Outdoors, action, adventure

Category: Yosemite National Park

Ken Burns' National Parks Series encore presentation begins Wednesday on PBS

The Burns documentary includes a stop at Yellowstone National Park's Old Faithful geyser as part of its 12-hour overview.

The popular Ken Burns’ series, “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea,” begins its encore broadcast, with the first episode airing Wednesday on PBS.  It will then appear on consecutive Wednesdays through March 3.

Burns spent nearly a decade making the six-part, 12-hour documentary. With breathtaking cinematography, the series sparked the interests of many (myself included) to travel and visit the National Parks

Premiering last September, the series was the second most-watched on PBS during the last decade, reaching a total audience of 33.4 million viewers.

For local times and channels, please visit the PBS website.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: The Burns documentary includes a stop at Yellowstone National Park's Old Faithful geyser as part of its 12-hour overview. Credit: Craig Mellish / Florentine Films and WETA Washington

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Yosemite National Park roads closed temporarily

A view of Half Dome from Cook's Meadow in Yosemite National Park after several feet of snowfall.

Yosemite National Park officials issued a news release this morning reporting that all roads leading into Yosemite Valley are temporarily closed.

Highways 41 (Wawona Road) and 120 (Big Oak Flat Road) into the park are closed due to snowy and icy conditions.  Additionally, Highway 140 (El Portal Road) into Yosemite Valley is closed due to fallen trees on the roadway.  Badger Pass Road and the Hetch Hetchy Road are also closed at this time.

Visitors coming into the park through the weekend are urged to use caution and to drive slowly.  All vehicles entering the park -- including those with four-wheel drive -- must carry chains, as the weather can change quickly. Additionally, visitors are also urged to be aware of the risk of falling trees while driving or walking in the park.

Assessment of all roads in Yosemite will occur throughout the day.  For 24-hour road information please call (209) 372-0200.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: A view of Half Dome from Cook's Meadow in Yosemite National Park after several feet of snowfall. Credit: Victoria Mates / National Park Service

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Yosemite National Park had nearly 3.9 million visitors in 2009

A view of the iconic Half Dome in Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite National Park released its visitation numbers for 2009 today. The park had a record number of visitors last year, with 3,866,970 people spending time in the 1,169 square mile scenic wonderland.

This marks the highest level of visitation in Yosemite since 1996, when the park recorded 4,190,557 visitors.

Yosemite had been experiencing a downward swing in visitors following this peak. The drop in figures continued for a decade, with park visitation numbering 3,366,500 in 2006. But, beginning with 2007, the trend reversed and the number of people visiting the park began to increase again.

Yosemite National Park first hit the 1 million visitor mark in 1954, saw 2 million visitors for the first time in 1967 and hit the 3 million mark in 1987, recording 3,266,418 visitors.

With such a varied amount of activities and lodging options available, Yosemite seems to have something to offer for everyone. I'm glad to hear that more people are realizing what a treasure they have in this state, and are taking the opportunity to experience the natural wonder that Yosemite is.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: A view of the iconic Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Credit: Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles Times

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Yosemite's Tioga, Glacier Point roads are closed for season

Rocks in the Merced River are topped with pillows of snow near El Capitan Meadow in Yosemite National Park in this photo from January.

Yosemite National Park has announced that Tioga and Glacier Point roads have closed for the season.

Ths closure of scenic Tioga Road eliminates vehicle travel through the eastern entrance of Yosemite.

Yosemite also issued a reminder that all roads within the park, which is open year-round, are subject to chain control or temporary closures.

Visitors should carry chains at all times while driving inside park boundaries, and can check on road conditions by calling (209) 372-0200. 

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: Rocks in the Merced River are topped with pillows of snow near El Capitan Meadow in Yosemite National Park in this photo from January. Credit: Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times

Sierra Nevada resorts and national parks brace for season's first winter storm

The first winter storm of the season is due to arrive Friday and that's welcome news for skiers, snowboarders and other winter sports enthusiasts traveling to such places as Lake Tahoe, Mammoth Lakes, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park and Yosemite National Park for the Thanksgiving holiday period.

