Memorial Day weekend might be the traditional kickoff to summer in the Sierra Nevada, but this year spring isn’t going down without a fight.
Jim Clement, owner of the Vermilion Valley Resort, got a fresh reminder Wednesday as he headed back up to Edison Lake with a fresh load of supplies. Encountering 4 inches of new snow on Kaiser Pass Road near Badger Flat, he decided to turn around rather than risk getting stuck where the grade steepens.
“We’ve got that winter-in-May thing going on right now,” Clement said with a chuckle.
The Sierra National Forest actually closed Kaiser Pass Road for several hours, posting photos of the wintry conditions on social media. The gate has since reopened and there are no plans to close it again, according to a helpful person in the Prather office. Still, anyone planning to head up there (or anywhere in the mountains) over the long holiday weekend would be wise to bring more than a T-shirt, shorts and flip-flops.
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Following five years of drought, when it hardly snowed in February let alone May, there’s no use complaining. We need every flake we can get.
Mountain visitors over Memorial Day weekend will be pleasantly surprised how much water (and snow at higher elevations) there is. Waterfalls are gushing, rivers are roaring and lakes are rising to levels they haven’t reached in years.
Nowhere in the Sierra were the effects of the drought felt more than at Edison Lake, which has been at or below 10 percent capacity the past three years.
I’m expecting a banner year for hikers, and with a bigger lake I’m hearing from a lot of fishermen who are anxious to visit us again.
Jim Clement, Vermilion Valley Resort owner
When the lake is that low, fishermen stop going because it’s very difficult to launch a trailered boat. Also, the Vermilion Valley Resort cannot operate the ferry service for those hiking the nearby John Muir and Pacific Crest trails.
The Edison Queen, the barge that over the decades has shuttled thousands of backpackers and thru-hikers, was taken off the lake on July 22, 2012, and has not been wet since.
“This year she may actually see the water again, so we’re pretty excited,” Clement said.
The water level at Edison Lake is rising every day and could lick the bottom of the boat ramp by this weekend, Clement said. Even better, more water will soon be on the way.
“Our basin kind of had a target on its back this winter,” Clement said. “We’ve got a big snowpack still up at Graveyard (Meadows), which is nice, and still a lot of snow still up in the (Mono) Recesses.
“I’m expecting a banner year for hikers, and with a bigger lake, I’m hearing from a lot of fishermen who are anxious to visit us again.”
No matter where you go over Memorial Day weekend, there will almost assuredly be a crowd.
No matter where you go over the Memorial Day weekend, there will almost assuredly be a crowd.
Wouldn’t it be a great time to visit Yosemite and gawk at the waterfalls? Congratulations, you and thousands of others had the exact same thought. To avoid long, long lines of traffic, starting from outside the entrance gate, be sure to get an early start.
Campgrounds already have opened with the proviso that those in popular locations are sold out this weekend. Those include Yosemite Valley (duh), Bass Lake, Shaver Lake (Camp Edison), Huntington Lake and Mono Hot Springs.
Most campgrounds in Kings Canyon National Park (and a few in Sequoia) are first-come, first-served. So arrive early to have your best chance at nabbing one. That goes double for the Cedar Grove area, which typically contains the least-impacted campgrounds in the parks. However, only one campground (Sentinel) will be open this weekend. The others remain closed as crews continue to clear away dead trees (more on that in a bit).
Camping in the parks this weekend is going to be a lot more impacted than usual.
Dana Dierkes, Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks spokeswoman
All park roads are open, including Mineral King, which opened for the season Wednesday.
In the Hume Lake Ranger District of the Sequoia National Park, the most-visited areas (Hume Lake, Chicago Stump, Buck Rock and Tenmile) are open. Only Boole Tree remains closed due to impassable road conditions.
Also closed are areas affected by last year’s Rough Fire. However, it’s easy to see the fire’s impact by making the drive between Grant Grove and Cedar Grove. Burned trees and green hillsides galore.
Big Meadows Road in the Giant Sequoia National Monument has been closed until now but is expected to open Friday, according to public information officer Denise Alonzo. That’s the good news. The bad news? The Big Meadows Campground no longer is free. Officials added it to the concessionaire’s contract. (It remains first-come, first-served.)
No matter where you venture in our local mountains, dead trees (especially Ponderosa pines) are an unavoidable sight. Almost 60 million are dead or dying throughout California, according to some estimates. No longer healthy and green, they’ve turned reddish brown thanks to the dual effects of drought and ravenous bark beetles.
While thousands of dead trees have been cut down, most are still standing – which isn’t a good thing. Check your surroundings for hazards before deciding where to pitch a tent.