Dan's Outside

I go, I see, I do, I walk, I think, I like…

They Call This Spring?

Coming in to work this morning, the radio station reported that snow chain requirements are up on highway 80 across Donner Summit, and that eastbound traffic is being held at Colfax! Wait a minute – this is supposed to be spring!

While reports say that the overall weather in much of the rest of the world is warmer than normal so far this year, here in northern and central California this has been anything but a warm May. One report on a Bay Area television station earlier this week suggested that by the end of the month one quarter or a third of the days of May will have seen some precipitation.

I’m not complaining though. I prefer cool and “interesting” weather to the boring and consistently beautiful and warm weather of summer in the part of the world, and I welcome the possibility of a very green and wildflower-filled summer in the Sierra this year!

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May 26, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Strange Sierra Spring

During a typical May we would be making our first drives over Tioga Pass and wondering if there might be enough snow left to keep Mammoth open until July 4th. The past two years were more typical and even drier/warmer than usual. However, this year is shaping up to be unusual. The overall precipitation for the season was (yes!) above normal – which is especially welcome after a few years of below normal precip. On top of that this has been a very cool and wet spring. During a typical May it usually feels more like early summer in the Sierra, but this year it has been more like an extended winter. The storm fronts have continued to pass through and even now in the latter part of May there is a string of cold, wet storms lined up to pass across the Sierra.

So, when will Tioga Pass Road open? I don’t have any inside information but I do know the history (average historical opening date is May 29) and I follow the current reports at the NPS and elsewhere. The road was reportedly plowed through recently, but this does not mean that it is yet ready to open. There is always a lot of additional work to take care of including clearing side roads and parking areas, patching road damage, and so forth. My hunch is that the NPS would like to get it open for Memorial Day Weekend in another week, but that this may be a challenge this year – especially if the forecast of another cold week with the possibility of snow pans out.

While the delay in “opening the high country” can frustrate some of us who want to get up there early, there are compensations. When the road does open, it is likely that we’ll see a lot of snow still in the high country – not like a few previous years when it seemed all too much like summer all too quickly. Even better, the heavy snow fall and late melt promises a long, green summer season and tons of wildflowers. (OK, and tons of mosquitoes, too – but let’s try not to think about that, OK?)

May 22, 2010 Posted by | Commentary, Sierra Nevada | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on A Strange Sierra Spring

May 22 Opening for Sonora Pass?

Sierra Journal reports that the opening of Sonora Pass is scheduled for May 22. This is significant for a number of reasons, including the following:

  • The availability of the Sonora Pass route considerably reduces the time/distance that SF Bay Area folks must drive to get to the eastern Sierra.
  • This suggests that other routes like Ebbetts and Monitor Pass will also be open at that time.
  • Tioga Pass often seems to open within about a week of the opening of Sonora. If that happens this time we could guess that Tioga might open before the end of May.

I’m ready!

(Although it is not a “pass,” the Glacier Point Road opened early this week.)

May 7, 2009 Posted by | Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Glacier Point Road Opening Delayed

This is certainly no surprise, given the “interesting” weather this weekend – and I guessed earlier that this might happen – but according to a number of sources, including the NPS itself, the opening of Glacier Point Road, originally scheduled for yesterday, has been delayed until this coming Monday, May 4 due to weather concerns.

Some might wonder whether the weather could delay the opening of Tioga Pass Road. My guess is “no.” First, they generally seem to open the road near the end of a week, if memory serves, so there must be some leeway about the actual opening day. Second, it is not at all unusual to get a bit of “shoulder season” (fall and spring) snow that melts quickly in a day or two. The only fly in the ointment here is that this damp weather could last into the first half of next week. If that happens, I suppose that it is possible that road clearing work might be delayed – but my hunch is that this won’t end up being the case.

May 2, 2009 Posted by | Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Glacier Point Road Opening Delayed

Yosemite Spring Progress Report

Several thing define the progress from winter to summer in Yosemite, both in the Valley and in the high country. Edie Howe (of The Little Red Tent) posted two indicators this evening. First, she reports that the recent warm weather may have jump-started the dogwood blossoms – it will be interesting to follow this since some had speculated that the bloom would be delayed this season. Maybe not. She also posts a web cam photo of the Tioga Pass entrance kiosk… showing that plows have made it to that point from the east.

April 22, 2009 Posted by | Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Yosemite Spring Progress Report

Can Anyone Identify This Plant?

I photographed this very lush new growth at Muir Woods National Monument yesterday morning – but now I’m unable to determine what kind of plant it is. (I should have asked the naturalist while I was there, but I was in a hurry to get back home.)

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The leaves are very thick and shiny and you can see that flower stalks are emerging from each plant, topped with what look like clumps of ball-like buds. The plant was on a slope in the redwood forest not too far above the canyon bottom and, obviously, in a very shady area.

Thanks in advance!

UPDATE: Someone just posted a comment (sorry, didn’t leave actual name) that suggests the plant is Andrew’s Clintonia (Clintonia andrewsiana). I did a bit of checking around that this sure seems like it could be the right plant – so I’m going for that ID. Thanks!

Dan

April 12, 2009 Posted by | Commentary | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

California Spring Flowers

Despite the concerns about low rainfall this year in parts of California, there are some hopeful signs of a decent and perhaps even quite good spring wildflower bloom. A few notes:

  • I have visited Muir Woods twice during the past few weeks (some photos at my other site) and last weekend spectacular trillium flowers were just beginning to bloom
  • There have been reports of some very spectacular – though perhaps a bit early – blooms of the California Golden Poppy. One that is getting a lot of attention is in an area of a recent fire along the highway following the Merced River up into Yosemite Valley.
  • Today I saw some fairly good photographs of flowers in the southern California desert, where there actually has been some real rain this season.

For my part, I’m afraid I didn’t get at all so far this weekend to look for flowers – I seem to have a pretty nasty cold!

March 14, 2009 Posted by | Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on California Spring Flowers

   

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