Last Month in Yosemite: April 2016

Last Month in Yosemite: April 2016

 In April, we celebrated our donors at Spring Gathering, savored the final updates of the season from the park's winter rangers, took a team hike up the Snow Creek trail, and more.

A recap of things we saw, heard and did in the park last month,  from our El Portal office to you!

Naturalist Michael Ross led Spring Gathering guests on a "bug hunt" to explore insect habitats in Cooks Meadow.  Photo: Ryan Kelly.


• We welcomed 320 guests to Spring Gathering, our annual donor celebration in the Valley. We worked with Yosemite rangers, naturalists, artists and others to coordinate a full (and fun!) Saturday agenda, with 36 different programs. Participants had the chance to explore the Valley on guided hikes; to hone their art and photography skills in outdoor workshops; and to get a behind-the-scenes look at some of our 2016 grant subjects, including pollinator-friendly plants, hard-working horse and mule teams, endangered amphibians, and the Ask a Climber program.  

Conservancy President Frank Dean presented a $15 million check to Yosemite superindendent Don Neubacher, representing the Conservancy's annual support to the park. Photo: Al Golub

Other highlights included updates on the ongoing restoration project in Mariposa Grove, an evening of bat science with ranger Lisa Murphy, and a check presentation ceremony. Thanks to everyone who helped make Spring Gathering such a success, including our staff; the Yosemite experts who led hikes, workshops and presentations; and of course our incredible donors!

Looking up at giant sequoias in Mariposa Grove. Photo: Keith Walklet

• Speaking of Mariposa Grove, crews are diving into the next steps of the multi-year restoration project that will ultimately protect the Grove's giant sequoias and offer an improved experience for visitors.

To get things started for a new season of work, they began preparing for construction activities at the park's South Entrance, which will be transformed into an arrival plaza for Grove visitors. The new hub, which replaces the original parking area that was located within the sequoais' fragile habitat, will serve as a welcoming gateway to the Grove, with shuttle service to the trailhead. 

New log benches for Mariposa Grove. Photo: Yosemite Conservancy

In addition to working on the South Entrance (and continuing to restore sequoia habitat while shaping new trails, boardwalks and educational exhibits), the park is crafting nearly 70 rustic log benches that will serve as tranquil places to enjoy the beauty of the ancient trees. Watch this video for more about the restoration project!


Unicorn Peak and Tuolumne Meadows in mid-April. Photo: Courtesy of NPS• Mid-April brought the final news of the season from Yosemite's winter rangers, whose weekly updates from Tuolumne Meadows offer tips on weather, snow and avalanche conditions, as well as notes on high country wildlife.

As warm temperatures crept up to higher elevations, melting snow fed park waterfalls and made for variable spring skiing. The final month of the rangers' updates brimmed with reports of avian life: yellow-rumped warblers returned to lodgepole pines, sparrows crooned for mates, mergansers joined mallards along the Tuolumne River. (If you're curious about Yosemite's winged residents, check out our bird-watching Outdoor Adventures!)

Conservancy staff enjoyed a spring day hike led by our resident naturalist. Photo: Yosemite Conservancy


• During a staff training day, some of our team joined our resident naturalist, Pete Devine, for a hike on the Snow Creek Trail. In addition to enjoying a beautiful spring day, we got to help clear the trail, practice our bird-watching skills, and even hone our selfie-snapping techniques! 

Pileated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus). Photo: Ann & Rob Simpson

At one point on the hike, we were lucky enough to spot a pileated woodpecker — the largest woodpecker in the Yosemite area, (usually crow-sized, around 16.5 inches long with wingspans up to 29 inches), with a loud laugh, red crest and large white wing patch.

We ended the day full of fresh air and inspiration, glad to be part of a team that is working together to help preserve the park, and grateful to the donors and volunteers who share their time and resources to ensure that future generations will have the opportunity to experience, and protect, this remarkable place.


As we dive into May, dogwood is blooming along the Merced, our naturalist guides are preparing for birding and backpacking adventures, and we're applauding the stars of the Yosemite Theater stage, who kicked off the 2016 season last month with an interactive journey through the Sierra Nevada, tales from Galen Clark and the Search and Rescue team, and a stirring film about rock-climbing in the park. 

Thanks for reading!


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