Last Month in Yosemite: May 2018

Last Month in Yosemite: May 2018

A Yosemite songbird researcher walks through a meadow near Foresta on an early May morning. Photo: Yosemite Conservancy/Ryan Kelly

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

Yosemite's seasonal Ask a Climber program kicked off in mid-May, and will run through mid-October. Heading to the park? Stop by El Capitan Meadow to chat with a Climber Steward, peruse educational panels, and look through telescopes at the famous granite walls. The donor-supported program helps visitors of all ages connect with the vertical wilderness, explore geology and climbing history, and learn about environmental stewardship on (and off) the walls. Browse our Ask a Climber FAQs for a few fast facts to get started, and bring your own questions to the experts on your next Valley visit.

A Yosemite Climber Steward helps a young visitor peer through a telescope at the seasonal Ask a Climber station. Photo: Yosemite Conservancy/Ryan Kelly

Toward the end of the month, our project coordinator paid a visit to the 2018 California Conservation Corps crews at their base camps in Foresta and Hetch Hetchy, where he offered an overview of the Conservancy's partnership with the park and snapped some "before" portraits of the crew members. That's "before," as in, "before the backcountry": The crews dedicate their first few Yosemite weeks to learning restoration techniques and working in more developed parts of the park, but spend the majority of their season in the wilderness, repairing and improving trails in the Tuolumne and Merced river watersheds.  

Whether working in the frontcountry or backcountry, the donor-supported CCC program helps keep trails hikeable and environmentally sound! Stay tuned for updates on the crews and their accomplishments later this year. In the meantime, check out the before and after portraits of the 2016 and 2017 cohorts.

Parker, one of the 2018 California Conservation Corps members, posed for a portrait at the crew's Foresta base camp. Photo: Yosemite Conservancy/Ryan Kelly

The arrival of seasonal songbirds means the start of fieldwork for Yosemite's songbird science crews. Through the park's long-running donor-supported songbird research program, ornithology experts and interns study avian population trends, migratory patterns, and more. Research days start early (see the main image above, taken in a Foresta meadow in May), and include hours of painstaking work to capture, weigh and measure birds, carefully attach tiny identification bands to their legs, and gently send them flying off to their next destination. To learn more about studying songbirds in Yosemite, read our April 2017 post.

A songbird researcher examines the wings of a purple finch. Photo: Yosemite Conservancy/Ryan Kelly

Water is falling, leaping, flowing and seeping through Yosemite this spring, tumbling down cliffs, babbling over boulders and soaking into soil. All that water makes for mesmerizing scenery, and can be inviting on a hot day ... but it's important to use extra caution around the park's rivers, streams and waterfalls, especially when spring snowmelt creates cold, fast-moving conditions. 

And while spring is firmly sprung in the Valley and Wawona, hints of winter are lingering at higher elevations. If you're hiking off Tioga Road (which opened just before Memorial Day), be prepared for snow and ice on some trails, and for soggy, muddy conditions. Stick to the trails whenever you can — stepping off to avoid a sodden section can create ruts and damage habitat. You'll get the mud off your boots, we promise! (Brush up on tips for practicing good trail stewardship while you're hiking in Yosemite, or anywhere.)

The South Fork Merced River flowing near Wawona in May 2018. Photo: Carolyn Botell

Our May art and adventure programs helped people immerse in the sights, sounds and sensations of spring in Yosemite. Guest artists led outdoor workshops in watercolor, nature journaling and charcoal drawing; professional naturalists shared their expertise on park history, geology, flora and fauna during day hikes; and expert photographers taught participants to capture seasonal scenery —including late-night lunar rainbows — on camera.

Two artistic takes on Yosemite Falls: Guest art instructor Juan Pena painted the iconic feature in watercolor; photographer and Outdoor Adventure leader Dave Wyman captured the upper fall's reflection in a wet Valley meadow.

Our new magazine arrived in May! Join our community to get the next issue in your mailbox.


Coming up on our calendars: More grant-funded projects kicking into high gear (including restoration, research and youth programs); a series of casual multiday backcountry trips (who says backpacking has to be strenuous?); art workshops just for kids at Happy Isles; ranger Shelton Johnson's return to the stage as Sergeant Elizy Boman in "Yosemite Through the Eyes of a Buffalo Soldier;" and much more. 

Click here to learn about and register for our activities in the park — and remember, your participation supports Yosemite.

See you in the park, and thanks for reading!


Main image: A songbird researcher walks through a meadow in Foresta on an early morning in May. Photo: Yosemite Conservancy/Ryan Kelly

Yosemite Insider