Restoration Projects in Yosemite: Helping Restore the Natural Beauty of the High Sierra

Restoring Tuolumne Meadows Lodge in 2008.

Restoration of Tuolumne Meadows Lodge in 2008.

Since 1916, concessioners in Yosemite National Park have provided wilderness experiences for thousands of visitors by operating the Yosemite High Sierra Camps in some of the park’s most beautiful backcountry locations.  High Sierra Camps are spaced 5.7 to 10 miles apart along a loop trail in Yosemite’s high country, accessible only by foot or saddle. After decades of operation, the once pristine camps became impacted by heavy visitor use combined with minimal land management. Merced Lake High Sierra Camp, the largest, oldest and most remote of the high camps was the first to benefit from planned restoration efforts, which began in 2001.  DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite employees worked to restore the camp with the guidance of the National Park Service at Yosemite.

Restoration workers at Merced lake High Sierra Camp.

Restoration workers at Merced Lake High Sierra Camp.

The success of the Merced Lake restoration inspired DNC to plan extensive restoration projects for the other High Sierra Camps during the summers of 2005 and 2006. The plan was expanded to include White Wolf Lodge in 2007 and Tuolumne Meadows Lodge in 2008. Since then, most High Sierra Camps have benefited from multiple efforts at ecological restoration. In 2011, ten years after the first restored pathway, it was time for the restoration crew to go back to Merced Lake High Sierra Camp. DNC partnered with the National Park Service and Yosemite Conservancy to improve the ecological health of the camp with grounds maintenance.  A group of 11 Yosemite Conservancy volunteers lead by DNC environmental managers Mark Gallagher and Debora Sanches donated 416 hours of labor to Merced Lake – helping to restore the camp to a more natural condition. The ecological restoration techniques included soil decompaction; collection and spread of native seeds and duff; transplanting native plants; trail delineation, erosion control and the creation of proper drainage for run-off.

Merced Lake High Sierra Camp after restoration in 2011.

Merced Lake High Sierra Camp during restoration in 2011.

 

Restored drainage at Tuloumne Meadows Lodge in 2008.

Restored drainage at Tuloumne Meadows Lodge in 2008.

In 2012, two major restoration projects took place at May Lake and Glen Aulin High Sierra Camps. In addition to trail delineation, decompaction and spread of duff in closed-off areas, volunteers also helped with deferred maintenance work such as roof replacement, corral post and hitching rails additions, plumbing improvements to prevent water waste and lodge foundation replacement.

In addition to the High Sierra Camps, DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite recently started work on a two-phase ecological restoration project at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls – also in partnership with National Park Service and Yosemite Conservancy. The restoration work includes removal of dirt roads, social trails, & non-native plants, and also transplanting of site-specific native plants and seeds. Yosemite Conservancy recruited 15 volunteers to work on the first phase of the project. DNC will work with the National Park Service at Yosemite to source native vegetation seeds in Yosemite National Park to be planted at the site in October.

Restoration at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls in 2014.

Restoration at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls in 2014.

Badger Pass Ski Area and Bike/Raft Rental Manager Sean Costello at the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge restoration in 2008.

Badger Pass Ski Area and Bike/Raft Rental Manager Sean Costello at the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge restoration in 2008.

 

Night Photography with Kristal Leonard

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Yosemite’s beauty extends far beyond the daylight hours. The clear sierra skies, far from city lights, offer a great opportunity to see the park literally in a new light. Moonbows shimmer in waterfall spray lit by the full moon, and the great expanse of the Milky Way arches above high mountain lakes or Yosemite icons like Half Dome. Kristal Leonard is a well-known local Yosemite photographer whose pictures bring those night-time landscapes to life. We were lucky to catch up with Kristal to find out a little more about her, and get some tips on night time photography.

 

How did you become interested in night photography?

I was always fascinated with the night sky from a young age, so when I got into landscape photography about 7 years ago, it was just a matter of time before I pointed my camera towards the sky at night. It was in 2010 when I took my first shot of a constellation and was immediately hooked.

What makes a good nighttime photograph, in your opinion?

For landscape astrophotography, it’s important to have an interesting foreground, like a lake, a cool looking tree, or people silhouetted. When you can position things on our planet to objects in the sky, it makes the connection between the two more intimate.

What kinds of equipment, camera or otherwise, do you like to have with you for a night-time shoot in Yosemite?

