Yosemite Visit

I recently spent three days in the Yosemite National Park area, shooting each day, in different locations. Yes, I did find a marvelous group of dispersed camping sites (free!) within the Rim Fire perimeter. Of course, they were there before the fire but, those spots still look great. Yes, there are also patches of high-intensity burn along Hardin Flat Road (the old highway) that have been salvage logged, too.

One of the places I went to, inside the park, was a large patch of high-intensity burn, all around Hodgdon Meadow. The campground wasn’t really impacted much by the fire. All around the fringe of the large meadow were green and healthy trees. They should be a good source of seeds, and it looks like most sugar pines had an excellent “cone year”. The problem will be the inevitable re-burns, with heavy fuels from trees like these:

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Yes, there are some tufts of green up there but, will the trees be able to fight off drought and bugs, with damaged cambium? Probably not. Yosemite has become a giant incubation “Motherland” for bark beetles, who don’t stay inside the lines on the map. However, I would recommend Hodgdon Meadow Campground (right near the Highway 120 Entrance Station) for your visit to Yosemite. There is something very primitive to camping under such giant trees (non-Sequoias).

Speaking of Giant Sequoias, I dropped into the Tuolumne Grove, to see how the Rim Fire impacted the area. I knew that firefighters had set up sprinklers, and I could tell by looking at the Google Maps view that there wasn’t much intensity there. This area (pictured below) was about as scorched as much as I could find, along the trails. Certainly, nothing to worry about. I’ll bet there is more insect mortality in the area than fire mortality. I’m sure that some will say they wished it had burned a little more intensely. Most of the grove didn’t burn nearly as well as in this picture.

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I went to Foresta, to view last year’s re-burn and the progress of “recovery” of the Yosemite side. Here are some views of that situation:

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Nine years after the re-burn, and 25 years after the original A-Rock Fire, this area remains desolate. Even brush is having a hard time growing, in soils with very little organic matter. The soils dry out and growth stops, during the hot summers.

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Looking westward, you can see last year’s re-burn, mostly on the Forest Service lands outside the Park. I worked on the original A-Rock salvage project, way back in 1991. I still have some Kodachrome slides from those days, up on that long ridge. The snags in this view probably survived the A-Rock Fire but not the Big Meadow Fire.

Yes, I did go into Yosemite Valley and found some uncrowded hiking along the Merced River.

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I did see some significant pine beetle patches, in Yosemite Valley. It seems like a “normal” level of bark beetles, considering the horrible drought, and all.

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There is a lot more to see over on my Facebook page www.facebook.com/LarryHarrellFotoware

4 Comments

    • Actually, it wasn’t freezing at an elevation of almost 6000 feet, for those three nights. If I go there in August, it will be up in the high country. I’ve “shot” many a big buck up there! That Saturday was busy enough, in the valley. One other thing I noticed while driving in the park is how the views will be enhanced by removing the dead trees along Highway 120. I do think that the salvage from the Rim Fire is almost done, except for the sales that didn’t sell.

  1. That last photo (spots of bug-kill in Yosemite) remind me of an SAF field trip I took some years ago into a “wilderness area” (formerly a cotton plantation – can’t quite figure how a cotton field becomes a “wilderness”) in East Texas. We were shown some pictures of a pine forest with a few, scattered spots of big-kill. They showed a similar photo taken a few years later. Those scattered spots of bug-kill had grown and merged into a single spot, leaving only a few scattered spots of green. As a designated wilderness area, of course nothing could be done to stop the beetle. Will that be the fate of the Yosemite Valley, too?

    • Actually, Obama, himself, approved the cutting of live trees in National Parks, for improving the views. Yes, some of those logs were sold, as I have seen log trucks leaving Yosemite Valley. It is unlikely that those bug patches will expand to near 100% mortality but, yes, they will probably grow. There are no impediments to their successful attacks, especially within Yosemite. The wheels are in motion and there is nothing to do but watch the “Whatever Happens” scenario unfold. Outside of the National Park, the Forest Service should be planning salvage sales, as thinning projects are no longer economical for the one lumber company monopoly, here in California.

      Sadly, it is the old growth that is most susceptible to bark beetles and wildfires. Those trees grew when stocking levels were low, not needing to develop the deep roots that help them survive the droughts during their 400 year lifespans. Now that competition is greater, the old growth has a disadvantage against younger trees, with relatively deeper root systems.

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