An orchard loaded with ripe apples is more than many bears can resist, so volunteers will help harvest the crop a little early to reduce temptation in Yosemite National Park. If you're in the park on Monday, August 17, you're welcome to help pick some apples...and keep the bears away.
It's the "12th Annual Apple Picking Time in Yosemite Valley." According to an announcement about the event:
All visitors, employees, and residents are invited to pick apples to help keep bears wild! Volunteers will assist the park staff in collecting apples from the Curry Village Apple Orchard and Lamon’s Apple Orchard.
The historic, ripe apples attract bears to developed areas and alter their natural diets. By removing the apples, bears will return to their natural food sources found throughout the park and not become exposed to humans and their food.
The apples are being picked before they're ripe, so they're not yet a big attraction to the bears. If they're so inclined, those who help in the project are welcome to keep any green apple they pick.
You can download a copy of the announcement, which includes details for those who want to participate.
So, how did apple orchards end up in a place like Yosemite Valley? Johnny Appleseed apparently didn't make it to Yosemite, but he would have been proud of early settlers of the area.
C. Frank Brockman was a long-time NPS naturalist at Mount Rainier and Yosemite. He retired in 1946, and is the author of Broadleaved Trees of Yosemite National Park, which appeared in Yosemite Nature Notes in January 1947. It offers the following background on the orchards:
Visitors to Yosemite National Park will note a number of interesting trees which were planted in the early days before this area became a national park and which, although they are not native to this area, have been allowed to remain because of their association with the early history of the region. In this category fall the American elm, the black locust, and sugar maple, found in a number of places on the Valley floor, as well as several kinds of fruit trees.
According to Mr. Borckman, two orchards were planted in 1859 by James C. Lamon, the first settler in Yosemite Valley; a third was planted by James Mason Hutchings, who had returned to the Valley in 1864 as a hotel owner. If you'd like to read more on the subject, you'll find a copy of the publication at the Yosemite Online Library.
Some may ask why the park doesn't take the direct approach to the problem of bears and apples, and simply remove the trees.
The orchards pre-date the park, and some view the trees as part of the area's historic landscape. There's no question the sites have a quaint appeal; a note card on sale at the Ansel Adams Store Online features a winter scene by the famous photographer of a snow-crusted apple orchard with Half Dome in the background.
The possibility of removing one or more of the orchards has been raised in at least one previous long-range plan for Yosemite Valley; the attempt to finalize a plan for the Valley area that satisfies the legion of groups with an interest in the park—and the various judges who have weighed in on the process—is still a work in progress. What decision will ultimately be made about the orchards in the park is yet to be seen.
In the meantime, a volunteer apple-pickin' day seems to be a fine way to help keep those bears out of trouble.