosemite Valley Stable will also close for the two hour and half-day trail rides offered to park visitors since the 1920s. Both changes in stable operations are brought about by the implementation of the Tuolumne River Plan and the Merced River Plan authored by the National Park Service. The plans were conceived to reduce the impact of development in the flood plains of Yosemite’s rivers. Both stables will remain operational for supplying Yosemite’s High Sierra Camps and providing backcountry saddle trips for park visitors. By the summer of 2016, only the Wawona Stable will continue to offer two hour trail rides to park visitors.

For many stables employees, returning every summer to pack and guide equated to many consecutive years of service in Yosemite National Park. Employees often lived in tent cabins near the stable, where maintaining the stable operation gets a very early start each morning. Though the season for trail rides isn’t long in Yosemite – summer months in Tuolumne Meadows and Wawona, spring to fall in Yosemite Valley – the crews spend a lot of time living and working together providing this historically popular activity for visitors from around the world. Delaware North at Yosemite commends the Tuolumne Meadows and Yosemite Valley stables staff (including mules and horses!) for their skill and dedication in serving park visitors for over twenty years. Happy Trails!

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#YosemiteSocial!

Have you ever attended a social media event? Originally formed as part of the Twitter community and known as as “Tweet-Ups” (a play on meet-up, get it?), social media events have evolved to include users of all social media channels in what are often referred to as “Socials”. This week, Delaware North at Yosemite hosted Yosemite National Park’s first “Yosemite Social”. By invitation, social media influencers and social media representatives of park partners gathered in Yosemite Valley February 1 – 3, 2015 to talk about Yosemite in winter. The original event itinerary centered around winter sports at Badger Pass Ski Area – California’s original ski resort and one of only two located in a national park. Unfortunately, Mother Nature has chosen to withhold snow from the Sierra Nevada this winter and Badger Pass has closed temporarily due to lack of it. So what to do in the Yosemite winter without snow? Yosemite Social learned about activities such as hiking, biking, and ice skating in a snow-free Yosemite winter. Social media users on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram can check out the experience by searching for the #YosemiteSocial hashtag on each channel.

In addition to activities, Yosemite Social was hosted at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls with a welcome dinner at The Mountain Room. After dinner entertainment consisted of a Starry Skies Over Yosemite Program, led by Delaware North at Yosemite interpretive guide Cory. Taking Yosemite Social on a cosmic tour of the universe, Cory shared his extensive knowledge of astronomy on a walking tour under the dark night sky of Leidig Meadow. The next day, Yosemite Social took a Bike-to-Hike Tour with Yosemite Mountaineering School Guide Allissa. Using the cruisers from the bike rental operation at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls is an easy way to explore Yosemite Valley with occasional stops for short hikes and iconic vistas. Yosemite Social stopped mid-tour for lunch with freshly-made sandwiches at Degnan’s Deli in Yosemite Village and a meet & greet with Yosemite National Park Service staff. With grand views of Half Dome and Yosemite Falls as a backdrop, Ranger Paul provided insight into the methods and goals of social media for the National Park Service in Yosemite.

Though Curry Village operates seasonally and is often closed during the winter months, Yosemite Social had a special pizza party dinner in the Curry Village Dining Pavilion featuring Pizza Deck pies – a tradition for summer visitors. Along with local beers and a green salad, dinner provided an opportunity to learn about operations at Curry Village – originally established in 1899 by the Curry family – from General Manager Dan Cornforth and Guest Recreation Manager Sean Costello. A short walk from the pavilion provided a winter evening’s activity: ice skating at Curry Village Ice Rink. Not only are rental skates available to circle the ice under Half Dome and Glacier Point during the day, take a break to gather around the fire pit during evening skate sessions with a S’mores Kit for dessert. Ice rink staff will even loan you long-handled forks for marshmallow toasting.

On the last day of the event Yosemite Social joined The Ahwahnee‘s General Manager, Brett Archer, for breakfast in the Ahwahnee Dining Room. Since Chefs’ Holidays at The Ahwahnee was still in full swing for its last sessions, Yosemite Social also participated in an exclusive Ahwahnee Kitchen Tour for a close up look at baked bread, desserts and the hardworking kitchen staff in this historic hotel. Many architectural elements are original to the hotel opening in 1927, including giant Hobart stand mixers haven’t been available in decades. Each winter in January and February, Chefs’ Holidays hosts famous chefs from around the country for cooking demonstrations, historic kitchen tours and a gala dinner in the Ahwahnee Dining Room.

