Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Rare bighorn sheep herds moved into Yosemite, Sequoia parks

The Following Article is from today's Fresno Bee. The online version can be found here:

(Dale Matson)


March 30, 2015

The next chapter in the restoration of the iconic bighorn sheep was played out over the last several days as two herds were moved into Yosemite and Sequoia national parks, federal officials announced Monday.

Efforts to restore the bighorn in the Sierra Nevada have been gaining steam since the animal was listed officially as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 2000. Yosemite has been working on restoration since 1986, but the bighorn sheep was considered extinct in the park a century ago.

Twelve animals — nine females and three males — were moved from Inyo National Forest and Sequoia National Park into the Cathedral Range in Yosemite. In addition, seven females were relocated in Sequoia to the Laurel Creek area.

Widely regarded a symbol of the West, Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep are powerful, sure-footed animals. Adult males, called rams, stand more than three feet tall at the shoulder and weigh up to 220 pounds. Females, called ewes, weigh up to 155 pounds.

Wildlife officials say the sheep is the only federally endangered mammal in the three major national parks in Central California — Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon. Their high Sierra turf is generally 10,000 feet in elevation and above.

“With this week’s re-introductions, we now have bighorn distributed throughout all geographic areas identified as critical habitat in the recovery plan,” said Tom Stephenson, leader of the recovery program with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, one of the participating agencies in the move.

The bighorn sheep population in the Sierra bottomed out at about 100 individual animals before federal protection was extended in 2000. Its population has grown to more than 600 individual animals.

There were thousands of these sheep before settlers arrived more than a century ago and began unregulated hunting. Diseases from livestock, such as domestic sheep, also caused big reductions in their numbers.

Each relocated animal was fitted with a radio collar and a Global Positioning System collar to track movements in their new environment, where they are expected to thrive. The protected national park areas should be far enough from domestic sheep grazing to prevent diseases from passing into the herds.

“This is a legacy event for Yosemite National Park and the bighorn sheep,” said Don Neubacher, Yosemite National Park superintendent.

Yosemite Conservancy funded equipment and experts to bring the new herd into Yosemite, as well as the GPS collars to track the animals’ movement and location. Over the past 20 years, the conservancy has funded nearly $630,000 to help protect bighorn sheep.

Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep Foundation and Wild Sheep Foundation funded the moves into Sequoia National Park.

The state Fish and Wildlife Department, Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, Inyo National Forest and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service all were involved in the work.

Contact Mark Grossi:, (559) 441-6316 or @markgrossi on Twitter.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Shinzen Friendship Garden Fresno

Dale Matson

Click On Photographs To Enlarge

297-acre Woodward Park in Fresno is one of the crown jewels of the city. It is well know throughout California especially because of state and regional cross-country running championships. I have run the trails here for decades and especially like the portion that follows the beautiful San Joaquin River with headwaters in the high Sierra Nevada mountains. It is the second longest river in California.

However, there is a lesser-known sanctuary within the park that even many Fresnans have not visited. During the winter season the Japanese Gardens is only open on weekends from 10am to 5pm and that is when I visited recently to view the spring colors and take some photographs.

The gardens is often used as a wedding photograph backdrop and the day I was there, there was a professional photographer and his two assistants leading a new bride and groom around. The gardens is maintained entirely by volunteers.

Soon a new Bonsai exhibit will be added. “We are excited to share wonderful news with you. The Clark Center for Japanese Art and Culture has transferred their extensive legacy bonsai collection to the Golden State Bonsai Federation (GSBF) for placement at the Shinzen Friendship Garden in Woodward Park, Fresno.”

There is a large Japanese American population in Fresno and Kochi Japan is one of six sister cities with Fresno.
All of the photographs were taken with my Sony A7R and the native Sony Zeiss 55mm/f1.8 lens.

Philippians 4:8 (ESV) Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

The new bonsai exhibit can be found here in a more recent post.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Kaiser Peak Day Hike Spring 2015

Dale Matson

Click On Photographs To Enlarge
Screenshot Of Suunto Ambit Download Of Hike Route

I have day hiked this route several times and the older I get, the more I realize this is a labor intensive hike to a view of the west side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains that may offer a good perspective. The hike is about 11 miles round trip with about 3,000’ of elevation gain outbound. I have hiked it on a full moonlight night to arrive at sunrise and late into the afternoon to get photographs at sundown, which required hiking down with a headlamp. There is obviously no view once the sun sets and it becomes a long return hike with only a narrow slit provided by a trusty LED beam.

Hiking to Kaiser Peak this early in the season is almost unheard of. I have hiked this route with my wife in June and we needed to turn around at the midway point at College Rock (about 9,000’) because of the remaining heavy spring snow cover. The positives of this time of year are that it is a cool hike and the air is cleaner.

Another obvious fact about Kaiser Peak is it’s singular location that is not really in the mountains. It is a high vantage point but distanced from the actual Sierras. It is not like Glen Pass in Kings Canyon or Alta Peak in Sequoia Park. They are both in the mountains. Secondly, there are few vistas along the route. There is a vista of Huntington Lake at about 8,000’, which is sadly low for this time of year. Seeing so much shoreline is a stark reminder of the drought here in California. At this point, the mountains are just peeking out in places on the horizon.

The next vantage point is at College Rock where the mountains are more evident but getting a photograph is somewhat risky as you boulder hop your way to the best view. At this point, even a camera with a 30X optical zoom would only provide a close view of the tops some of the peaks. As I climbed higher this year, I was hopeful but the clouds were gathering. The air was clear and the temperature was comfortably cool. But the Sierras make their own weather! The forecast for Huntington Lake was “Partly cloudy” but the reality was a sky that become increasingly threatening and finally rain!

By the time I reached the first real opportunity for a view, the weather had turned and was closing in. I walked across crusted snow toward the saddle before the final climb and took the photographs that openings in the clouds would allow. I began to think about the rain that was coming toward me from the southwest and decided to head back down. My camera and lenses had fair protection from the rain but I was not convinced they were completely safe. This trip I was using my Sony A7R with the native Zeiss 55mm 1.8 and the native 70-200mm zoom. While it is possible to clearly see the ski lift terminal on top of Mammoth Mountain with the naked eyes, the mountains require at least a 200mm lens to provide the “mountain look”. When the view is clear, the 360-degree perspective from the top of Kaiser Peak is stunning and stretches from the mountains in Yosemite in the north down to Mt. Whitney in the south as one looks east. It also includes Lake Edison. There are several small lakes directly below the peak. The view west is usually hazy with smog.
I headed back down, only getting to about 9,800’, (Kaiser Peak is 10,300’) because of the oncoming weather. I had a hooded rain shell with me but did not want to risk harm to myself and the lenses in a bid to climb to the peak that could no longer provided a view anyway. One the way back down, I hiked into a partial fog/clouds that had moved in.

For those who attempt this as a day hike, my recommendation is a good weather forecast (not a guarantee) including clear air, strong legs and a big lens or high optical zoom camera.

 Above Shaver lake From Highway 168
 Sign At Trailhead Above Stables
 Small Waterfall Below Trail 

Ski Runs From China Peak Closed For Season

 Huntington Lake

 Possibly Mt. Goddard

 Telephoto Of Condominiums Above Huntington Lake

 College Rock

 Trail Leading To False Summit Below Final Climb

 Banner Peak Shrouded In Clouds
 Mammoth Mountain 

 Edison Lake

 Storm Coming In

Fog/Clouds Enveloping Huntington Lake And Trail

Here is the 2014 complete hike where the weather was good. 
and the most recent hike in 2016: