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Portal To Spring: Enjoying Mariposa County Outside-In

Spring is full-spirited in Mariposa County.  Sun-glistened patches of snow give way to vivid wildflowers; black bears poke their heads from their dens after a long winter nap; Yosemite waterfalls ramp up and cascade down; whitewater fury roars somewhere off through the pines. Spring in Mariposa is all about energy, an invitation to start fresh.

John Muir, during his first foray into the Sierra, praised the season this way:

Along the river, over the hills, in the ground, in the sky, spring work is going on with joyful enthusiasm, new life, new beauty, unfolding, unrolling in glorious exuberant extravagance,- new birds in their nests, new winged creatures in the air, and new leaves, new flowers, spreading, shining, rejoicing everywhere.

Spring irises in the meadow below El Capitan

El Capitan Meadow in Yosemite Valley boasts a colorful display of irises in the spring.

Indeed, the operative word is new. And because these are unprecedented times, we all could use a little pick-me-up, a little whiff of hope that rides on the wings of spring.  Some means of bringing outdoor inspiration, indoors. Whether it’s doing your best Kit Carson impersonation and tracking bear from your living room, gathering the kids around the kitchen table to color wildflower sheets or taking a virtual tour of Yosemite Valley, we have you covered with some stay-at-home resources to get into the Mariposa County springtime groove.

Spring Wildlife Renaissance

Just as hope springs eternal in Yosemite National Park, spring hops eternal! The park comes alive with its 90 species of mammals as well as 262 species of chirping birds. Mule deer graze in Cook’s Meadow; Douglas squirrels (which John Muir described as “fiery, sputtering little bolts of life”) chase each other around the trunks of giant Sequoia trees; in the melting snows of the Cathedral Range, Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep fearlessly summit the rocky peaks; North America’s only aquatic songbirds, the water ouzel, build nests behind waterfalls and dive into the Merced River for insects and tiny fish. With the current closure of the Park, these birds and mammals are literally having a field day, carousing and exploring their suddenly human-free setting just as they would in millennia past.

Of course spring in Yosemite National Park wouldn’t be complete without the curtain raising on its largest mammal — the black bear. Spring (March/April) is when black bears emerge from hibernation ready to start the new year.  Males typically come out first, followed by sows and their cubs.  The one thing on their mind?  Food. Having typically lost 1/3 of their body weight over the winter, the black bears begin a never-ending quest for sustenance. Meadow grasses and berries, acorns and even bumblebees, this omnivore’s delight keeps them constantly on the move.

Black Bear in Yosemite

Yosemite’s black bears are often lighter in color – sometimes brown or even blonde. They become active in spring looking for food. Photo – Chris Migeon

In its quest to raise awareness and protect these amazing creatures, KeepBearsWild.org has fashioned state-of-the-art GPS collars on Yosemite’s black bears thus providing the rare opportunity to track them. The data appears as color-coded polygons on a map and sheds light on such questions as how far bears travel in one day and how big are their home ranges. Not only can we follow these migrations from the comfort of our couch, but the information collected helps rangers protect bears by limiting their contact with visitors to Yosemite National Park and the surrounding communities. Yet another amazing fusion of technology and nature in Mariposa County.

Yosemite Falls Live!

As spring snowmelt stripes the granite walls of Yosemite Valley, nothing can match the misty roar of Yosemite Falls. The iconic three-stage waterfall plummets 2,425 feet (739 m) making it the tallest in North America. From April through June, the flow is at its peak creating a spectacle that takes your breath away.

For those who need some cool inspiration, the Yosemite Falls webcam is the next best thing to being there. You can almost feel the pristine water splashing off the slick granite, almost smell the pine-scented air. The show — brought to you by the Yosemite Conservancy — streams live and offers an unobstructed view of this historic landmark that’s sure to boost your mood.

Yosemite Falls Webcam Image

Yosemite Webcams, like this one showing Yosemite Falls, are managed by the Yosemite Conservancy.

For more webcams in Yosemite National Park of Half Dome, Glacier Point and more, click here.

Virtual Valley

Using XplorIt technology, a virtual portal has opened up Yosemite. Fully navigable, crystal clear and VR-enabled, the portal offers access to all the hot spots: Yosemite, Vernal and Bridal Veil Falls; high-country destinations such as Tuolumne Meadows and Tioga Lake; even the historic Yosemite Cemetery and Ahwahnee Hotel. The virtual tour is the perfect tool to get your bearings via the Sky View feature, and linked videos offer a deeper dive into the glories of the Park.

Though the virtual options for exploring Mariposa Yosemite are unrivaled, we all know that nothing can replace the sound of a yellow warbler chirping like there’s no tomorrow from the branches of an incense cedar, or that spine-tingling rumble beneath your feet as you approach the base of Lower Yosemite Falls. There’s nothing like dipping your toes in Tenaya Lake and watching the billowing clouds drift overhead, or grabbing a drink at the hotel bar to rap poetic about mountain life at day’s end. So don’t let your explorations stop here. Let them be your inspiration, your guide, for a future visit to the natural wonder that is Mariposa County.

Wildflower Fun [For Kids]

Yosemite wildflowers in spring - poppies and lupines

Discover the many different flowers blooming in Yosemite in spring. These include orange poppies and beautiful blue-purple lupines. Photo: Theresa Ho

With the spring wildflower show unfurling in Mariposa County, the sweeping palette of colors, sizes and shapes now beckons hummingbirds, bees and humans alike.  Orange poppies, scarlet monkey flower, purple-blue lupine — nearly 1,500 species can be found here in a variety of growing conditions from the rolling foothills to the soaring high-country of Yosemite.

A great way to explore these bountiful blooms [from home] is the U.S. Forest Service’s Wildflower Activity website.  Here kids [and adults?] can learn how to make wildflower bookmarks and bee condos (with help from an adult…drill required!), download print-at-home coloring books, or try their hand at find-a-word puzzles with titles like Fungus Fun and Fabulous Fibers.  If you want to venture even deeper into the bush, the Kid’s Gardening website offers dozens of project ideas from homemade Plant People (think Chia Pets) to Soil Art. A little dirt under the nails does the body good!

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