Yosemite is wet, wild and slippery | SierraSun.com

Yosemite is wet, wild and slippery

Jonah Kessel
Sun News Service

Jonah M. Kessel/Sun News ServiceA rainbow forms at the base of Vernal Falls on the Mist Trail. The winter route is in effect on the Vernal and Nevada Trails. The Mist Trail is now open, however, conditions may be icy on steep sections of the climb to the top of Nevada Falls.

Finding water in Yosemite National Park in the spring is like finding pine cones at Lake Tahoe. However, pine cones don’t seem to be so slippery in the spring.

With the ski season coming to an end, I traded my ski boots for a pair of leather boots this week to check out hiking conditions around the famous granite monoliths down south.

Current conditions in our neighboring outdoor playground are wet and wild. Falls and rivers in the valley are gushing, and spring’s mild temperatures in the the park are cool and excellent for hiking. Peak runoff usually hits around the end of May, so the next eight weeks are ideal for lower-elevation hiking and viewing the falls.

The snow line is around 6,000 feet (Yosemite Valley is at 4,000 feet), but even conditions in the valley can be tricky to navigate with spring’s varying conditions.

On Wednesday, I watched wind blow water from Vernal and Nevada falls onto the Mist Trail and instantly turn a stone staircase into an angled wall of ice. However, the chance to see the contrasting ice, vibrant rainbows and booming waterfalls on non-crowded trails is surely worth some careful footing.

The April snow survey results indicate that the Merced River basin is 93 percent of average and the Tuolumne River basin is at 92 percent of average, meaning the amount of water in the Yosemite region was much closer to average than the Tahoe area. In fact, when water, mist and ice are pelting you in the face, it’s hard to imagine Gov. Schwarzenegger declaring a state of emergency in February after three years of below-average rain and snowfall in California.

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Although the Mariposa Grove entrance opened this week, Tioga Pass and Glacier Point/Badger Pass Road are still closed. Wawona Road (Highway 41 from Fresno), Big Oak Flat Road (Highway 120 from Manteca/San Francisco), El Portal Road (Highway 140 from Merced), and Hetch Hetchy Road (open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.) are all open.

In 2008, Tioga Pass road opened on May 21″ although it’s been known to open as late as June 30. Half Dome cables are usually installed right before the third weekend in May.