For a couple of weeks each February, the Horsetail Falls in Yosemite
National Park appears to be set ablaze by the setting sun, a fleeting evening
spectacle known as the “firefall.” Though renowned photographer Ansel
Adams captured the gleaming waterfall in 1940, the “firefall” didn’t become
widely known until National Geographic photographer Galen
Rowell documented it in 1973. The geometry of the Yosemite Valley
confines the firefall to mid-February, typically in the 15 minutes before sunset
from February 16 to February 23. But weather plays a crucial role in whether the
firefall pours down El Capitan’s eastern side (as we experienced this time...).
Getting there ...
It was a stormy day to drive to Yosemite. Although we knew the chance to
see a fantastic firefall was very slim this time, it was always a good feeling to
get away from the daily work to immerge to the nature. It was rainy all the
way, but luckily it was relatively mild in temperature so no snow chains were
required in the Yosemite Valley.
The First Day ...
- Tunnel View
We made our first stop at the classic Tunnel View. The mist and fog
lingered around the valley made the view even more mysterious (like a
Chinese landscape painting).
- Bridalveil Fall
I walked to the base of Bridalveil Fall (too misty to take any
pictures). The stream beside the trail was in its full power rushing
- Half Dome Village (formally Curry Village)
We booked a cabin with
private bath in the Half Dome Village. In 2016, Yosemite National Park
announced that the names of
several buildings and facilities within the park will be renamed to
eliminate potential trademark infringement issues with the concessioner of
Yosemite: Yosemite Lodge at the Falls --> Yosemite Valley Lodge, the
Ahwahnee --> the Majestic Yosemite Hotel, Curry Village --> Half Dome
Village, Wawona Hotel --> Big Tree Lodge, etc.
The Second Day ...
- Early morning in Yosemite Valley
We walked to an open space just
across the Half Dome Village. The sky was clearing up, but we still
could not see Half Dome yet.
- Badger Pass
We took the 8:05AM bus to Badger Pass where it was renamed as Yosemite Ski &
Snowboard Area. It was always good to take the bus so we did not have
to mess around the snow chains...
We took the ranger-led snowshoe walk at 10:30AM.
Woanyu and I took our first snowshoe walk here in 1996 before we had kids (and
now it is just 2 of us again!). We tried snowshoe several times in the
past years (2007 in Kings Canyon, 2003 in Sequoia), but we did not really pick
up any winter sports (snowshoe, ski, cross country, etc.) as our family
since we were still not used to snow and cold conditions.
When we gathered
around the ranger station, the weather started to change quickly and it began to
snow when we headed to the trail.
We took a leisure pace to walk back after the guided tour
was done. Woanyu built a nice cute snowman, and did the snow angel thing
on the fresh snow.
- Horsetail Falls
We took the 2PM bus back to Yosemite Valley. After a simple pizza
lunch at the Half Dome Village, we decided to give it a try to wait for the
sunset at Horsetail Falls although the weather condition did not really
improve much. We stopped at the El Capitan picnic area on
the Northside Drive. This is the most popular and most crowded view of
Horsetail Falls, where Galen Rowell took his famous ”Natural Firefall”
photo. There are a few good websites with very detail
information about this firefall (e.g.,
National Geographic, etc.). It's interesting to see so many people
wait for hours for something almost impossible to happen :-)
Going Home ...
After 5:30PM, we packed our gears and left for our car. It was rainy
hard when we drove out of the valley. We will definitely come back again
for the firefall (the crowds will continue to grow...) and our patience will win
us a chance to see the best of Mother Nature.
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