Since I shoot on many dark nights (meaning no moon light) I use a Canon 6d, which has excellent light sensitivity, so it can handle the dark night better. Another must have is a tripod. Most exposures are 5-30 seconds so you need to keep your camera completely still while shooting.

What are some of the techniques you’ve mastered (or are still developing)?

I don’t think I’ve mastered any yet but I’d like to master focusing in the dark. This is probably the single most question I get about night photography: how do you focus in the dark? The answer for me is some planning and a lot of trial and error.

I’m also still developing taking self-portraits at night, which can be much trickier than daytime self-portraits.

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What are your favorite night sky objects to photograph?

By far, my favorite is our galaxy, the Milky Way. In the summer months, facing south, the core of the Milky Way is visible and is so bright and intense. It always takes my breath away to see it!

Another favorite is an atmospheric phenomena called airglow, which is excited atoms in our atmosphere which emit a typically green glow not easily visible to the naked eye, but a long exposure can capture it! Although it looks like aurora, it is chemically different, but just as beautiful.

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Do you need knowledge about constellations and planets to create good night sky photos?

You should have it so you can plan when to shoot certain things, like which constellations are visible in the summer versus the winter, but I don’t think it’s the most important thing.

Do you have any tips for a night photography beginner?

Learn how to focus in the dark! Seriously, it’s the hardest thing to learn.

And learn some basic exposure settings to get started and just get out there and do it. If you want to get more advanced, take a workshop which will show you in-field techniques as well as photo editing processes.

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Is there any literature or websites you would recommend?

One site I use a lot is Star Circle Academy www.starcircleacademy.com The author has a huge variety of tips, from basic to advanced, on a ton of topics, from landscapes to deep sky objects.

What is your favorite spot to photograph in Yosemite at night?

Definitely Glacier Point! It can be crowded at night (lots of flashlights) during the summer but the views are amazing. You can watch the moon rise over the high country, the Milky Way arch over everything, the fuzzy Andromeda Galaxy near Half Dome, meteor showers, satellites including the International Space Station, etc…

See more of Kristal’s amazing photography on her website at: http://www.isntthatbeautiful.com/

 

More Horsepower, Less Emissions: Going Green in Yosemite

DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite's newest fleet vehicle - the Chevrolet Spark.

DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite’s newest fleet vehicle – the Chevrolet Spark.

To keep Yosemite National Park a little greener during a California drought, DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite has introduced two new ways for employees to travel in Yosemite Valley that requires no fossil fuel consumption and adheres to the guidelines of the company’s GreenPath sustainability program. In the first case, an all-electric vehicle was added to the fleet – the Chevrolet Spark. Unlike the hybrid shuttle buses that operate in Yosemite Valley, the Spark plugs in and runs on electric charge only. The Spark is also sized smaller than your average vehicle to make that charge last longer. Used primarily as a mail delivery vehicle in Yosemite Valley, the Spark can go for 82 miles on a single charge! We compared the smallest vehicle in our fleet to the largest horse in our stables, Goliath, and found more horsepower and less emissions with the economically-sized Spark.

The Chevrolet Spark, Goliath the Horse and JR the Stables manager in Yosemite.

The Chevrolet Spark, Goliath the Horse and JR the Stables manager in Yosemite.

Along with adding the Spark to our fleet, the new Employee Bike Thing rolled out this summer. This employee bike rental program employs 40 retired rental bikes from Yosemite’s bike stands as new transportation for Yosemite Valley employee residents. Each cruiser style bicycle is assigned to an employee for the entire summer season with a required security deposit.  When the bike is returned at the end of the season, a full refund is issued. This new program helps DNC associates get to work on time, provides a daily dose of exercise and lessens traffic congestion in Yosemite Valley.  The Employee Bike Thing will also allow new associates to explore Yosemite Valley and provide more opportunity for adventure.

Matt and Jeff enjoy their new ride from the Employee Bike Thing.

Matt and Jeff enjoy their new ride from the Employee Bike Thing.

If you can’t tool around Yosemite Valley in an all-electric vehicle, bike riding is definitely the way to go. Though not a participant of DNC’s Employee Bike Thing, Yosemite National Park’s Superintendent, Don Neubacher, also commutes in Yosemite on his bike.

National Park Service Superintendent Don Neubacher also bikes to work in Yosemite.

