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!

10 Amazing Views in Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is justifiably famous for amazing views. From Glacier Point to Olmsted Point to Tunnel View, Yosemite provides visitors with stunning, jaw-dropping scenery on a grand scale. Though these landscapes are shared again and again, they always captivate the viewer – there is never a “meh” moment with the most famous views in Yosemite. But what about the not-so-famous views? Or perhaps you have wished you could have the view all to yourself? In the list below, you’ll find the famous, the lesser-known and even some private views of the sights of Yosemite.

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1.Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View
2. North Dome from Housekeeping Camp
3. Half Dome from Glacier Point (How to Visit in Winter)
4. Glacier Point from Curry Village
5. Half Dome from the Curry Village Ice Rink
6. Tenaya Lake from Tioga Road
7. Half Dome from The Ahwahnee hotel room
8. Yosemite Falls from The Mountain Room restaurant at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls
9. Half Dome from Olmsted Point
10.Yosemite Falls from rafting the Merced River

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.

 

Favorite Yosemite Spots: Tuolumne Meadows

Lembert Dome rises above the Tuolumne River, flowing northwest towards Hetch Hetchy and San Francisco. Photo by Kenny Karst.

Lembert Dome rises above the Tuolumne River, flowing northwest towards Hetch Hetchy and San Francisco. Photo by Kenny Karst.

An ongoing series, “Favorite Spots”, will feature the favorite places of Yosemite National Park community members and park visitors. Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite’s high country is a favorite spot of Kenny Karst, who lives and works in Yosemite Valley. “Of all of the special places there are to roam in Yosemite National Park, my favorite is Tuolumne Meadows.  On the north side of the meadow, the meandering flow of the Tuolumne River is perhaps one of the most peaceful places on earth, with abundant wildflowers in the spring, and visiting fauna throughout the year.  Tuolumne Meadows is also the home of special trailheads into the backcountry, including Elizabeth Lake, Cathedral Lakes, the High Sierra Camps north and south, and the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne.  Yes, this meadow is magical.” Kenny often provides photos for the Yosemite DNC Instagram account (@yosemitednc) known as “Kenny’s Lunchtime Walk in Yosemite”. To view all of Kenny’s photos on Instagram, search hashtag #kennyslunchtimewalk or check out the Pinterest board, Kenny’s Lunchtime Walk in Yosemite.

The word “Tuolumne” often foils park visitors’ attempts at proper pronunciation on their first trip to Yosemite’s high country. Named after a tribe of Native Americans who lived on the banks of the Tuolumne and Stanislaus rivers, these high alpine meadows received their current name by 1863. Today, Tuolumne Meadows is accessible via the Tioga Road in Yosemite for roughly six months of the year due to winter snow accumulation at such high altitude. At 8600 feet in elevation, Tuolumne Meadows offers a cool alternative to summer heat as well as views of some of Yosemite’s most famous peaks: Mount Dana, Cathedral Peak, and Mount Conness. This area of the park  is often cited as a favorite spot by park visitors, and services include lodging at Tuolumne Meadows Lodge, camping at Tuolumne Meadows Campground, a visitor center and wilderness permit center as well as other services: Tuolumne Store and Grill, USPS Post Office, Tuolumne Meadows Stable for trail rides, an outpost of the Yosemite Mountaineering School and a gas station.

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

Long Time Dinner Companion: Delaware North at Yosemite Employee Martha Miller

When you live and work in Yosemite National Park, you can learn many kinds of jobs, such as park ranger, ice rink attendant, tour bus driver, and restaurant manager. If you are Martha Miller living and working in Yosemite for the better part of 60 years, you start out as a teenaged ski instructor at Badger Pass Ski Area, move on to general manager of Tuolumne Meadows Lodge, and round out your career as a coordinator for holiday dining and events at The Ahwahnee. As a concession employee for the last six decades, Martha has served park visitors in these roles and many more (including Manager of the Quarter in 2004), making her the longest of the long-term employees at Yosemite National Park. Though a passion for the park is required to live here as long as she has, Martha also has passion for other things in life, including her horses and another career as an opera production manager. In between Yosemite seasonal gigs, Martha led a double life of worldly sophistication as production manager or touring company manager for various opera companies including the San Francisco Spring Opera (where she began as a volunteer in 1961), Fresno Opera and the English National Opera. She had studied music in school and later toured the world in this capacity, but returned to Yosemite year after year. From her humble beginnings as a teen at Badger Pass, Martha also went on to become one of the first female Professional Certified Ski Instructors.

Martha Miller on a ski trip near Tioga Pass in Yosemite.

Martha Miller on a ski trip near Tioga Pass in Yosemite.

Today, summers find Martha in Tuolumne Meadows and winters find her employing her extensive production background at The Ahwahnee as a special events coordinator. Specifically, Martha assists with the Bracebridge Dinner at Yosemite production, an historic holiday dinner event with musical entertainment that has been hosted in the hotel’s dining room since it opened in 1927. Martha has participated in Bracebridge Dinner in various roles, even being trained for duty by Ansel Adams, famed Yosemite photographer and an early producer of the event. She also coordinates the holiday activities surrounding the production for hotel guests and park visitors during the holiday season. Martha’s favorite thing about working Bracebridge Dinner is getting to know the performers. When asked her favorite thing about working in Yosemite, Martha said, “I love hiking and skiing, but no way I can say one job or the other – they are all special.”

