Sunday, February 22, 2009

Crystal Magic -- Yosemite Valley -- Day 5

During the night, the valley was transformed into a crystal palace. Blame it on elves or just the sun coming out; glitter and light were literally falling from the sky. It was magic.

Beyond that, there's not too much to talk about. Three things happened. I got stood up for breakfast, a snow plow pulled into the parking lot about ten minutes before I was ready to try to drive out (do the miracles never cease), and I shot about 100 photos before I left at about 1. At one point I literally stopped my truck in the road to shoot out the window, explaining the the honking car behind me, "Hey, it's a photo emergency." Enjoy!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Wild Crazy Snow -- Yosemite Valley -- Day 4

The Buried Table

My Truck, Also Buried

Well, by Tuesday, it has been snowing for three days. The people left in the valley are talking of cabin fever, and I am starting to feel a general dampness creeping into everything. I went down to the Village Store and out to the Mountain Store for some gloves and a more convenient hat. Later, I would abandon photography altogether in favor of a hot shower compliments of the Curry Co. I walked back to camp from the Village after lunch and managed to find a few shots. It was getting harder to stay warm, keep my camera from getting fogged up, and stay focused on photos.

Efforts to Save the Black Oak

Shot from the Meadow

South Face of the Valley Wall

Winter Badge -- Yosemite Valley -- Day 3

Lone Oak in the Meadow

Monday was characterized mostly by snow. It was all snow, all the time. Sunday night's dumping, snow all Monday, and snow all of Monday night, and well into Tuesday. Snow fell from the sky in huge 2" diameter clumps, drifting in the sky even before hitting the ground. Literally, several feet of snow fell. Roads closed, Badger Pass was a "total whiteout," according to one gentleman I met, everyone scrambling to get out of the valley in the morning, and looking for shelter later in the day.

Shuttle Bus Front Window

Snow Covered Pines

Yosemite Oak

Photography was hard, if not impossible, driving was still possible, if I could have gotten out of my parking spot. My truck was pretty much buried, so I rode the shuttle or walked everywhere. I took a hike in what I think was Leidig Meadow. It's not that I don't know where I was it just isn't clear which meadow I was in from looking at the map. I started at the Village and walked across the meadow to the river and then back across to Yosemite Creek and Falls. I carried my snowshoes in the Nashbar Backpack Pannier with the camera in the waterproof drybag, and used them a few times to stomp around in the meadow.

Nashbar Waterproof Pannier Double Duties as Daypack

They plow the bike paths around the valley and the sound of little Bobcat snowplows destroyed whatever calm or serenity the meaodow may have had to offer .

Meadow Close-Up

Me, At the Falls

Yosemite Creek

Yosemite Creek

Near Lower Yosemite Falls
Eventually, I made my way back to camp, to find my tent buried in the snow.


Friday, February 20, 2009

The Storm Begins -- Yosemite Valley -- Day 2

Sunday morning was innocuous enough, quiet, calm even. Even the most conservative of weather reports had to acknowledge the winter storm advisory for the Sierra Nevada. As the day progressed, the sky hung more ominously in the valley. Jim left, and I thought about it. By early afternoon it was snowing. By evening, it was undeniable, snow, and lots of it. In the morning Jim and I looked over the area around El Capitan Meadow. Despite being interested in a group of Oaks I had seen the night before, The light was wrong and I ended up focusing my attention on a burn in the west end of the valley.

Fire Damage

Black Oaks

Don't Eat Human Food
For lunch I went to Degnan's and grabbed a sandwich. I spent some part of the day finding stuff like gloves and a map.

The sign on the table says something fascinating about our dietary choices. If you just imagine people in the place of "wildlife" this gets a bit more interesting. If we ate better, maybe it wouldn't be so dangerous for the wildlife to eat it.

The Lodge

Ahwahnee Meadow

Ahwahnee Meadow
I went to the Ahwahnee for Chili in the early afternoon and walked back via the valley loop trail. Beyond that I spent some time tightening up my gear and preparing for a cold snowy night. I went back over to the Lodge to see the Cajun band that had played the previous night (you remember the picture of the guy playing the washboard tie with spoons) and to carbo load before retiring to my tent.

The First Snow Falls
By the time I got back to my tent the storm had evolved to a raging howl above the tree tops, none of which could be felt on the valley floor. Snow fell in clumps and the wind kept me awake. I had to wake and clear snow off my tent more than once.
During the night something or someone collapsed on my tent, making me fear that I was really about to be crushed, leading my to scream and shout. When I was able to evaluate the tent -- everything was normal, so I suspect I dreamt that, but it seemed so real, that I wonder. Did some crazy camper trip over my tent while wondering around in the dark?

The wind howled and I slept roughly, snow fell, but I was dry and fairly warm. The coyotes woke me in the early morning with a crazy song.
Big Winter, Tiny Tent

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Camp 4, Yosemite Valley, Day 1

Yosemite Falls,
It started innocently enough -- Jim Fitzgerald and I decided to meet during the trip last week to Joshua Tree to meet in Yosemite Valley and stay at Camp 4 for the weekend. Reports of snow seemed exaggerated, and the price for Camp 4 makes it attractive.

Bear Danger!
Camp 4 is quite famous and historically famous, both for myself and for the outdoor humanity. "On February 21, 2003, Camp 4 was listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its significant association with the growth and development of rock climbing in the Yosemite Valley during the 'golden years' of pioneer mountaineering".[1] In the spring of 1974 I was drenched in a plastic tent just before the snowfall dropped below the valley floor, and was forced to abandon my spring break trip due to risk of hypothermia. This represents one of my early failures at camping, of which I was reminded for years by my family.

At Camp 4 on Valentine's Day
The weather on Saturday was pleasant with drifting clouds warning of an upcoming storm. We wandered around the valley in the afternoon, taking stock of the place and looking for good photo opportunities.

Storm Warning
Later we hiked up to Lower Yosemite Falls and Jim set up his 11" x 14" to capture an oak tree. The Yosemite black oak is currently starring in a recovery effort on the valley floor, which I managed to avoid reading about. Jim's interest is merely photographic, I suspect, he's looking for an increase in value range to help his carbon printing effort.
The Valley Loop trail and the hike to Lower Yosemite Falls are populated by a few hundred thousand (not really) mule deer, so we saw a few.

Two Bucks

Lookin' Up

Lower Yosemite Falls

Near the Falls

Jim with Homemade 11 by 14 View Camera

Yosemite Creek
At the end of the day we found this sight, which seems really cliché. In February it's commonly understood that El Capitan will light up in a blaze of orange at about 4:00 P.M. But not on Saturday.

A Small Amount of Fog