National Park Service Superintendent Don Neubacher also bikes to work in Yosemite.

Yosemite National Park After Dark

Yosemite Valley at Night by Kristal Leonard

Yosemite Valley at Night by Kristal Leonard

Summer nights in a national park include the soft glow of the Milky Way rising over your campsite, a wilderness landscape lit by the full moon during an evening hike, and the twinkle of stars and planets from a roadside vista point. In California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, Yosemite National Park is a harbor of darkness in a highly populated state, providing an excellent opportunity to truly experience the star-filled night. In addition to all the daytime hiking, biking, rafting and rock climbing under sunny Sierra skies, the summer evenings in Yosemite can be just as full of activity and wonder.

With thirteen campgrounds and seven lodging options inside the park, summer nights in Yosemite can be filled with a range of activities such as dining in an historic hotel, socializing with s’mores around the campfire or contemplating the awed silence of fellow stargazers. For the celestially minded, Yosemite’s park rangers give sunset talks, full moon hikes, the “Stars Over Yosemite” Program as well as hosted Star Parties at Glacier Point, and Moonlight Tours aboard the Yosemite Valley open air trams. In addition to ranger programs, DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite offers Stargazing Tours to Glacier Point, Full Moon Bike Rides in Yosemite Valley and the “Starry Skies” program that takes place in the meadows of Yosemite Valley. For the diners and socializers, you’ll find hospitality every evening at The Ahwahnee Dining Room and bar and the Yosemite Lodge at the Falls Mountain Room Restaurant and Lounge, including evening presentations about the natural and cultural history of Yosemite. Summer nights at the Curry Village Pizza Deck & Bar are a park visitor tradition. In Yosemite Village you can experience live theater presented by the Yosemite Conservancy, with topics ranging from historic figures to daring adventures. At the Wawona Hotel, you’ll find dinner and entertainment in the form of vintage Yosemite songs played by pianist and storyteller Tom Bopp.

Full Moon Bike Ride in Yosemite Valley

Full Moon Bike Ride in Yosemite Valley

Glacier Point Star Party in Yosemite.

Glacier Point Star Party in Yosemite.

Stargazing Tour at Glacier Point

Stargazing Tour at Glacier Point

Yosemite fun and activity after dark doesn’t stop when summer has ended. As the days grow shorter in fall and winter, there is plenty of time for evening fun with fireside storytelling and Yosemite’s Signature Food and Wine events at The Ahwahnee.  Vintners’ Holidays in the fall, the Bracebridge Dinner during the holiday season and Chefs’ Holidays during the winter include lodging and dinner packages to maximize your culinary experience. Vintners’ Holidays features prominent winemakers showcasing their vintages. Bracebridge Dinner transforms the dining room into a 18th century English manor for a feast of food, song and mirth. Chefs’ Holidays provides a cooking adventure showcasing the range of styles, personalities and trends that characterize the American culinary scene. Besides a winter’s eve filled with food and wine, you can also stay active after dark at the Curry Village Ice Rink with evening ice skating sessions and participate in a snowshoe walk under the light of the full moon at Badger Pass Ski Area. No matter the season, there are wondrous things to see and do after dark in Yosemite National Park.

Top 5 Things to Do in Tuolumne Meadows

Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park

Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park. Photo by Kenny Karst.

Tioga Road is open for the summer and the weather is fine in Yosemite National Park. With so many options to choose from, how do you decide where to go and what to do during your visit? Certainly any area of Yosemite can provide experiences filled with wonder, but one area in particular provides the opportunity for a summer filled with memories of the High Sierra: Tuolumne Meadows. Located on Tioga Road CA 120 at an altitude of 8000 feet, the Tuolumne Meadows area is inaccessible in winter when the road is closed. This limited accessibility creates a short but sweet summertime window of opportunity to visit high alpine meadows and streams, along with some of Yosemite’s highest peaks. Though services are available in Tuolumne Meadows, the High Sierra views are unobstructed.  In addition to camping and tent cabin lodging, Tuolumne Meadows has a visitor center, wilderness center, store, a grill restaurant, a gas station, a stable and an outpost of the Yosemite Mountaineering School. The following top five list of things to do in Tuolumne Meadows gives you an overview of this stunning slice of the Sierra Nevada in Yosemite.

