Despite the current wintry blast of cold, wet weather in the Mother Lode, Memorial Day weekend is considered the unofficial start of summer.
Tourism-based business owners and workers in Calaveras and Tuolumne counties know many out-of-towners will be here on four-day or five-day weekend visits, regardless of weather forecasts. Monday is a designated federal holiday.
Expect rain showers, snow showers and possible thunderstorms in the foothills and mountains Friday through Monday, and expect to find crowds in all the usual places you normally find them each Memorial Day.
Take it for granted that Yosemite Valley will be slammed wall-to-wall with visitors Friday through Monday.
Less-crowded options closer to home include the Red Hills outside Chinese Camp, Table Mountain outside Jamestown, West Side Trail outside Tuolumne, and fishing at Don Pedro or New Melones.
Attractions in Jamestown, including Railtown 1897 State Historic Park, will be open all weekend, with trains running Saturday, Sunday and Monday, whatever the weather brings.
The same goes for Columbia State Historic Park, which will be open all weekend. On Saturday, free public transportation on the Tuolumne Adventure Trolley will be available 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., and stops will include downtown Sonora, Columbia and Jamestown.
The trail to Natural Bridges off Parrotts Ferry Road may be too muddy or flooded this weekend, but Moaning Caverns outside Vallecito will be open, and so will Calaveras Big Trees State Park outside Arnold.
For fire-conscious residents in Calaveras County, there is a community wildfire preparedness open house scheduled 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at West Point Fire Station, 22670 Highway 26 in West Point. Personnel with Cal Fire’s Tuolumne-Calaveras Unit, local fire agencies, the county Sheriff’s Office, and staff with the county Office of Emergency Services plan to be there to talk about fire safety and evacuation preparedness.
As of Wednesday afternoon, a California Highway Patrol and Motherlode Bicycle Coalition Bicycle Rodeo planned for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday at Sonora Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram on Mono Way was postponed until June 22.
“With it being Memorial Weekend and the possibility of rain, we do not anticipate a great turnout,” organizer Jack Becker said.
Some outdoor music events scheduled this weekend may be canceled due to weather concerns. Check with individual venues to confirm.
Monday is Memorial Day
Monday is Memorial Day and there’s an observance-and-salute ceremony starting at 11 a.m. that day at the old Columbia City Cemetery off School House Street, presented by the Columbia Grenadine Belles.
The ceremony will include prayers, raising of the flag, reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance, and a roll call of fallen military personnel buried at the cemetery. The Columbia Grenadine Belles will place white flowers on graves of the fallen. At noon, the Columbia Militia will do a rifle salute at the gazebo next to City Hotel where the flag pole is.
Also Monday in Twain Harte, there’s a Memorial Day parade and flag-changing ceremony planned to start at 11:30 a.m. at the downtown Twain Harte flag pole, 22950 Joaquin Gully Road. Organizers say the event is free and they urge people to dress in red, white and blue, bring American flags to wave, and remember military personnel who lost their lives in the line of duty. There’s also a hot dog feed at Eproson Park on Meadow Drive.
Later next week on Thursday there is a Memorial Day ceremony planned to start at 10 a.m. May 30 at Carters Cemetery on Cemetery Lane in Tuolumne.
Military veterans with VFW Post 3154 and VFW Post 4748 will take part, along with a school teacher who plans to talk about John Wittorf, 1877-1959, who came from Holstein, Germany, to the mining town of Carters outside Tuolumne in the late 1800s at the age of 20, and became known locally as Johnny the Barber.
Wittorf had no heirs and he donated his estate to Summerville Elementary School, so long as they put flowers on his grave once a year.
Fourth-graders will help veterans with a flag ceremony and perform a song on their wood recorders, Boy Scouts will be there, and students with Jazz at Eight from Summerville High will sing. Mike Kubasek, the deacon from St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Sonora, will do opening and closing prayers, said cemetery trustee Dorothy Tate. There will be refreshments afterward and it’s open to the public.
Federal custodians of Yosemite National Park are advising visitors that in spite of cold, wet, wintry weather this week and last week, and forecasts for more of it this weekend, they expect the park to be crowded with visitors Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
They are urging visitors to enter the park before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m. every day.
Highway 120 inside the park -- Tioga Road -- is still closed with no estimated date for opening.
Yosemite Valley parking is limited and all available campgrounds in the Valley and elsewhere in the park are completely sold out for the entire weekend, park communications staff say.
There are no longer any first-come, first-served campgrounds in the park. Camp 4 is now on a daily lottery system.
Trails at high elevations from Yosemite Valley remain snow-covered. Visitors planning to walk and ascend trails are urged to be prepared for winter conditions, especially at elevations above 7,000 feet. Four Mile Trail from the Valley to Glacier Point remains closed due to snow, ice, and recent rockfalls.
Recreational visitation in Yosemite peaked three years ago in 2016 at 5.028 million visitors, followed by 4.336 million in 2017, and 4.009 million in 2018, which included the Ferguson Fire that burned 150 square miles between July and September.
Sonora Pass on Highway 108 and Ebbetts Pass on Highway 4 remain closed this week with no estimated opening dates.
Researchers for the American Automobile Association of Northern California estimate residents and visitors are going to be traveling in record-breaking numbers this long holiday weekend.
More than 5.4 million Californians are projected to travel in vehicles Friday, Saturday and Sunday, a 4.3 percent increase from last year and the highest number on record for Memorial Day travel in the Golden State.
Friday to Monday Sonora could get a half-inch to 1 inch of rain and Yosemite Valley could get 1 to 2 inches of rain, forecasters with the National Weather Service said Wednesday.
Rain showers, snow showers and possible thunderstorms are likely in the Mother Lode foothills and at higher elevations in the Central Sierra from Friday through Monday.
Overnight lows in Sonora and other foothill towns are expected to remain in the 40s through Monday night. There’s a chance of showers with sunny spells Monday in Sonora. Daytime highs are expected in the 60s until Tuesday, when it could warm slightly into the low 70s.
Daytime highs in Yosemite Valley are expected to remain in the 50s through Monday, when there’s a 50 percent chance of rain showers in the Valley.
Overnight lows at Ebbetts Pass on Highway 4, Sonora Pass on Highway 108, and Tioga Pass on Highway 120 are expected to remain below freezing in the 20s through Monday night. All three passes remained closed Wednesday with no projected dates for opening.
Mother Lode watersheds, including the Stanislaus River and Tuolumne River basins, have received 48.3 inches of precipitation since the current water year started Oct. 1. That’s 128 percent of average for the date May 22. Sonora received record rainfall for the date May 20 on Monday this week, when 0.46 of one inch fell. The previous record for May 20 was 0.29 of one inch in 2002.
Contact Guy McCarthy at email@example.com or 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.