High season awaits at Yosemite National Park. Late spring through early fall marks the most popular tourist time for this national treasure just to our east.
Here are some news and events in and around the park as you plan your own visit:
Good times to visit: Entry into Yosemite is free June 9 for Get Outdoors Day, Sept. 29 for National Public Lands Day and Nov. 10-12 for Veterans Day weekend.
Exploring the park: The Yosemite Conservancy will offer more than 35 Outdoor Adventures this year. You can explore the park's wildlife, geology and cultural history.
The programs will range from hikes to Half Dome to easy strolls through the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias. Others include Mewuk-Paiute Indian basket making, a photo trip of Yosemite's waterfalls and stargazing in Tuolumne Meadows. For more information, go to yosemiteconservancy.org or call 800-469-7275.
Limits on Half Dome Trail: Park officials want to limit the number of people who can access the popular 8-mile Half Dome Trail. Among the options being considered is removing the steel cables that make the final portion of the climb easier for less experienced hikers. Another option is to limit access to 300 people per day. That's fewer than the 400 allowed per day between Memorial Day and October under a park lottery in 2011. Half Dome looms 5,000 feet above the valley floor. Five people have died on the trail since 2006.
Bike season starts: Curry Village and Yosemite Lodge bike stands opened two weeks ago. Rentals are available from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily.
Village Store makeover: A newly "eco-friendly" Village Store has opened after a $1.15 million renovation. Refrigeration, ventilation, flooring and lighting all were redone to reduce energy use by 25 percent and water consumption by more than 900,000 gallons a year. The remodeling effort used recyclable building materials when possible.
Birding in Yosemite: Flocks of violet-green swallows were circling around rapidly melting Tenaya Lake. Steller's jays already were looking for picnic handouts. By the second week of April, birds seen at Parson's Lodge and the meadows include the common raven, northern flicker, mountain chickadee, red-winged blackbird, killdeer, Clark's nutcracker, American robin, mountain bluebird, Cassin's finch, red crossbill, pine siskin, dark-eyed junco and red-naped sapsucker.
Oakhurst Centennial: The town of Oakhurst is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its name change from Fresno Flats. The change occurred in February, but the town is planning events all year. Check it out at Oakhurst100.com or call 559-683-7766.
Wawona opened: The historic Wawona Hotel, about four miles from the south entrance, opened for the season March 30. While other hotels in the park are open year-round, the Wawona shuts down around Thanksgiving, reopens briefly for Christmas, then shuts for the first three months of the year.
Motel name change: The Shilo Inn in Oakhurst recently changed ownership and will be rebranded as Yosemite Southgate Hotel & Suites. The new owners plan to display the work of more local photographers and artists as part of the change.
Ranger bravery: Yosemite National Park ranger Dan Abbe recently received the Department of Interior Medal of Valor for his quick action in May 2009 to save two park visitors from a vehicle that caught fire when an auxiliary fuel tank ruptured.
Abbe was recently promoted to acting wilderness manager.
Volunteer opportunities: The National Park Service is looking for volunteers who would like to help with projects such as vegetation restoration, trail repair and building, wildlife preservation and campsite maintenance. For a full list of opportunities, go to nps.gov/yose (click on "volunteer in Yosemite") or write to Yosemite Volunteer Office, P.O. Box 700, El Portal, CA 95318.
Big business: A National Park Service report covering 2010 says that the roughly 4 million visitors spent $354.7 million in Yosemite National Park and in communities near the park. The spending supports 4,600 jobs in the area.