1. Hiking: Tioga Road is littered with trailheads that can take you deep into Yosemite’s backcountry or offer simple sightseeing. Soda Springs and historic Parsons Memorial Lodge, Lembert Dome, Mount Dana, May Lake, Pothole Dome, the John Muir Trail, Cathedral Lakes, Twin Bridges, and Elizabeth Lake are among the hiking options in this area. These high-elevation hikes range from an afternoon stroll along the Tuolumne River to Twin Bridges to traversing the Sierra Nevada on the John Muir Trail.

2. Camping: Tent cabin lodging and family-style dining is provided at Tuolumne Meadows Lodge and the Yosemite High Sierra Camps. Traditional camping can be found at the national park system’s largest campground in Tuolumne Meadows. Camping allows you to experience the Yosemite landscape up close with opportunities for hiking, wildlife viewing, photography, fishing, swimming and more. But no matter where you lay your head in the High Sierra, the access to the night sky filled with stars will fill you with wonder.

Tuolumne Meadows Lodge

Tuolumne Meadows Lodge

3. Dining at Tuolumne Meadows Grill: Menu favorites include burgers & fries, veggie chili, breakfast, and ice cream cones. You won’t find a dining room at the rustic Tuolumne Meadows Grill, but you will find tasty take-out options after a long summer hike in the high country. Picnic tables are available outside the restaurant and store, where you can trade adventure stories with other hikers and climbers.

4. Photography: Tuolumne Meadows are beautiful alpine meadows riddled with wildflowers in the summer, Tenaya Lake is an easily accessible alpine lake with sand beaches made for summer swimming, Mount Dana provides amazing views of the Sierra Nevada at 13,000 feet of elevation, the Tuolumne River carries snow melt from the High Sierra to points below and the night sky is brilliant with exceptional opportunities for night sky photography.

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Tenaya Lake. Photo by Kenny Karst

Tenaya Lake. Photo by Kenny Karst

5. Trail Ride: Take a day trip on a mule at the Tuolumne Meadows Stable and visit Tuolumne View on the Young Lakes Trail, an ideal lookout point for Cathedral Range, Johnson Peak and Mammoth Peaks or take a half-day ride and visit Twin Bridges on the Tuolumne River just above Tuolumne Falls. If you can’t bear to leave the beauty behind, commit to an extended backcountry experience with a saddle pack trip to one of five High Sierra Camps (or take the 50 mile loop and visit them all!).

Sunrise High Sierra Camp

Sunrise High Sierra Camp

This article was published in the Yosemite in Focus newsletter for the month of June. Get stories about Yosemite delivered right to your email inbox every month by signing up here: Yosemite Newsletters.

The Story of Ranger Gabriel in Yosemite National Park

Ranger Gabriel is sworn in at Yosemite National Park. Photo by Michelle Hansen.

Ranger Gabriel is sworn in at Yosemite National Park. Photo by Michelle Hansen.

Gabriel Lavan-Ying, an eight-year-old from Gainesville Florida suffering from Ehler’s Danlos Syndrome, wished to become a national park ranger. With the help of Make-A-Wish Central California, Yosemite National Park endeavored to make Gabriel’s wish come true on Tuesday June 3, 2014. Make-A-Wish Central California grants the wishes of children between the ages of 2½ and 18 who currently have a life-threatening medical condition which is defined as a progressive, degenerative or malignant and has placed the child’s life in jeopardy. Gabriel wanted “to see cool stuff like waterfalls”, and he is a history buff who loves nature. So the rangers at Yosemite National Park put Gabriel through extensive training in order to ensure his success as a national park ranger. Gabriel arrived in Yosemite with his family – mother Tara, father Kon, twin sister Angelica and older brother Dominic – and stayed at Tenaya Lodge just outside the south gate of the park. On Tuesday, Gabriel and his family traveled to Yosemite Valley for his training and swearing-in ceremony.

Ranger Gabriel learns to use the radio before boarding the NPS firetruck.

Ranger Gabriel learns to use the radio before boarding the NPS firetruck. Photo by Michelle Hansen.

Gabriel was dispatched to fight a wildland fire with the Yosemite Fire Crew, attended naturalist walks in Cook’s Meadow, was also dispatched to a search and rescue operation involving an injured hiker and assisted the Yosemite medical team in transporting the patient to a rescue helicopter. After Gabriel’s full day of training, he was sworn in as an Honorary Park Ranger in a ceremony at the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center. Approximately 300 people, including Yosemite community members and Yosemite park rangers, witnessed the ceremony in which Gabriel received his badge and credentials. United States Magistrate Judge Michael Seng and Yosemite National Park Superintendent Don Neubacher presided over the ceremony where Ranger Gabriel also received a flag that was previously flown over Yosemite National Park.

Ranger Gabriel assists with the rescue of an 'injured' hiker.

Ranger Gabriel assists with the rescue of an ‘injured’ hiker. Photo by Michelle Hansen.

Ranger Gabriel assists with transport to the search and rescue helicopter.

Ranger Gabriel assists with transport to the search and rescue helicopter. Photo by Michelle Hansen.

Ranger Gabriel is sworn in as an Honorary Park Ranger by Judge Michael Seng. photo by Michelle Hansen.

Ranger Gabriel is sworn in as an Honorary Park Ranger by Judge Michael Seng. Photo by Michelle Hansen.

In addition to the training, DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite provided some down time in the form of a pizza party at Degnan’s Loft in Yosemite Village. Ranger Gabriel relaxed at lunch with his family, the NPS rangers involved in his training and the Make-A-Wish crew. After the ceremony, The Ahwahnee kitchen staff celebrated Ranger Gabriel’s new status with a congratulatory cake created by Executive Pastry Chef Paul Padua. On the shaded back patio at The Ahwahnee, Ranger Gabriel wrapped up his first day as a Yosemite park ranger, sharing cake and lemonade with his family and dozens of his new friends. Returning the next day to Yosemite Valley, Ranger Gabriel escorted his family on a rafting trip down the Merced River, ever vigilant for those that may need the assistance or knowledge of a national park ranger.

Chef Paul Padua helps Ranger Gabriel cut the cake at The Ahwahnee. Photo by Michelle Hansen.

Chef Paul Padua helps Ranger Gabriel cut the cake at The Ahwahnee. Photo by Michelle Hansen.

Ranger Gabriel and family rafting the Merced River in Yosemite Valley. Photo by Michelle Hansen.

Ranger Gabriel and family rafting the Merced River in Yosemite Valley. Photo by Michelle Hansen.

Ranger Gabriel's parking spot in Yosemite Valley. Photo by Michelle Hansen.

Ranger Gabriel’s parking spot in Yosemite Valley. Photo by Michelle Hansen.

 

Springtime Water Safety

In spring, Yosemite is filled with the sound of rushing water, from magnificent waterfalls, to playful river rapids. These beautiful waterways look cool and refreshing, and can also be dangerous and even fatal.

Today, the National Park Service hosted a special demonstration of swift water rescue techniques in the Merced River near Happy Isles.

Even though it was a relatively dry winter season, the waterfalls and rivers are still deceptively powerful. In fact, with the strength of the spring flow and cold water temperatures, a rescue situation can quickly become a body retrieval.

Please be safe out there!

Here rescuers demonstrate one technique where the rescuer has a safety line to the shore and swims out to the victim. Notice here that both people are in the right position for running rapids, with their feet downstream to protect them from rocks.

Here rescuers demonstrate one technique where the rescuer has a safety line to the shore and swims out to the victim. Notice here that both people are in the right position for running rapids, with their feet high and downstream to protect them from rocks and other obstacles in the water.

Downed trees in a river can be an additional hazard because water flows through them and can pin someone underwater on their upstream side.  Here rescuers demonstrate the search strategies around this fallen tree.

Downed trees in a river can be an additional hazard because water flows through them and can pin someone underwater on their upstream side. Rescuers call these hazards ‘strainers’.
Rescuers demonstrate the precautions they need to take when searching around this fallen tree.

Rescuers often rig elaborate high lines so that a rescuer can safely get out over the water to pull someone out. Here members of the press were given an opportunity to get a bird's-eye view of the search and rescue team in the water.

Rescuers often rig elaborate high lines so that a rescuer can safely get out over the water to pull someone out.
Today, members of the press were given an opportunity to get a bird’s-eye view of the search and rescue team in the water.

Many people are required to manage a high line safely. Thanks again to everyone on the Search and Rescue team!

Many people are required to manage a high line safely. Thanks again to everyone on the Yosemite Search and Rescue team!

 

Finally, if you think it can’t happen to you, take a few minutes to watch this sobering video. Yosemite is a magical, refreshing and renewing place. We hope you enjoy your visit safely!

