Last Month in Yosemite: July 2017

Last Month in Yosemite: July 2017

A summer day in Tuolumne Meadows, with a view of the Tuolumne River and high Sierra peaks. Photo: © Carolyn Botell

A monthly recap of what we saw, heard and did in the park. Here's what happened in July...


School's out, but science is in

Biologist Sarah Stock teaches budding scientists about songbird research. Photo: © Yosemite Conservancy/Ryan KellySummer vacation might be in full swing, but Yosemite's classroom stays open all year! The park provides a perfect setting for kids of all ages to learn about the natural world, in any season.

Earlier this summer, a local children's nature club joined a Yosemite biologist for a morning of songbird science in Ackerson Meadow, the 400-acre meadow that was donated to the park last September. They learned about some of the many avian species that depend on Yosemite's protected Parks in Focus participants learned about botany during a stewardship project in Yosemite Valley. Photo: © Yosemite Conservancy/Ryan Kellyhabitats, and got a first-hand look at the techniques that scientists use to study birds in the park. 

A couple of weeks later, a group of middle school students got to don neon vests and dig their hands into a botanical restoration project in the Valley. The students, who were partway through their weeklong Yosemite experience with the photography-focused Parks in Focus program, pulled hedgehog dogtail grass, an invasive plant, to help restore an area that will eventually return to wetland habitat.


Returning reptilesBefore releasing the turtles, the team measures and records data on each animal. Photo: © Yosemite Conservancy/Ryan Kelly

Until 2016, western pond turtles had not been seen in Yosemite Valley for more than 50 years. While monitoring the small group of turtles that was released in the Valley last summer, scientists found that the reptiles preferred to stay near sunny, open areas. This year, the team used that information to select habitat sites for additional adult turtles; in July, three more were released, another step in the process of restoring the Valley's long-absent turtle population. 


Tales from the trails

Until recently, weekly updates from our Wilderness Team were still steeped in snow. Partway through July, though, reports of a dramatic melt-off trickled in — and as of the end of the month, the majority of high country trails were deemed open, Wildflowers are taking the place of snow in Yosemite's high country, blanketing the landscape with summer colors. Photo: Courtesy of NPSlargely accessible, and awash in the lush palette of summer flora.

That said, creek crossings can still prove hazardous, so use caution around cold, deep and/or fast-moving water. And while May Lake, the perennial Tioga Road favorite near Yosemite's geographic center, is finally snow-free, you might run into snow if you continue past the lake to summit Mount Hoffmann (or if you head to other spots at the park's highest elevations). 

As you explore the high country this summer, keep an eye out for evidence of donor-funded restoration projects — and remember to stay on trails whenever possible!


Summer reading

One of the new books from our publishing team offers true tales from Yosemite Search and Rescue.Two new books from our publishing team arrived on our shelves in July — and both are already earning notable attention. Former Yosemite ranger Charles R. "Butch" Farabee's Big Walls, Swift Waters, which brings readers behind the scenes with the park's Search and Rescue team, has caught the attention of several news outlets, including the Wall Street Journal.  For younger readers, Where's Rodney, a children's book that explores the power of nature while following an outdoors-hungry kid on his first trip to a national park, has received accolades from major trade publications, and was chosen as a Junior Library Guild Selection for this fall.  Find both books on our website, or at our bookstores in the park!


An osprey perched above Tuolumne Meadows. Photo: © Carolyn BotellTuolumne time

With Tioga Road open and clear, the summer hiking (and picnicking, and scenery-gazing) season is in high gear in the ever-lovely Tuolumne Meadows. One of our team members, Carolyn, has been taking in the meadows' views of still snow-capped peaks (above) and observing the subalpine wildlife, including an osprey (at right) and a killdeer (so-called for its sound, not its hunting habits). She spotted the latter near Parsons Memorial Lodge, and suggested it might have been on its way to hear one of the speakers featured in the historic lodge's annual Summer Series, which kicked off in late July.



Wildfire to the west

Smoke from the Detwiler Fire west of Yosemite made for hazy views from the High Sierra webcam.On July 16, a wildfire was reported burning west of Yosemite, near Lake McClure. The Detwiler Fire spread quickly, prompting the evacuation of Mariposa, one of the park's gateway communities. As of early August, it was nearly contained, but had burned nearly 82,000 acres, and destroyed or damaged 152 structures, including 76 residences. While the fire did not reach the park, smoke drifting east led to hazy conditions. Our thanks go out to everyone who has worked to get the blaze under control and communicate updates about conditions, especially the more than 1,630 fire personnel on the front lines.

As a reminder: Fire rules in Yosemite depend on where you are in the park. Here's a quick refresher! If you're...

  •  in the Valley: Between May and September, campfires are allowed at campgrounds in the evenings (5 pm to 10 pm); they're allowed at any time from October through April.
  • in the high country: Wood fires are restricted to existing fire rings, below 9,600 feet in elevation, and are prohibited at Lower Cathedral Lake and within 1/4 mile of Kibbie Lake.
  • anywhere in the park: Make sure there aren't any additional fire restrictions in place. Depending on conditions, fires might be restricted in certain areas. Right now, a Stage 1 restriction is in effect: No wood fires (or smoking) below 6,000 feet, except in frontcountry campgrounds and picnic areas. 

Visit the park's website for more information on fire safety!

Coming up on our calendars: Evenings of moon-gazing and al fresco dining at Taft Point (Aug. 6 and Oct. 6); a weekend of storytelling and traditional food preparation with Julia Parker (Sept. 29-Oct. 1); and the final nights of two history-focused Yosemite Theater shows ("Stephen Mather's Best Ideas" ends Aug. 12, and "Yosemite Through the Eyes of a Buffalo Soldier" ends Aug. 27).

See you in the park, and thanks for reading!


Main image: Tuolumne Meadows, July 2017. Photo © Carolyn Botell

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