Here's a Wednesday afternoon alert issued by the National Weather Service


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National Parks to offer free admission on Veterans Day, Nov. 11

Yosemite's El Capitan and the Merced River. What better place than the wide-open spaces within a national park or wildlife refuge to reflect on the freedoms we enjoy and the sacrifices made by members of the armed services to protect those freedoms?

In honor of these heroes, all public recreation land managed by the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Reclamation will waive entrance fees for them and the general public on Veterans Day next Wednesday.

(This was reported previously by colleague Jane Engle in the L.A. Times travel blog.)

“The Department of the Interior is honored to offer this fee-free day to thank our nation’s service men and women,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a news release. “The sacrifices and achievements of the brave men and women of our armed forces can never be understated. We invite all of our visitors to enjoy this fee-free day and take time out on this national holiday to remember our service men and women who are currently serving overseas in harms way. ”

Only entrance fees are waived. Fees associated with camping, lodging or other activities will be collected.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo of Yosemite's El Capitan and the Merced River by © Darrell Gulin/CORBIS

Search-and-rescue operations in national parks numerous and costly, but effective

View of the Grand Canyon at sunrise.

A new report that appears in the online journal "Wilderness & Environmental Medicine" includes some interesting statistics involving search-and-rescue operations in national parks.

Notably, they're costly and numerous, but effective. "Without the presence of NPS personnel responding to SAR incidents, one in five of those requesting SAR assistance would be a fatality," the report concludes. "Future research and the development of any prevention efforts should focus on the five NPS units where 50% of all SAR incidents are occurring."

The report, published by the Wilderness Medical Society, has a catchy title: "Dead Men Walking: Search and Rescue in U.S. National Parks." Its authors looked at the NPS' annual search-and-rescue reports from 1992 to 2007 and SAR statistics from all NPS units in 2005. Some key findings:

--From 1992 to 2007 there were 78,488 people involved in 65,439 SAR incidents. These included 2,659 fatalities, 24,288 injured or sick people, and 13,212 "saves," or saved lives.

--On average there were 11.2 SAR incidents per day at an average cost of $895 per operation. Total cost from 1992 to 2007: $58,572,164.

--In 2005, 50% of the 2,430 SAR operations occurred in five NPS units. Grand Canyon National Park (307) and Gateway National Recreation Area (293) reported the most. Yosemite National Park (231) was third.

--In 2005, Yosemite accounted for 25% of the total NPS SAR costs ($1.2 million); Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve ($29,310) and Denali National Park and Preserve ($18,345) had the highest average SAR costs.

--Hiking (48%) and boating (21%) were the most common activities that required search-and-rescue assistance. Hiking (22.8%) was the most common activity resulting in fatalities. Suicides (12.1%) were second. They were followed by swimming and boating (10.1% apiece).

Perhaps all of this will serve as a reminder to be extra careful while exploring our great national parks and to be thankful that there are emergency teams close by if we need them.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: View of the Grand Canyon at sunrise. Credit: Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times

Half Dome cables at Yosemite have been removed for the season

Robert Trepte climbs the cable ladder up the side of Yosemite's Half Dome in July.

The season is definitely changing at Yosemite National Park, where the Half Dome cables have been removed for the season, and where snow and ice are causing temporary road closures.

The cables, which enable hikers to summit the majestic granite dome, are taken down each fall and replaced in the spring. Hikers are strongly cautioned against attempting to scale Half Dome while the cables are down.

Meanwhile wintry weather has led to the closure of Glacier Point and Tioga roads. An evaluation will be made after the weather system passes to determine when they will reopen.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: Robert Trepte climbs the cable ladder up the side of Yosemite's Half Dome in July. Credit: Scott Ouellette

Yosemite fire season officially ends

Webcam view of Half Dome

The recent storms that moved through the area earlier this week brought enough rain to officially end the fire season in Yosemite National Park.

Thanks to rainfall measurements ranging from 5 to 9 inches at park weather stations (as well as snow at higher elevations), officials announced the end of fire season, which occurs when there is more than 2 inches of rain. Historically, there is a 90% chance of this happening before the end of October.