Travel Tips for Memorial Day Weekend in Yosemite

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Memorial Day is an American holiday commemorating military veterans who have died serving their country. This holiday falls just between spring and summer and often signals the beginning of the summer season for travel destinations. The entire Memorial Day Weekend is one of the busiest travel periods in the United States. The warming weather makes people yearn to be outdoors, and often their favorite places to spend time outside are national parks. Yosemite National Park is no exception. Though all visitors are welcome no matter which dates they choose to visit the park, popular weekends can create traffic and congestion that contributes to a lesser enjoyment of Yosemite. With Memorial Day just around the corner on Monday May 26th, take a look at the following tips to increase your enjoyment in Yosemite over this busy holiday weekend.

1. Arrive Early! Arriving on Friday evening is better than arriving on Saturday morning, but if you must arrive on Saturday, do it before 10:00 am. This is not the weekend for a leisurely breakfast before driving into the mountains. Everyone else will arrive after 10:00 am.  Find a parking spot at your lodging or campground and breathe a sigh of relief since you won’t drive again for the rest of the weekend (See #2). If you are a day use visitor, find that parking spot early and don’t plan to leave until after 7:00 pm. Make dinner plans in the park. Another tool to help navigate the holiday congestion is the Traffic Forecast for Yosemite National Park.

2. Park Your Car (and Leave It Parked) If you have easily scored a parking spot due to your early arrival – do not give it up for any reason! There are many ways to get around Yosemite Valley, including walking, biking, and riding the FREE Yosemite Valley Shuttle Bus (See #3). You can even catch tour and hikers buses for a fee from Yosemite Valley to the Glacier Point and Tioga Road. The Grand Tour will take you around Yosemite Valley, up to Glacier Point and to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. Let someone else do the driving!

3. Use the Free Yosemite Valley Shuttle Bus Yes, that’s right, an absolutely free shuttle bus will ferry you around Yosemite Valley to all lodging, campgrounds, Yosemite Village, Happy Isles, Mirror Lake and an extended summer route will even take you out to El Capitan. The shuttle bus is granted a special use lane in Yosemite Valley that is off-limits to other vehicles, guaranteeing a smooth ride to your next destination. Make note of the shuttle route and stops on the Valley Shuttle Map. Not only do buses cut down on traffic congestion, the Yosemite shuttle buses are hybrids – saving energy consumption too!

4. Ride a Bike Yosemite Valley is paved with 12 miles of bike paths and one of them is certain to lead you to your destination. Yosemite Valley also has 2 rental bike stands located at the Curry Village Recreation Center and at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls. Wave to the cars as you whiz by on a cruiser bike with the wind in your hair.

5. Arrive Early! Didn’t we cover this already? Yes, but it bears repeating. Arrive early for all activities in the park. Renting a bike? Arrive at opening time. Going to lunch at Degnan’s Deli in Yosemite Village? Consider eating at 11:00 am instead of 12:00 noon. Visiting Glacier Point for a half day of sightseeing and hiking? Don’t drive 30 miles in the afternoon only to find no place to park – arrive at Glacier Point before 9:00 am. Alternately, consider sightseeing at off hours: Glacier Point is wonderful for stargazing and the Mariposa Grove is beautiful in the early morning.

Memorial Day Traffic

Other things to consider include exploring some of Yosemite’s less famous but equally beautiful sights such as Chilnualna Falls Trail in Wawona, the Merced Grove of Giant Sequoias, and the Wapama Falls Trail in Hetch Hetchy.    Rock climbers tend to avoid busy holiday weekends, so your favorite climbing route may be free and clear. Not a rock climber, but wanting to learn? Try the Yosemite Mountaineering School and Guide Service in Curry Village for lessons.

Interview with Kass Hardy about the 150th Anniversary of the Yosemite Grant

Yosemite Grant Logo

Where was the idea of National Parks born? Right here in Yosemite, June 30, 1864, where the first wild lands were set aside and protected for “public use, resort and recreation. As the entire Yosemite region ramps up to recognize the 150th anniversary of this historic moment, the signing of the Yosemite Land Grant, and other upcoming park anniversaries, Ranger Kass Hardy has been at the center of the planning efforts. Here’s a chance to get to know Kass better, and find out more about these milestone anniversaries. Scroll to the bottom for a video on the significance of the 150th anniversary event.

