Last Month in Yosemite: October 2018

Last Month in Yosemite: October 2018

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

During his summer 2013 Yosemite Leadership Program internship, Ian Ojeda-Vasquez helped remove invasive plants in Mariposa Grove. Photo: NPS

Blast from the past

During a recent trip to Yosemite, Ian Ojeda-Vasquez headed to Wawona to check out the newly restored Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. He leaned in to read one of the educational signs... and did a double-take, when he saw his own grinning face looking back at him.

Back in 2013, when he was an undergraduate at the University of California, Merced, Ian completed a Yosemite Leadership Program summer internship in the park. He and fellow interns spent a day pitching in on a habitat restoration project in Mariposa Grove. Five years later, a photo from that day, showing Ian holding up invasive bull thistle (above), was incorporated into a sign at the grove encouraging visitors to be good stewards as they experience the giant sequoias. 

Shortly after seeing his smile on the sign, Ian, who also completed the two-year on-campus Yosemite Leadership Program at UC Merced and served as a lead YLP intern in 2014, reached out to us to share his enduring enthusiasm for the park. "It truly is a home many don't realize they have," he wrote. "Thank you for making these moments happen, to encourage adventures and wilderness to be accessed by any and all."

Thank you to Ian for sharing his story, and to our supporters for funding YLP and other programs that help young people connect with public lands.


Actor and historian Lee Stetson has spent more than three decades bringing John Muir to life in Yosemite and around the world. Photo: Yosemite Conservancy/Keith Walklet

Celebrating a stage star

When the proverbial curtain fell on the Yosemite Theater's 2018 season at the end of October, it marked a milestone moment for actor and history Lee Stetson, who was wrapping up his 35th year of portraying John Muir. Through shows such as "Conversation with a Tramp" and "John Muir is Back," and through films including Ken Burns' "National Parks: America's Best Idea," Lee has brought Muir to life for audiences in the park and around the world. Listening to Lee share stories of adventures and advocacy (in a Scottish accent, to embody Muir's speaking voice), it's easy to imagine you've traveled back in time and are enjoying a conversation with the famed naturalist who helped spearhead the national park movement. 

Congratulations, Lee, and thanks to all who have spent an evening at the theater meeting his Muir over the past three-and-a-half decades!


Yosemite National Park Superintendent Michael Reynolds and Yosemite Conservancy Volunteer Program Supervisor Mark Marschall honored Kathy Hopkins, a dedicated Conservancy visitor information assistant, as the park's Enduring Volunteer of the Year. Photo: NPS

Valuable volunteers

Kudos are also in order for another autumn honoree: Kathy Hopkins was recognized with Yosemite's "Enduring Volunteer of the Year" award for 2018. As one of the Conservancy's visitor information assistant volunteers, Kathy plays a vital role in helping people navigate the park and make the most of their time in Yosemite.

Altogether, Kathy and her fellow Conservancy volunteers (including those who came to the park to help out with trail work, habitat restoration, and Preventive Search and Rescue) donated more than 14,000 hours to Yosemite in 2018, and connected with nearly half a million visitors. Thank you to everyone who shared their time and talents to help the park this year! Stay tuned for news about opportunities to volunteer in 2019.


Artist Steve Curl shows a student how to use photos to help frame a scene before painting during a watercolor workshop at Happy Isles. Photo: Yosemite Conservancy/Keith WalkletHappy (Isles) trails!

Our first year of art programming at the new Happy Isles studio wrapped up at the end of October, after a few final art workshops in the autumn sunshine. We're grateful to all the artists who volunteered to share their expertise, and to everyone who participated in a class or drop-in session, and are looking forward to kicking off our 2019 season in April.

NatureBridge students enjoyed a hands-on lesson in the physics of climbing during a special session with Yosemite climbing rangers. Photo: Courtesy of NatureBridge

Newton on the walls

As part of "Ask a Climber," a seasonal program supported by our donors, Yosemite climbing rangers spent two October days helping students from the environmental education nonprofit NatureBridge connect with the park's most popular sport from the ground. The students got a hands-on lesson in how Newton's laws of motion apply to climbing gear and techniques. As they applied physics to crack-climbing and pulley systems, they got to see how science can leap out of textbooks and into the real world — including onto Yosemite's world-famous walls!


Climber Lynn Hill gets ready to take a spin on one of the dockless bicycles available through the new Yosemite Bike Share program. Photo: Ryan Kelly

Speaking of climbers... 

Spotted in Yosemite last month: one of the well-known adventurers who relies on physics to explore the vertical world, testing out the new Yosemite Bike Share! While in the park to climb El Capitan, Lynn Hill joined our project coordinator to take a spin on one of the dockless bikes.

The bike-share program, a pilot initiative funded by our donors, launched a few months ago, and is designed to provide an alternative transporation option for people making quick trips within the Valley. Want to check it out? Stop by the Pines Campgrounds to unlock a bike and hit the road (or bike path).



Coming up on our calendars: We're officially in the quiet season, after wrapping up our 2018 art and theater programs at the end of October. There are still plenty of ways to connect with us within and beyond the park, though! Join our naturalist guides for a December day hike (or snowshoe walk, depending on early winter weather) in Mariposa Grove, or contact our team ( to plan a Custom Adventure, check out our bookstores online and in the park for great park-themed gift ideas, and browse our website to see all the ways you can support Yosemite year-round.

See you in the park!

Main image: A Yosemite Conservancy team member watches a colorful late-October sunset from Sentinel Dome. Photo: Carolyn Botell

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