Ferguson Rockfall background info – a massive event

I remain fascinated by this geologic phenomena. It is a world class example of a hillside saying “I’m in charge and will dump when I feel like it.”  You can view it as you head to Yosemite towards the Arch Rock entrance.  It’s kinda close to the park so it’s worth mentioning and keeping track of what’s going on.

In the spring of 2006, a 300-foot section of Hwy 140 north/east of Mariposa was covered by slate rocks. It was triggered by an exceptionally wet spring 2006, following a very wet spring 2005.

This photo shows how the event looked soon after the fall.

Mountain rockslide

Ferguson Rockfall 2006

Total size of the fall was 800,000 cubic meters. It extended about a football field up the mountain. It has been stable ever since. CalTrans is now in the process of building a “Rock Tunnel” under it. As you cross the bridge you can look to the east and see the work.

The fear – worst-case, would be a rapid failure of the entire rock slide which would extend it across the Merced River, damming the river. This would create a reservoir. Bad news. As a temporary measure, traffic has been rerouted to the opposite side of the Merced River.

READ: How it will be fixed

A state-of-the-art monitoring system was installed to detect movement in the steep talus slope, movement of the main slide mass, local strong ground motion from regional earthquakes, and sudden changes in stream levels, possibly indicating damming of the river by slide material.

Carpe Diem!
Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Duck and cover.”  – 1950’s silly advice if we are hit by a nuke.
Read “One Best Hike: Yosemite’s Half Dome

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The Commander-in-Chief is on his way to Yosemite

The first President to come to Yosemite in 50 years will be arriving soon. Barack Obama and his entourage will be at the park between June 17 and 19.  He’ll also be stopping by Carlsbad Cave, New Mexico. This summer is the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, and the agency is part of the Department of the Interior. Which, of course, reports up to the White House.

The wife and kids will be along on the trip. I assume they will be staying in a large suite at the former Ahwahnee Hotel. John Kennedy was the last president to do so.  A bit of trivia is that when the firefall was set to go at its usual 9 pm time, JFK was not ready, so they held off until 9:30.

For security reasons, little is known of the itinerary. Superintendent Don Neubacher will most likely meet him and take him around to see the high points. Gee, maybe a few extra Half Dome permits will be found and an attempt at a summit undertaken. (nah)  Watch for Secret Service disguised as mule deer!

deer in forest

All clear for the President

Many details of the trip remain under wraps, beyond the basics. Obama will tour Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico and Yosemite from June 17 until June 19.

In the waning days of the Obama administration, he is taking bold steps to bring global warming up in the national agenda.

The PR Department at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave put this missive out: “The administration will continue to protect iconic landscapes, connect younger and more diverse populations to the outdoors, and work toward a more inclusive system of parks and protected public lands that reflect the diversity of our nation.”

Maybe Neubacher can replicate the famous Teddy Roosevelt – John Muir encounter and push to get the name-game resolved with Delaware North Company. Obama may actually wonder why he can’t stay at the Ahwahnee.  Nope, the towels will say “The Majestic.”

Carpe Diem!
Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Only YOU can prevent Forest Fires!” – Smokey Bear
Read “One Best Hike: Yosemite’s Half Dome

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Trekking poles will save your knees. The downhill is where they come in handy


I have used trekking (or Hiking) poles since the mid 1990’s.  Prior to that, few did. I saw some Europeans with them going up Half Dome and asked them about their poles.

After an explanation of the benefits, I was convinced to try them.

See related story on poles

Wow – what a difference. Going uphill, they really help you push up steep trails. On the level, they don’t do much unless you are in need of balance or stability. The real money is made going downhill. You take about 30% of the stress off of your knees.

If you think about it, your knees absorb most of the stopping force. With poles kept in front of you, that stress is transferred to your upper body. I have never – I mean NEVER –had any knee issues. Many folks I talk to after their Half Dome hike tell me their knees feel like they are going to explode.

Poles can be expensive. I love LEKI poles. So much that I even made a “How to use them” YouTube.  I recently found out that Sports Basement will rent you poles. Most folks only want to do Half Dome once, so it does make sense to rent them. The price is $15 a day or $25 for eight days.

Renting poles

Sports Basement rents poles

I suggest spending the money and getting a better pair that you can keep and do your training with.

Carpe Diem!
Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Everybody is a star. Who could rain and chase the dust away.  Everybody wants to shine – Who will come out on a cloudy day? – Sly and the Family Stone
Read “One Best Hike: Yosemite’s Half Dome

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