Can you tell us a little about how you ended up in Yosemite working on planning anniversary celebrations?

From 2008-2010, I was fortunate to work on a similar project for Glacier National Park’s 100th anniversary. While at Glacier, our team learned from other parks who had recently honored an anniversary – like Mesa Verde, Mount Rainier, and Zion. To create a place to learn from one another, we started an informal anniversary working group to ask questions, identify models of programming that worked, and to share successes. A staff member at Yosemite participated on those quarterly calls – and as my term was coming to end at Glacier, they encouraged me to apply for a similar term position at Yosemite.

The Yosemite Grant 150th anniversary is unique in that it is honoring the birth of the national park idea. The amount of history that this incredible landscape embodies is so powerful – and its ability to inspire generations of people is unmatched.

What aspect of the 150th, or this series of anniversaries are you most excited about?

Anniversaries offer us the opportunity to reflect on why places like Yosemite are important. For me, the most inspiring part of the Yosemite Grant 150th project is listening and reading the countless Yosemite stories from visitors, locals, and employees. To me, the Inspiring Generations: 150 Years, 150 Stories book project that the anniversary team initiated and printed in partnership with Yosemite Conservancy is the type of project that anniversaries are all about. Stories promote the essence of why milestones like the 150th are so valuable to our society.

In addition, working on the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service is truly an honor. The projects associated with the 100th are very visionary – and groundbreaking for the service in some regards.

Many of the events are outside the park. What was the rationale behind those decisions?

The story of Yosemite dates back thousands of years – and goes far beyond the boundaries that we have today. We wanted to utilize the anniversary as an opportunity to work with our neighbors to elevate the significance of this milestone throughout the region — and world. Working with our neighbors has enabled us to have over 245 activities on the calendar — and to have them hosted in locations where people who love Yosemite can more easily attend.

It seems like a sense of community is important to you. What are some of the other community-based organizations that you are involved with in Yosemite?

Yes! I have a lot of energy, enjoy being around people, find volunteering extremely rewarding, and love being creative. I very much appreciate communities and especially enjoy being an active member of the Yosemite community. I have been involved in a few of the organizations in and around Yosemite over the last several years – including the Yosemite Employee Association, Yosemite Rotary, Yosemite Winter Club, and youth soccer through AYSO.

Why are national parks important to you?

National parks are important to me because they are our national heritage. They are the places that share the many unique stories of our past – and allow us to experience today’s cultural and natural world. When you take a minute to really think about what that means – it’s truly astonishing.

I grew to love national parks before I knew about the National Park System. Having lived one mile from Saratoga National Battlefield in upstate New York, I was exposed to a national park throughout my childhood. My family took trips to “the battlefield” often. We would learn about the significant history of those grounds, bike and walk the trails, and watch owls for hours at a time. I think due to this exposure as a child, I have a very deep connection to our national parks – and will always have a special place in my heart for our national parks.

Yosemite for Everyone – Rock and Roll Yosemite’s 8th Annual Visit

Part of Yosemite’s appeal is the accessibility of its grand vistas and enormous cliffs. You don’t have to hike for miles to be sprayed by the mist of a waterfall that is hundreds of feet high. Short paved paths lead to many amazing sites making them both stroller and wheelchair-friendly.

The Rock ‘n Roll Yosemite camp run by Access Leisure visited the park for the 8th straight year. From May 14 – 17 participants explored Yosemite Valley by hand cycle and exposed themselves to the thrill of rock climbing during an Adaptive Rock Climbing Session organized by Mark Wellman of No Limits, and with the help of Yosemite Mountaineering School climbing guides.

Climber Sheryl Cooley sets out under the watchful eye of Mark Wellman and a Yosemite Mountaineering School guide.

Climber Sheryl Cooley sets out under the watchful eye of Mark Wellman and a Yosemite Mountaineering School guide.

Climber Abeba Benton is strong enough that she doesn't need the 3:1 mechanical advantage, simply executing dozens of pull-ups to reach the top.

Climber Abeba Benton is strong enough that she doesn’t need the 3:1 mechanical advantage, simply executing dozens of pull-ups to reach the top.

Jim Davis takes advantage of his strong right arm and an ascender on his right foot to climb to the top.

Jim Davis takes advantage of his strong right arm and an ascender on his right foot to climb to the top.