The helicopter contracted for Yosemite has departed and seasonal fire personnel will soon be leaving as well.

After having to deal with the Big Meadow fire, which consumed 7,425 acres last month, I have a feeling the firefighters and park personnel are breathing a huge sigh of relief at this announcement.

-- Kelly Burgess

Webcam view of Half Dome courtesy of Yosemite Assn.

Yosemite's Half Dome Overlook gets needed facelift

Ken and Aiwen Nakamoto of Sunnyvale, Calif. take a picture at the redesigned Half Dome Overlook.

*Updated to reflect that the cost of this project was $800,000

Many Yosemite National Park visitors never realized the view they were missing — the iconic Half Dome framed between the cliffs of Glacier Point and the granite walls of El Capitan — or the availability of a spot to take it in.

That's because the Half Dome Overlook on Big Oak Flat Road was easily missed.

Now, thanks to Yosemite Fund donors, the overlook has been redesigned, allowing better access and adding areas from which to enjoy the awe-inspiring view other than just a parking lot.

Paths have been rehabilitated in areas eroded from years of use and to meet the Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility standards.

There also are new educational exhibits, including the bronze relief of Half Dome pictured in the image at right.

"These improvements enhance the visitor experience," said Yosemite's acting superintendent, Dave Uberuaga. "Now people can enjoy the view and its exhibits in a safe and accessible manner as part of a redesign that also protects the natural environment. All of that makes a great view even better."

The project cost $800,000 and is part of the Yosemite Fund's 15-year effort to improve park overlooks, including those at Glacier Point, Olmsted Point and the approach to Yosemite Falls.

—Kelly Burgess

Photo: Ken and Aiwen Nakamoto of Sunnyvale, Calif., take a picture of themselves at the redesigned Half Dome Overlook.

Credit: Al Golub / Yosemite Fund

Yosemite volunteer cleanup event Sept. 23-27

Some of the debris collected last year.

Yosemite National Park is a mess and could use a hand.

Volunteers are needed to help pick up litter in high-use areas during the sixth annual "Yosemite Facelift," taking place Sept. 23-27.

The event is organized by the Yosemite Climbing Assn. to help clean up the park after the busy summer season. Last year, more than 41,000 pounds of trash was collected.

Those interested in volunteering should sign up at the booth in front of the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center beginning at 8 a.m. on days that they would like to participate.

Crew leaders will be on hand to distribute trash bags, litter sticks and gloves and organize work groups.

Cleanup participants will enjoy free park admission and have access to all sorts of events, including a daily raffle, movie screenings, a book signing and a reception with free food and drinks and live music.

There are also limited free camping sites available for volunteers. Those interested in securing one should e-mail Ken Yager at YCA@inreach.com with their name(s) as well as the nights they would like to camp.

I applaud the efforts of the organizers and volunteers, though find it perplexing that people can visit such a national treasure and not have the decency to pick up after themselves.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: Some of the debris collected last year. Credit: Yosemite Climbing Assn.

U.S. citizenship ceremony held at Yosemite's Glacier Point

A new naturalized United States citizen receives his certificate at Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park during a Naturalization ceremony.

Approximately 35 people received their United States citizenship Thursday during a special ceremony at Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park

"We are extremely proud and honored to have hosted this special naturalization ceremony," said Scott Gediman, Yosemite's public affairs officer. "To see the emotions of the new citizens as they mark the occasion in Yosemite National Park is truly inspiring and meaningful."

Countries of origin of the new citizens included China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Portugal, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, and Yemen.

Thanks to a partnership between U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the National Park Service, ceremonies were held at national parks around the nation to celebrate National Citizenship Day and coincide with the date that the Constitutional Convention signed the U.S. Constitution in 1787.

This was the second such ceremony conducted in Yosemite in three years.

"What could be more American than having these people become United States citizens in one of our great national parks," Gediman added. "It was a great day for everybody."

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: A new naturalized United States citizen receives his certificate at Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park during a naturalization ceremony. Credit: Kari Cobb / NPS


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Outposts' primary contributor is Kelly Burgess.