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 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Interesting Bodie Story at SF Gate

I just came across an interesting story about the ghost town of Bodie at SF Gate. Bodie is the abandoned mining town (and California state park) east of the Sierra Nevada between Bridgeport and Lee Vining in a particularly inhospitable part of the high desert. The story does a fine job of relating the difficulties of living there in the winter, claiming that by some measures it is has some of the roughest winter conditions in the lower 48 states.

March 23, 2010 Posted by | Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

And so winter begins…

An unusual-for-October strong storm is to come onshore in California in the next 24 hours or so. While the snow levels are forecast to be quite high – around 9000′ – this storm could well close several passes if things pan out as forecast.

The folks at the Dweeb Report include an ominous sentence in their most recent update: “WINDS WITH THIS SYSTEM OVER THE CREST COULD REACH BETWEEN 120MPH AND 140MPH OVER THE CENTRAL SIERRA.”

Folks still are backpacking in mid-October, and I think there may be more than a few of them cowering in their tents for 36 hours or so early this week. Coupled with close to freezing temperatures at mid-level elevations, and with the potential for wet snow in large quantities at the higher elevations, this is serious business.

October 11, 2009 Posted by | Commentary | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Start of "Sierra Winter" Next Week?

Sometime between mid-October and (usually) early November, the first real winter storms start to arrive in California and the Sierra Nevada – and we move from occasional temporary closings on the highest passes to the annual winter closures.

Judging from the current predictions, travelers need to keep a watch out starting next week. Right now it sounds like a storm system may come through California that has the potential to drop much more than the “dustings” of snow what we’ve had in the high country up until now – quite possibly enough to close passes like Tioga, Sonora, and Ebbetts for a long time or even for the season, depending on what follows.

October 8, 2009 Posted by | Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

El Niño? Time for weather junkies to begin speculating!

Starting about this time of year, many of us outdoor types are susceptible to speculations about the upcoming winter weather. Most of us are looking for something “interesting” – as in record-breaking rain/snow, an unusually early start to the season, and so forth.

Those who enjoy the seasonal speculation will appreciate the reports that El Niño conditions are returning for the upcoming season. Adding some uncertainty – but making the speculation all the more fun – El Niño can bring anything from above normal to below normal precipitation to the central/northern California area where I live. Apparently a weak El Niño can bring reduced rainfall, while a strong event (like the one I recall from the mid-1990s) can produce record-breaking conditions.

The current prediction? Conditions are still evolvomg, but at this point it looks like a weak to moderate event.

August 20, 2009 Posted by | Commentary | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Today's Hike – New Almaden Quicksilver

Since school is out (yes, teachers look forward to that, too!) and I have a major pack trip coming up later this summer (more about that later) it is time to get serious about whacking the old body back into some sort of shape. Although I’ve always felt that the best conditioning for backpacking is the first three days of the trip, as I get older I find that I’d rather start those first three days from a little better position if possible.

So, today I decided on a “conditioning” hike that pushed me both in terms of dealing with heat/sun and climbing. I started at the New Almaden entrance to the Almaden Quicksilver County Park and ascended past English Camp by way of the Deep Gulch trail. Deep Gulch is a less-used route that has the disadvantage (or, for my purposes today, the advantage) of being rather steep but on a hot day like this the fact that it is in a, uh, deep gulch means that it is also very shady. After English Camp I continued on past the site of the old mill on the ridge via the Castillero trail to join up with the Mine Hill trail, which I followed back down to the parking lot.

I certainly do not recommend this route in these conditions to anyone out for a pleasant little stroll. It was 90 degrees when I returned to my car and portions of the hike near the highest point are directly in the sun – and I was there right around noon. On the other hand, it seemed like I had the entire park almost to myself. During the several hours I was there I saw exactly five other people.

June 29, 2009 Posted by | Commentary, Places, Trails, Trips | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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 | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Glacier Point Road Set To Open Friday… Or Maybe Not?

According to a variety of reports that have been floating around for the past couple of weeks, Yosemite National Park’s Glacier Point Road is scheduled to open tomorrow, May 1 “conditions permitting.” That last pair of words may well be important this season, as a respectable storm is scheduled to pass through northern California on Friday.

My bet at this point is that the NPS will delay the official opening of the road a bit.

Informal updates on Tioga Pass Road indicate that a decent chunk of the road from the west has been cleared, and I’m betting that other portions have also been cleared. The NPS won’t say in advance when it will open and I haven’t heard any unofficial announcements (I sometimes manage to pick up on a few of these a week or so before the opening) but it is likely to be at least a few more weeks. I’m betting against the first half of May, but I’m pretty confident about the second half.

Update: Right after posting this I saw an update on Tioga Road at Yosemite blog. The short story is that they have made it to the May Lake turnoff.

April 30, 2009 Posted by | Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Young Lakes Information

I just replied to an email from future European visitor to Yosemite who wanted to know a bit about visiting the Young Lakes region in the Yosemite National Park high country, and I thought it might be useful to share the message with others who may want to go there. Here is the text, slightly modified: Continue reading

July 30, 2008 Posted by | Trails | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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