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Martha Miller at The Ahwahnee’s Bracebridge Dinner at Yosemite.

Favorite Yosemite Spots: Tenaya Lake

Photo by Kenny Karst

Photo by Kenny Karst

As part of an ongoing series, we’ll feature the favorite places of Yosemite community members and park visitors.Tenaya Lake in Yosemite’s high country is a favorite spot of Linda Eade, who lives in El Portal at the park’s west gate and has worked in Yosemite Valley for 42 years with 33 of those years as the Research Librarian for the National Park Service. “I’ve been asked this question many times and my response is always Tenaya Lake. Not only for the beauty of the area, but because every year I would take my girls [daughters Kelly and Ellen] to spend the day at the beach on Tenaya Lake just before they went back to school. It holds cherished end-of-summer memories for me.”Tenaya_Lake_beach

Tenaya Lake is one of the most accessible high alpine lakes in the Sierra Nevada, but that doesn’t prevent it from also being one of the most beautiful. This stunning location is often first glimpsed by the park visitor as they head east on the Tioga Road (Highway 120) toward Tuolumne Meadows. Vividly blue and nestled amongst pines and shining granite, Tenaya Lake beckons road weary travelers to keep exploring – and provides a cool place to swim on a hot summer day. Named after native Chief Tenaya, the east beach of Tenaya Lake is the focus of an extensive restoration project funded by the Yosemite Conservancy. The shoreline and wetlands will be restored, native Willows will be planted and access to the beach will be designed to protect this restoration.

Favorite Yosemite Spots: Upper Cathedral Lake

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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.”

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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.”

What’s Happening at Glen Aulin – Tuolumne River Plan

White Cascade near Glen Aulin

White Cascade near Glen Aulin

The Preferred Alternative of the Tuolumne River Plan calls for removal of about 38% of the popular lodging at Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp, from 32 beds down to 20 beds. The reduction is an attempt to bring the camp into better alignment with the septic system capacity.

Yosemite’s High Sierra Camps (HSC) give people an opportunity to enjoy the backcountry without having to carry a large pack. The Glen Aulin HSC is located along the Tuolumne River, and is situated next to the pool below 80 foot high White Fall, and visitors enjoy watching the sun set from a nearby promontory with a view of Mt. Conness. A popular day trip continues from Glen Aulin down the Tuolumne River to see Waterwheel Falls.

All of the proposed alternatives address the issue of wastewater disposal, and replacing the composting toilet at the backpacker campground near Glen Aulin. Other alternatives propose changes ranging from closing Glen Aulin HSC completely (Alternative 1), to converting the HSC to a seasonal outfitter camp with no permanent structures except for a composting toilet (Alternative 2). Alternative 3 would continue to restrict water usage to 600 gals/day, while the preferred alternative reduces the allowable usage to 500 gallons.

Other changes to the High Sierra Camps, such as the Merced Lake HSC, can be found in the Draft Merced River Plan.

There are also numerous other changes being proposed in the TRP, including changes to parking, location of the visitor’s center, and day-trip mule and horseback rides. What do you like and dislike about these proposed plans? For more information visit the NPS website, and be sure to comment. We’d love to hear them here, but to be part of the official process, submit your comments via one of the following channels.

Email:

yose_planning@nps.gov

Phone:

209-379-1110

U.S. mail:

Superintendent,
Yosemite National Park,
Attn: Tuolumne River Plan,
P.O. Box 577,
Yosemite, CA 95389

2012 Parsons Memorial Lodge Summer Series Starts this Weekend

Stroll through a beautiful alpine meadow in Tuolumne to a National Historic Landmark building – a one-story stone building built in 1915 – for the Parsons Memorial Lodge Summer Series.

Each summer the Parsons Memorial Lodge hosts fascinating speakers in one of the most beautiful natural settings in Tuolumne. Topics range from climbing, and natural history to music and poetry, including a popular Poetry Festival. This year’s summer series begins this weekend, July 14, with a slide presentation by Daniel Arnold called “Early Days in the Range of Light: Encounters with Legendary Mountaineers” at 7:30pm, but typically meets at 2:00pm and lasts 1-2 hours. All programs are free. Allow about 30 minutes walking time from either the Lembert Dome parking or the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center.

See the full schedule below:
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Tioga Road Opening May 7

The National Park Service made the announcement that we all wait for every spring. Tioga Road is officially scheduled to open to the public at noon on Monday, May 7! The less-than-average winter snowpack (~50% of normal) has melted quickly with the warmer temperatures allowing a relatively early opening. (You can read the official NPS release below)

Just don’t expect all of the facilities and services that Tuolumne has to offer quite yet. Vault toilets will be available in a few places along the road, but electric lines have been damaged over the winter. These will need to be repaired before electricity or other visitor services that you might expect to see during the summer months are available. We will let you know as soon as we find out when facilities like the Tuolumne Meadows Store, Grill, gas station etc. will open.

For so many, the opening of Tioga Road opens a route from the popular western regions of the park to the east side of the Sierra, and signals the beginning of easy access to the high country that has been buried under snow all winter. Suddenly we have access to miles of pristine trail for hikers and backpackers, sunny granite domes for rock climbers, many scenic vistas for photographers and a myriad of alpine lakes and rivers for fishermen (fisherpeople?). Do you have a favorite activity or particular reason to be excited about the road opening? Leave a comment below to share with us all what it is.

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