Dan's Outside

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

Over Tioga Pass on Opening Day

When I heard that a) the Merced River was about to reach its peak flow and b) Tioga Pass Road was scheduled to open on June 5 I quickly put together a one-day quick trip to Yosemite last weekend. This is a bit of a tradition for me – to get up there for at least a quick look at the spring waterfalls and to try to get over the pass as soon as possible after it opens.

For a one-day up-and-back trip (amounting to a bit more than 20 hours on the road, all told) I have to start early. So, long before dawn I was up and in the car and on the road in the dark. The sun comes up – duh! – a lot earlier this time of year, so it was getting light by the time I stopped in Oakdale for a quick on-the-run Starbucks breakfast and got right back on the road. In order to arrive in the Valley by sunrise I would have had to be driving by 2:00 a.m., and that didn’t happen, but I did arrive relatively early and before the really big crowds were out and about. I spent a few minutes at my favorite first view on El Cap and Half Dome along the road just past the turnoff to Foresta and then headed down into the Valley to make my traditional first stop for a thorough drenching under Bridalveil Fall.

I spent a bit more time in the Valley before realizing that the crowds were growing way beyond my comfort level. I don’t blame folks for flocking to the Valley for a scene like this: all of the waterfall in full flow, the sound of falling water everywhere, seasonal falls that aren’t usually seen, new green growth everywhere, flooded meadows, and a warm and clear spring day. But since I can come back on less crowded days, I decided that the drive over Tuolumne would be at least as special and much less crowded.

As I started up 120 I soon saw significant amounts of snow, and by the time the road rose to 8000′ of so the snowpack was pretty continuous. The higher peaks appeared to be in full winter mode still, and I was surprised to see lakes like little Siesta Lake completely frozen over. I’ve been over Tioga before soon after the road opened, but the amount of snow remaining from the cold and wet May and the generally wet winter was quite impressive. Tuolumne Meadows itself was completely covered with snow, excepting the large areas flooded by the surging Tuolumne River. (The entire meadow area just upstream from the bridge by the campground entrance was completely flooded and there were only a few inches between the rushing water and the underside of the bridge.

I continued on up to the pass with a goal of grabbing an early dinner at the Whoa Nelly Deli in Lee Vining. At the pass there were still several feet of snow with plow cuts being five to six feet tall in places. Tioga and Ellery Lakes were almost completely frozen over, and quite a few people were still going back-country skiing in the area. After stopping for dinner in Lee Vining (and grabbing a quick espresso at Latte Da) I headed back up the pass to shoot late afternoon and evening light before heading home.

Ice and Snow on Tioga Pass and Tioga Lake

Ice and Snow on Tioga Pass and Tioga Lake

I made this photograph at Tioga Lake as afternoon shadows from clouds and nearby peaks stretched across the frozen lake surface with Tioga Pass and Kuna Crest looming beyond. (Photograph © Copyright G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.)

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June 8, 2010 Posted by | Sierra Nevada, Trips, Yosemite | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Over Tioga Pass on Opening Day

Yosemite Blog Reports High Water in Yosemite Valley This Weekend

According to a post at Yosemite blog, the weather service is forecasting that high levels of spring runoff water in the Merced River may cause some flooding in Yosemite Valley this weekend. Before you panic, a bit of flooding in wet years is a normal thing and is part of the natural life cycle of meadows there. And, if you are a photographer, this can provide some very special photographic opportunities.

June 3, 2010 Posted by | News, Sierra Nevada, Yosemite | , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Yosemite Blog Reports High Water in Yosemite Valley This Weekend

Death Valley and the SoCal Recent Storms

Being a regular Death Valley visitor – and probably a Death Valley return visitor in the next month or two – I like to keep up with the conditions in the park. If you aren’t familiar with the place you might envision static, hot, dry desert conditions in all seasons. You would be very wrong! I’ve most often visited around the beginning of April and I’ve seen everything from hot (upper 90 degree range) to snow (more than once!) and on several occasions rain and a few memorable dust storms. When rains do occur it isn’t unusual for there to be floods, some of epic proportions. (Within the last decade there have been several very serious floods than have led to major damage and deaths.)

I’ve been thinking about this during the past week’s huge storms in the Southwest – storms that have brought record low pressure systems to much of the area, created tornadoes, dropped snow to low elevations across several states, and dropped a lot of precipitation. Recently, photographer Bob Young shared with me the web address of a great resource for current conditions in the Death Valley area. (Thanks, Bob!)

From the report I read there today, it sounds like the storms hit DV fairly hard. Many (most?) back-country routes have been closed by rain, mud, and/or snow – including some of the popular locations such as Titus Canyon and the Racetrack. I get the impression that some of the low lying areas that can become flooded during wet years may indeed be flooding. While I don’t know the full extent of the conditions, I’m wondering if we might see some interesting and unusual water “events” this year and whether this might produce another exceptional wildflower bloom in a month or two.

January 23, 2010 Posted by | Places | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Death Valley and the SoCal Recent Storms

Yosemite's Delaware North Companies Customer Service: Mea Culpa

I hate it when I blow it. Double-hate it when I do it so publicly. But better to own up and apologize.

I earlier posted a message about what I thought was a customer service issue with my Yosemite lodging reservation. But it was my own error and my fault. It took me a while, but I finally figured out that I gave DNC the wrong confirmation number – from a previous visit – when I called.

My earlier post was simply dead wrong. I am contacting DNC now to apologize for my error.

I must now report clearly and unequivocally that I have had no negative experiences with DNC, their personnel, or their facilities on my many visits to Yosemite. In fact, on this occasion, when I played the part of “confused but insistent and annoying customer” to the hilt, they remained respectful and helpful and even followed up with me directly by telephone.

I want to extend my apology to the reservation person, and I have so informed the DNC customer service person who called me later this afternoon. I thank her for her call to talk to me about the situation and for her calm, friendly, and helpful demeanor. I am in the process of deleting my posts on this topic along with replies based on my original mistaken post, and I have corrected or commented on those I cannot delete. The original text of this post has been replaced by what you see here, and any remaining links to it on the net should go to the text you are now reading.

From the “Lessons Learned” department…

It is probably good to occasionally be completely and publicly wrong when you think you are completely right. Embarrassing and no fun… but perhaps good for the soul once in a while. A bit of humility is a good thing, and today I managed to re-teach myself that I sometimes need a bit more of it.

And that it is a good idea to think twice, three times, or even more before posting certain things on the net…

January 22, 2010 Posted by | Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Over at my photography site – another epic two-day sierra shoot

I spent the weekend shuttling around areas ranging from Yosemite Valley to Mono Lake to Mariposa grove. The story is posted at my photography web site.

June 8, 2009 Posted by | Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Over at my photography site – another epic two-day sierra shoot

A photo at Yosemite Blog

I somehow forgot the mention this, but Yosemite Blog pointed to one of my recent dogwood photographs from Yosemite Valley. Yosemite Blog is a great source of current information about the Valle and the Park – they are in my RSS reader!

You can see much more of my photography at my photography blog.

May 30, 2009 Posted by | Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on A photo at Yosemite Blog

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

   

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