As lifelong Central Valley residents, Laura and I have become fairly immune to the depressing effects of Tule Fog. Part of that immunity stems from the fact the fog had been pretty non-existent during the past several years of our ongoing severe drought. But thanks to huge December rains (6.19" on my station) and another persistent ridge of high pressure, the ingredients have been in place for the fog to come back strong this year. And come back strong it has. Prior to this excursion, we witnessed the sun for a mere three total hours in a week's time! It was time to climb out of the inversion layer and into the promised lands of Yosemite.
Near Cathy's Valley we finally broke through the inversion layer and left the fog behind for good. In a span of two minutes we left the 48-degree damp misery and entered 63 degree solar radiation goodness! Wispy cirrus clouds sailed overhead while I got out to take some cool pictures of the enveloping stratus/fog layer (which, as of this writing still has not broken).
Laura spotted what she first thought was a common coyote sitting in the sun near Cascade Falls. After doing a double take at 30mph, she determined it was a bobcat, at which point we safely flipped a u-turn and pulled over. Laura and Zephyr stayed in the car while I hopped out hoping to catch a small glimpse of such an elusive animal. The beautiful bobcat was apparently out enjoying the sun too because it had the same cat-napping look that our house cats had. I approached to within 150', trying to balance my desire for a nice photo with the animal's desire to be left alone.
The cat was unfazed by my presence. It proceeded to take a cat bath and yawn several times before I returned to the car to show Zephyr the photos and let Laura go take a look of her own. After marveling at our great fortune, we headed into the Valley for lunch at the Ahwahnee Bar and took a stroll through Sentinel Meadow.
Our little stroll to Lower Yosemite Falls gave us the second surprise of the day: another bobcat ten feet from the bike path that we startled when I set the toddler pack down to load Zephyr. The cat sauntered away for about 50 feet and then plopped down in another sunny spot. Not a single other person saw this cat in the ten minutes we observed it. It just goes to show that paying attention in the crowds has it rewards.
So what made the day so strange? Two bobcats, were lucky. But to me, the weirdest part of the day was knowing that it was 58 degrees. In Yosemite. In the Middle of January. With no ice to be seen ANYWHERE, let alone any snow. Forecasts now show we'll likely go ALL of JANUARY without a drop of precipitation. And January is historically the wettest month of the year by far for Central California. Drought for a 4th straight year seems imminent, I can't help but wonder if my fellow CenCal citizens are willing to make the sacrifices needed to stave-off massive water hardships. Only time will tell. With that, I'll leave you with bobcat #2 stalking something in the grasses of Sentinel Meadow as we left.
Ryan J Hollister - Geoscience & EnviroSci Educator, Avid hiker, Landscape photographer, WildLink Club Advisor, Central Valley Advocate.