Yosemite National Park like you’ve never seen it before

While most people have seen beautiful photos of Yosemite National Park in California, there’s nothing quite like watching the different aspects of a landscape as they shift and transform through timelapse video. Viewers get the chance to see moments that they would usually be asleep for, or that are too quick to be caught by the naked eye, like the Earth rotating over a lush valley, the sunrise as it hits a high mountain peak, shooting stars in a sky unpolluted by light, and the changing of each season. The high-definition film was created by Sheldon Neill and Colin Delehanty, who wanted to show the area in an “extreme way”. For more information, visit the Project Yosemite website. To see behind the scenes of the making of the video, click here.

Lack of snow brings rare opportunities in Yosemite National Park

The calendar may say that its winter in the U.S., but you wouldn’t know it based on the weather. Large portions of the country have experienced warmer than normal temperatures, and snowfall across the western states has been practically non-existent in many areas. This hasn’t been especially good news to areas that depend on skiers to help bolster their local economy, but it has presented some rare opportunities to visit certain destinations that would normally be sealed off to travelers this time of year.

A perfect example of this is in Yosemite National Park in California, which is well known for receiving large amounts of snow each year. In fact, certain sections of the park, especially at higher altitude, are often inaccessible starting in November and lasting well into April and beyond. That hasn’t been the case this winter however, and as a result, the park remains open, offering unprecedented winter access to some of the its more remote regions.

Take for example the Tioga Pass Road, which is considered one of the most scenic drives in all of the National Parks. The narrow, twisty highway winds its way past Tenaya Lake and Tuolumne Meadows, home to dozens of Giant Sequoias, while the Sierra Nevada Mountains tower over head. It is a breathtaking and beautiful ride any time of the year, but by mid-January, the road has usually been closed for the winter. It is not uncommon to have ten or more feet of snow blocking the route and preventing passage, but not so this year, as the road is currently wide open for travelers.

Better yet, the lack of snow has meant that most of Yosemite’s 800-miles of trail remain open, which has given hikers an extremely rare opportunity to see some of the park’s famous waterfalls and lakes in a frozen state. Much like the Tioga Pass Road, many of these attractions are often buried under snow by this time of year, but for now at least, visitors can take a day hike and see Yosemite as it is rarely seen – frozen over. For a shorter hike, I’d recommend the Gaylor Lakes trail, which is just 3 miles in length but can offer plenty of exploration into the surrounding area. Those with a bit more time on their hands may want to take in the Cathedral Lakes or Glen Aulin Trails, which wanders past several mountain lakes and waterfalls. As usual on any winter hike be, sure to dress appropriately and bring a few emergency supplies, just in case.

This weekend is the perfect time to visit Yosemite and take in these rare sights for yourself. Not only is the entry fee waved for today and tomorrow, but you also know it is only a matter of time before winter does arrive and spoils the fun. The snow will come eventually, and when it does, it’ll probably be heavy enough to close off access until spring. Take advantage of this rare opportunity and experience Yosemite as you’ve never seen it before.

Photo of the day: autumn colors in Virginia Canyon, Yosemite

For anyone who thinks the autumn colors don’t show boldly outside of New England, just focus your eyes for a moment on this photo of Virginia Canyon in California. As part of Yosemite National Park, Virginia Canyon sees many travelers each years. Nonetheless, these autumn colors pop up on my radar less frequently than I wish they would. Having spent the last year in Austin, Texas, I miss the fall colors and I hope all of you surrounded by brightly colored trees this fall took advantage and soaked in the beauty fully–or are still doing so if your trees still have their leaves.

Kudos to Flickr user Misha Logvinov for this photo, which can be found in the Gadling Flickr Pool. If you’d like one of your photos to go live here on Gadling, follow in Misha’s footsteps and upload your photo(s) to the Gadling Flickr Pool.

Yosemite climber rescued after losing his thumb

Earlier this week, search and rescue teams in Yosemite National Park were called into action, when a rock climber on El Capitan became stranded on the mountain after severing his thumb. Following the freak accident, the unnamed climber from Austria was unable to finish his ascent, and had to be removed from the rock face in a difficult helicopter rescue.

The man, and his partner, were climbing “The Nose” route on El Capitan, one of the most iconic and challenging climbs in the world. At one point, the Austrian was the lead climber when he slipped and fell about a thousand feet from the top, narrowly avoiding death thanks to his safety lines and climbing harness.

Unfortunately, during the fall, his thumb became tangled in the rope, and when it pulled tight, it completely removing the digit in the process. The severed thumb tumbled 80 feet to land on a small ledge below, and the injured man’s climbing partner had to descend to retrieve it. After plucking it from the ledge, they called for help, and the SAR team arrived on the scene shortly there after.

The drama wasn’t done there however, as they still had to get both climbers down from the mountain. Rescuers knew that they had a limited window to complete that operation and still get the man to a hospital soon enough to reattach his thumb. Fortunately, Richard Shatto, the pilot of the rescue helicopter, was able to maneuver close enough to the rock wall so that the two climbers could be saved. Immediately following that dramatic rescue, they were whisked off to a nearby hospital, where surgery was successfully performed to repair the hand.

This story is yet another that demonstrates how professional and organized these search and rescue squads really are. Not only were they able to get both men safely off of El Cap, they were able to do it quickly enough to save the thumb as well. Amazing work out of these courageous men.

[Photo credit: Mike Murphy via WikiMedia]

Forest fires impact national parks

While parts of the eastern United States continue to struggle with too much water in the wake of Hurricane Irene’s passing, out west the dry conditions have led to forest fires that are having an impact on two of the nation’s most popular national parks.

Late last week, a fire sparked up on the edge of Yosemite National Park when a motor home caught fire. The blaze quickly spread to the Stanislaus National Forest, which borders Yosemite, closing down a popular road leading into the park itself. Over the course of the past five days, the fire has consumed more than 4775 acres, and while firefighters feel they have it under control, the park’s rough terrain hasn’t made the battle an easy one.

Fortunately, most visitors to Yosemite haven’t been effected by the blaze at all. In fact, park officials say that none of the park’s trademark vistas have been obscured by smoke, although nearby Merced River Canyon has seen its walls blackened by the fire. The park itself remains open, although visitors will want to check the status of Highway 140 before using that entrance.

Meanwhile, lighting strikes were responsible for igniting five forest fires in Yellowstone National Park last week as well. The fires were discovered throughout the day on Thursday after a storm passed through the area the night before. Park Service firefighters reacted quickly to each of the blazes, and they were contained before the flames could spread too widely. Yellowstone remains at a “very high” risk for wildfires at the moment however, and heading into the long Labor Day weekend, there are some concerns about more fires springing up.
Yellowstone was of course the site of one of the largest and most devastating forest fires in U.S. history, when more than 793,000 acres were consumed by flames in 1988. The remnants of that wildfire are still evident today, but it has also brought renewed life to the park’s ecosystem as well. While it is a long, slow process for the forest to rebuild itself, it is amazing to see plants and animals return to the park as the natural ecological forces take over.

If your Labor Day plans include camping in a local, state, or national park, be sure to check-in with park rangers to find out of their are any fire restrictions in effect. Campfires, grills, or camping stoves can all be very dangerous during the late summer.

You can also check inciweb.org to find the status on the most recent wildfires in your area as well.

[Photo credit: AP Photo/The Reporter via Rick Roach]