There are several places that inspire awe, Yosemite would figure right there at the top of that list. From the first time that I set my sights on this valley I have come here several times, each time rejuvenated by the sheer beauty of this valley, and each season the valley puts on a new dress and a mad dash of colors and presents its smiling being to give the silent pleasure to its beholders. Heaven on earth….
I have never done this Valley in winter and this time I decided to lose myself in the valley depths, the heights being out of bounds.But, this time around there was little snow one of those unusual winters, but biting cold.
As you drive down eastbound or on Southside drive coming in from the Bridal veil falls side, Cathedral beach is a serene spot on the left turn that loops back towards the park. But the best time to enjoy the beach is before Sunrise. For at this hour the Merced is calm and majestic El Capitan peers down at its shadow narcissus like. (El Capitan and Merced ), and as the sun rises that visage gets majestic both above and in its shadow below ( Sunrise on El Capitan ). Not to be left behind Cathedral rocks make their appearance on the Merced below (Cathedral rocks meet Merced) with the snow on the beach creating its own abstract art with its reflections. Natures magic unfolds as the first hint of sunlight hits the mountain top. An experience worth some lost hours of slumber!
As the warm sun crawls out in its full winter glory El Capitan bridge and meadow on the west side of Yosemite valley near the confluence of the entry and exit roads to the park offers a grand view of El Capitan. In summer this would be a great spot to view climbers precariously perched on El Capitan inching their way to the top. The swinging bridge (which really does not swing) offers an awesome view of the upper Yosemite falls (Upper Yosemite Falls and reflections ) with its own reflections in the Merced. (Upper Yosemite falls )
Valley View is one of the most charming spots in the valley. This spot is great at sunrise in winters or any time of the day during the fall when there is a riot of colors. This is gorgeous at sunrise, eerie and mostly magical on a winter sunrise. (Magical Valley View at sunrise). In winters Valley View offers magical evenings at sunset. (Valley view early morning ) During fall early morning or late afternoons can be magical.
The best time to visit Tamarack Creek falls is in spring, when the water roars across the cascades into Tamarack creek. This is mostly dry in summer but comes to life come October or November gathering strength until it unleashes its might power in spring. ( Cascade Falls) (Tamarack creek ). On your way out of the valley this fall is on the right after crossing the second tunnel.
Tunnel view offers the finest view of the valley. This is a view to watch late in the evening during sunset. This is a view worth watching over and over and over again any time of the year. ( Tunnel View ) With El Capitan on the left, Half dome in the center, Bridal veil falls and the Cathedral rocks on the right this is an iconic sight one will never forget.
Fun to photograph that is the rumor the meaning of the name of Pohono Bridge. Going southside towards the valley Pohono bridge is on the road that joins the Southside to the Northside and closer to the Northside. (Pohono Bridge ) A sandy beach a calm river and serene surroundings this is worth a visit. (Moss on the tree at Pohono).
The Yosemite Valley Chapel is the oldest public building still in use. Built in 1879 this chapel is surrounded by nature’s bounty. Overlooking the Chapel ( Red Chapel) is the mighty Yosemite falls. ( Yosemite falls), one can even see the reflection of these falls in small icy water puddles ( Fall reflections ); to the right of the chapel looms Half dome (Church and Half Dome ).
Sentinel bridge offers another iconic view of Half Dome (Half Dome from Sentinel bridge).
The horse tail falls are perhaps the most talked about and yet the most elusive to capture. As the sun sets in the month of February the sunlight reflects off the mist on Horsetail falls and as it gets darker the hue of the reflections on the mist turns flaming orange, as if a streak of fire lights the mountain. But that happens rarely. February is when it happens, needs a perfect sunset and no clouds. This spot is February is full of people- to get a spot one needs to start early. Edie Howe, my neighbor has spent several years in February at her spot. She comes in early afternoon and books her spot. Armed with her music her camera gear and a huge flask of good whisky Erie faithully waits for nature’s magic to unfold. Erie knows this mountain intimately and she identifies various shapes on the fall with graphic details- “That spot is an inverted banana, that one is a horse’s butt, that is wizard and a wizard hat and that one —- aah the female anatomy”. Erie know that the moment the shadows cross the banana and reach the wizard and the sun sets and there is no cloud there will be nature’s magic. (Horsetail fall just a moment before the clouds ruined the show ) The evening was perfect and everything was playing to plan and then the clouds set in. Even a hearty “You are my sunshine…” from Erie picked up by the crowd would not deter the clouds. The show was not to be. Perhaps another day another year!