Sincere thanks goes to the participants of the first ever Yosemite Social: Annie from NatureBridge, Amber and Noel from Yosemite/Mariposa County Tourism Bureau, Trevor from Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite, Annie from Outdoorsy Mama, Kim from Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau and travel photographer Zach Glassman. Would you like to attend a Yosemite Social? Look for future event announcements on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Restoration Projects in Yosemite: Helping Restore the Natural Beauty of the High Sierra

Restoring Tuolumne Meadows Lodge in 2008.

Restoration of Tuolumne Meadows Lodge in 2008.

Since 1916, concessioners in Yosemite National Park have provided wilderness experiences for thousands of visitors by operating the Yosemite High Sierra Camps in some of the park’s most beautiful backcountry locations.  High Sierra Camps are spaced 5.7 to 10 miles apart along a loop trail in Yosemite’s high country, accessible only by foot or saddle. After decades of operation, the once pristine camps became impacted by heavy visitor use combined with minimal land management. Merced Lake High Sierra Camp, the largest, oldest and most remote of the high camps was the first to benefit from planned restoration efforts, which began in 2001.  DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite employees worked to restore the camp with the guidance of the National Park Service at Yosemite.

Restoration workers at Merced lake High Sierra Camp.

Restoration workers at Merced Lake High Sierra Camp.

The success of the Merced Lake restoration inspired DNC to plan extensive restoration projects for the other High Sierra Camps during the summers of 2005 and 2006. The plan was expanded to include White Wolf Lodge in 2007 and Tuolumne Meadows Lodge in 2008. Since then, most High Sierra Camps have benefited from multiple efforts at ecological restoration. In 2011, ten years after the first restored pathway, it was time for the restoration crew to go back to Merced Lake High Sierra Camp. DNC partnered with the National Park Service and Yosemite Conservancy to improve the ecological health of the camp with grounds maintenance.  A group of 11 Yosemite Conservancy volunteers lead by DNC environmental managers Mark Gallagher and Debora Sanches donated 416 hours of labor to Merced Lake – helping to restore the camp to a more natural condition. The ecological restoration techniques included soil decompaction; collection and spread of native seeds and duff; transplanting native plants; trail delineation, erosion control and the creation of proper drainage for run-off.

Merced Lake High Sierra Camp after restoration in 2011.

Merced Lake High Sierra Camp during restoration in 2011.

 

Restored drainage at Tuloumne Meadows Lodge in 2008.

Restored drainage at Tuloumne Meadows Lodge in 2008.

In 2012, two major restoration projects took place at May Lake and Glen Aulin High Sierra Camps. In addition to trail delineation, decompaction and spread of duff in closed-off areas, volunteers also helped with deferred maintenance work such as roof replacement, corral post and hitching rails additions, plumbing improvements to prevent water waste and lodge foundation replacement.

In addition to the High Sierra Camps, DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite recently started work on a two-phase ecological restoration project at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls – also in partnership with National Park Service and Yosemite Conservancy. The restoration work includes removal of dirt roads, social trails, & non-native plants, and also transplanting of site-specific native plants and seeds. Yosemite Conservancy recruited 15 volunteers to work on the first phase of the project. DNC will work with the National Park Service at Yosemite to source native vegetation seeds in Yosemite National Park to be planted at the site in October.

Restoration at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls in 2014.

Restoration at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls in 2014.

Badger Pass Ski Area and Bike/Raft Rental Manager Sean Costello at the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge restoration in 2008.

Badger Pass Ski Area and Bike/Raft Rental Manager Sean Costello at the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge restoration in 2008.

 

Springtime Water Safety

In spring, Yosemite is filled with the sound of rushing water, from magnificent waterfalls, to playful river rapids. These beautiful waterways look cool and refreshing, and can also be dangerous and even fatal.

Today, the National Park Service hosted a special demonstration of swift water rescue techniques in the Merced River near Happy Isles.

Even though it was a relatively dry winter season, the waterfalls and rivers are still deceptively powerful. In fact, with the strength of the spring flow and cold water temperatures, a rescue situation can quickly become a body retrieval.

Please be safe out there!

Here rescuers demonstrate one technique where the rescuer has a safety line to the shore and swims out to the victim. Notice here that both people are in the right position for running rapids, with their feet downstream to protect them from rocks.

Here rescuers demonstrate one technique where the rescuer has a safety line to the shore and swims out to the victim. Notice here that both people are in the right position for running rapids, with their feet high and downstream to protect them from rocks and other obstacles in the water.

