Gasoline prices are creeping up, and so are temperatures, as the Labor Day weekend approaches.
Despite that, plenty of people are expected to head for parks, reservoirs and other destinations in the Modesto area and beyond.
"Labor Day weekend is always a busy weekend," said Scott Gediman, a spokesman for Yosemite National Park. "We're expecting anywhere from 5,000 to 6,000 people a day."
Gas cost an average of 3.81 cents a gallon in California this week, up 7½ cents from last week and 72 cents from a year ago, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Modesto area prices averaged $3.77 as of Wednesday, according to http://modestogasprices.com.AAA Northern California predicts that more than 3.7 million state residents will travel 50 miles or more over the weekend, down 2.6 percent from last year.
"California travelers are reacting to the most recent economic downturns, and that is having a significant effect on discretionary spending," AAA spokeswoman Cynthia Harris said in a news release. "Nonetheless, with a pent-up desire to get away for the last holiday of the season, we could see an increase in last-minute weekend travel."
Reservation-only campsites in Yosemite have been claimed for months, and others could be full by today, Gediman said.
The heavy snowmelt has waterfalls running bigger and longer into the year than usual — and endangering people who get too close. The park has had several water-related deaths this year.
"It's certainly lower water (levels) than it was in the spring, but the Merced River is still going strong," Gediman said.Highway 140 has reopened after a closure caused by a wildfire west of Yosemite, meaning that all access roads to the park are available.
The Stanislaus National Forest staff also expects full campgrounds. Visitors can camp at dispersed sites in the forest, which got a slow start to the recreation season because roads were blocked by snow.
Don Pedro Reservoir has booked all of its reservation-only campsites, other than an overflow area at Moccasin, said Carol Russell, director of the Don Pedro Recreation Agency. Visitors can boat to nonreservation sites along the shore.
The big runoff has kept the elevation of Don Pedro up even as water was released into irrigation canals."It's been going down, but it's still pretty high," Russell said. "For this time of year, it's in great shape."
The reservoir had 11,732 acres of surface area for fishing boats, houseboats and other watercraft as of Wednesday.
The National Weather Service calls for highs in the upper 90s in Modesto through the holiday. The blast of heat comes near the end of a second straight summer with many less-than-scorching days.
Residents should check to make sure government offices are open Friday so they don't unnecessarily head out into the heat only to be turned away.
Most city of Modesto offices will be closed Friday as part of its budget-balancing efforts, meaning a four-day Labor Day weekend for employees. Turlock and other municipal offices will be open Friday but closed Monday for the holiday.
Modesto City Schools and most other school districts in the region will be open as usual Friday but closed Monday.
The same is true for most banks. Those usually open on Saturday likely won't be this weekend. But many restaurants, retailers and other businesses will try to take advantage of the long weekend with bargains and sales designed bring in more revenue.
After Labor Day, traveling by car is expected to get cheaper.
That's because the gas price increases stem from short-term problems at oil refineries that disrupted supplies, said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service.
Anticipation of further disruptions as refineries schedule maintenance around this time also contributed, he said.
"It has nothing to do with hurricanes, earthquakes or Libya," he said.
Kloza expects prices to fall later in September, when demand drops and the recent problems in gasoline supply dissipate. U.S. gas prices also are higher than other areas of the world right now, which should inspire more petroleum imports and fewer exports that lead to lower prices, he said.
Prices also should drop in October when refineries stop using a summer blend of fuel that burns more efficiently in hot weather but costs more, AAA's Harris said.