I can’t believe it took me 25 years to finally make it to Yosemite. When they say it’s one of those places you need to see with your own eyes, they mean it. This park exceeded all of my wildest waterfall and redwood dreams. Andrew and I arrived a few days early to soak it all in and do some location scouting before my session with Nixie and Mike.
It was off season, at the tail end of winter, so the park was pleasantly quiet. As we drove through the gates, we couldn’t keep our jaws from hanging open. All the snow on the valley floor already melted away, but the massive peaks were dusted with white. There was a slight chill to the air and every so often, you could hear a massive crack, then a loud crash, as ice broke away from the falls and plummeted to the rocks below. Clouds swiftly passed over the sun, casting beautiful light over the surreal landscape before us.
A few months earlier, Andrew introduced me to the firefall phenomenon that happens for 10 days in mid-February. When the sun hits Horsetail Fall just right and conditions are perfect, it glows bright orange like lava. We thought the chances of us witnessing it in person were slim, but we decided to see if we could catch it anyway. We waited at the base of the falls for two hours with nearly 150 other spectators. Ten minutes before sundown…it happened. The firefall is an unbelievable spectacle of nature, like nothing I have ever seen before. And just like that, this park made an imprint on my heart forever.
Andrew and I were up to watch sunrise over Tunnel View and squeeze the most out of our last day. Nixie and Mike met us by Bridalveil fall that afternoon. They are from the Bay area, also first timers to Yosemite. I think it made the experience of exploring together even sweeter.
We wandered through the redwoods as the sun danced in between trees. The icy ground and cold shower of water kept us at the bottom of the waterfall trail, but the mist blowing through the trees shimmered in the golden light. We headed back up to Tunnel View, certain it was a vantage point of the valley Nixie and Mike couldn’t miss.
Our last stop was the viewpoint of Lower Yosemite Fall from the valley floor and the small red chapel nearby. The sky started to look stormy and the wind picked up, prickling our skin with goosebumps and blowing away Nixie’s hat. Amazingly, we could see the effects of the firefall happening again from where we stood. Horsetail fall wasn’t visible this time, but the peaks around us glowed orange, then blue in the twilight.
Thanks for an adventure I’m unlikely to forget soon, Nixie and Mike.