Downed trees in a river can be an additional hazard because water flows through them and can pin someone underwater on their upstream side.  Here rescuers demonstrate the search strategies around this fallen tree.

Downed trees in a river can be an additional hazard because water flows through them and can pin someone underwater on their upstream side. Rescuers call these hazards ‘strainers’.
Rescuers demonstrate the precautions they need to take when searching around this fallen tree.

Rescuers often rig elaborate high lines so that a rescuer can safely get out over the water to pull someone out. Here members of the press were given an opportunity to get a bird's-eye view of the search and rescue team in the water.

Rescuers often rig elaborate high lines so that a rescuer can safely get out over the water to pull someone out.
Today, members of the press were given an opportunity to get a bird’s-eye view of the search and rescue team in the water.

Many people are required to manage a high line safely. Thanks again to everyone on the Search and Rescue team!

Many people are required to manage a high line safely. Thanks again to everyone on the Yosemite Search and Rescue team!

 

Finally, if you think it can’t happen to you, take a few minutes to watch this sobering video. Yosemite is a magical, refreshing and renewing place. We hope you enjoy your visit safely!

Interview with Kass Hardy about the 150th Anniversary of the Yosemite Grant

Yosemite Grant Logo

Where was the idea of National Parks born? Right here in Yosemite, June 30, 1864, where the first wild lands were set aside and protected for “public use, resort and recreation. As the entire Yosemite region ramps up to recognize the 150th anniversary of this historic moment, the signing of the Yosemite Land Grant, and other upcoming park anniversaries, Ranger Kass Hardy has been at the center of the planning efforts. Here’s a chance to get to know Kass better, and find out more about these milestone anniversaries. Scroll to the bottom for a video on the significance of the 150th anniversary event.

Can you tell us a little about how you ended up in Yosemite working on planning anniversary celebrations?

From 2008-2010, I was fortunate to work on a similar project for Glacier National Park’s 100th anniversary. While at Glacier, our team learned from other parks who had recently honored an anniversary – like Mesa Verde, Mount Rainier, and Zion. To create a place to learn from one another, we started an informal anniversary working group to ask questions, identify models of programming that worked, and to share successes. A staff member at Yosemite participated on those quarterly calls – and as my term was coming to end at Glacier, they encouraged me to apply for a similar term position at Yosemite.

The Yosemite Grant 150th anniversary is unique in that it is honoring the birth of the national park idea. The amount of history that this incredible landscape embodies is so powerful – and its ability to inspire generations of people is unmatched.

What aspect of the 150th, or this series of anniversaries are you most excited about?

Anniversaries offer us the opportunity to reflect on why places like Yosemite are important. For me, the most inspiring part of the Yosemite Grant 150th project is listening and reading the countless Yosemite stories from visitors, locals, and employees. To me, the Inspiring Generations: 150 Years, 150 Stories book project that the anniversary team initiated and printed in partnership with Yosemite Conservancy is the type of project that anniversaries are all about. Stories promote the essence of why milestones like the 150th are so valuable to our society.

In addition, working on the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service is truly an honor. The projects associated with the 100th are very visionary – and groundbreaking for the service in some regards.

Many of the events are outside the park. What was the rationale behind those decisions?

The story of Yosemite dates back thousands of years – and goes far beyond the boundaries that we have today. We wanted to utilize the anniversary as an opportunity to work with our neighbors to elevate the significance of this milestone throughout the region — and world. Working with our neighbors has enabled us to have over 245 activities on the calendar — and to have them hosted in locations where people who love Yosemite can more easily attend.

It seems like a sense of community is important to you. What are some of the other community-based organizations that you are involved with in Yosemite?

Yes! I have a lot of energy, enjoy being around people, find volunteering extremely rewarding, and love being creative. I very much appreciate communities and especially enjoy being an active member of the Yosemite community. I have been involved in a few of the organizations in and around Yosemite over the last several years – including the Yosemite Employee Association, Yosemite Rotary, Yosemite Winter Club, and youth soccer through AYSO.

Why are national parks important to you?

National parks are important to me because they are our national heritage. They are the places that share the many unique stories of our past – and allow us to experience today’s cultural and natural world. When you take a minute to really think about what that means – it’s truly astonishing.

I grew to love national parks before I knew about the National Park System. Having lived one mile from Saratoga National Battlefield in upstate New York, I was exposed to a national park throughout my childhood. My family took trips to “the battlefield” often. We would learn about the significant history of those grounds, bike and walk the trails, and watch owls for hours at a time. I think due to this exposure as a child, I have a very deep connection to our national parks – and will always have a special place in my heart for our national parks.

