Friday, May 15, 2015

Yosemite in Snow

When you write about magical moments, do you think its better to immediately pen your thoughts and respond in real time? Or is it better to digest the sights around you and be present, then spends days or weeks gleaning the memories to put proper words to the profound?

Let's just start by saying, there was no better day than April 25th to visit Yosemite National Park for the first time.

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We left the city before dawn. Several folks jumped at the promise of a Yosemite venture, but just as quickly dropped out once they checked the weather app on their phones. Definite cold temperatures, chance of rain, chance of sleet, chance of snow. Do we still go? Yes. Affirmative. I set aside multiple layers the night before––denim jacket, flannel shirt, nano puff jacket, two sweaters, hiking boots, tennis shoes, multiple pairs of socks––and grabbed all camera essentials. I was ready, but the alarm rang too soon and the road called too quickly.

Trudged to Sutter to pick up Deborah, a very worthy travel companion, and then the three of us (I'm counting Teddy the Jeep among our party) advanced toward the freeway, the Bay Bridge and then the long highway to Yosemite. I think we played some jams, but mostly I drove with a deep curtain of sleep hanging over me. There was a wrong turn, a stop for breakfast, some donuts but not enough Cliff bars, some coffee but still not enough energy. Three hours in, we saw signs for our destination. The sun had been chasing alongside us for a couple of hours, and suddenly it disappeared. We climbed up a sinewy mountain road, disappeared into a thick fog and began to curve around hillsides and mountains.

I think we played some folk music as we drove into the woods and deeper fog, and entered a dreamscape. Eerie, it left us breathless. Foreboding, we were also filled with wonder. That's when we both acknowledged the magic of the moment.

We reached the gates and alas, the park was not yet open. Conditions suggested it might be an hour or so, or maybe not at all. Would we wait it out while they shoveled the roads? Yes, shovel the roads for their had been substantial snowfall during the night. Our ears and interest piqued up at the word "snow." It's April, but there's snow. I purchased a year-long National Park Pass. We pulled just inside the entrance, pulled just over to the side of the information station, and set up for the wait. In hindsight, we should have napped... Deb...

The park ranger approached a collective group of cars and waved them on. Within just half an hour, the park was open and the way before us made ready. Thus, we joined the parade of wheels and began our descent into the valley. We snaked around hairpin turns and stared, jaw wide, at the fantastical winter scene around us. Snow hung heavy from the pine branches, flakes and white dust danced lazily across the road. As clumps abandoned their high tree perches for the ground, the snow resembled shifted flour. I am unfamiliar with snow... these descriptions fail heartily so... moving on.

IMG_7095 IMG_7091 IMG_7094 IMG_7099 IMG_7117 We drove along, but itched to climb out of the Jeep and take photos. Pull over here, no there, but surely this is the best view. We gave favor to one pull-out and fired our cameras off into a tree studded valley. But this was not the grand valley, so we climbed back into the car and made our way forward. Another photo op, another stop. Then fog hanging over a gorge and stream, then waterfalls rushing from peaks overhead, then a snow field before a mountain. With lazy, but full hearts, we decided this would be the routine for the day. We would skip a hike due to poorly planned footwear and instead, make a lengthy automobile tour of Yosemite. In whole, we drove around the park for hours, stopping to disembark from the Jeep for photographs and mini adventures.

IMG_7127 IMG_7137 IMG_7145 IMG_7147-2 IMG_7165 Each stop and break became bigger and better than the previous. What compares to rocks and mountains, snow and chilled toes, pinecones and fire-burned trees, fog and the rich orange and green of leaves? I could no sooner pick a favorite photo of the day, a favorite minute or hour, because it was all wrapped up in one grand experience.

IMG_7207 IMG_7228 IMG_7211 IMG_7230 IMG_7272 IMG_7277 >IMG_7307 IMG_7278 Yosemite in snow, y'all. The park seemed more wild. Yes, we milled around with fellow tourists, yes there were brake lights and multiple photo-snapping gadgets and selfie sticks, but Deborah and I still got lost in the white of the snow, the green of the trees and the wonder of it all.

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