Merced River Plan – Camping and Lodging

Where do you prefer to stay when you visit Yosemite? The Merced River Plan that is underway in Yosemite calls for some changes in the lodging and camping options.

Housekeeping Camp

Housekeeping Camp

In Alternative 5, the Park Service’s preferred alternative, proposes the following changes:

  • Increase the number of campsites by 28% across all river segments and 37% in the Valley. That means an additional 160 campsites.
  • Merced Lake High Sierra Camp decreases from 22 units (60 beds) to 11 units (42 beds).
  • Remove 34 units from Housekeeping Camp that are in the ordinary high-water mark.
  • Some tent cabins in Curry Village would be replaced with hard-sided cabins and the total number of overnight units will be reduced by 50 at Curry Village. There are 400 units at Curry Village mentioned in the Merced River Plan, but this does not account for the 103 units that were approved exclusively for NatureBridge and subsequently made available for public use.

The Ahwahnee, Yosemite Lodge at the Falls and Wawona Hotel would remain the same under the preferred alternative, although some of the other alternatives propose changes at Yosemite Lodge ranging from increasing units there to eliminating them entirely.

You can see the breakdown of which campsites and properties would be affected at: http://www.yosemitepark.com/mrpoverview.aspx

Submit a comment to the National Park Service. The comment period is open until April 18, 2013. Your comments matter. Public input has strongly helped to shape the draft plan, and it’s important for everyone to continue to provide feedback for the next phase as planners develop a final plan. Learn more about the Merced River Plan.

Yosemite Parking under the MRP

A Range of Alternatives for the Merced River Plan

A Range of Alternatives for the Merced River Plan

On peak days in Yosemite Valley, traffic and parking can be a challenge. The Merced River Plan outlines a few options to improve parking and traffic flow to give people a better experience when they visit.
Under Preferred Alternative 5, the National Park Service proposes many strategies including:

  • Increase day-use parking spaces in Yosemite Valley (+5%).
  • Improve traffic circulation by building underpasses and roundabouts in key locations like day-use parking and across from Yosemite Lodge at the Falls.
  • Accommodate approximately 19,900 visitors per day in East Yosemite Valley, compared to current peak visitation of about 20,900.
  • Continue to manage overnight-use capacity through wilderness permits and reservation systems for lodging and camping.
  • Manage day-use capacity for East Yosemite Valley through traffic diversions and monitoring.
  • Create an additional parking area in the west end of Yosemite Valley to accommodate overflow traffic.
  • Provide additional public transit and free shuttle bus services, with routes extending further west to include locations like Bridalveil and the new proposed parking area.

What do you think?

Submit a comment to the National Park Service. The comment period is open until April 18, 2013. Your comments matter. Public input has strongly helped to shape the draft plan, and it’s important for everyone to continue to provide feedback for the next phase as planners develop a final plan. Learn more about the Merced River Plan.

Great Way to Learn More About Merced and Tuolumne River Plans

Yosemite Housekeeping Camp Bridge

Housekeeping Camp bridge in snow
Photo: Theresa Ho

Have you been paying attention to the sweeping changes being proposed for Yosemite National Park? The park has set up some webinar and public meeting times to help you understand what is being proposed. Now is the time to voice your opinions on the park’s ideas for traffic and parking, lodging options, number of campsites, and services like the availability of bike or rafting rentals!

The National Park Service has released alternatives for two new plans for Yosemite. One of these plans, the Tuolumne River Plan (TRP), contains proposed changes for the Tuolumne high country, and the other, the Merced River Plan (MRP), proposes several options for Yosemite Valley and the Merced River.

To help you understand the proposed plans, the Park Service has made both documents available online (MRP and TRP), along with summaries and charts to help you understand what is going on. You can also attend one of a series of webinars and public meetings (MRP and TRP) to help give you an overview of the plans and answer any questions you might have.

You have only until March 18 to comment on the TRP, and the MRP public comment period closes after April 18, 2013.

You can read the official NPS press release here.

What’s With Yosemite Valley Traffic?

As the number of visitors increase during the summer months, the National Park Service is experimenting with different ways to control traffic in the east end of Yosemite Valley. We’d all like to see less congestion, more efficient traffic flow, and a system that allows emergency vehicles to respond to incidents effectively. But what exactly does that mean?

Here is the latest from NPS on what changes to expect when you drive into Yosemite Valley starting May 21, 2012.
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