I think it is best not to get yourself too down about inclement weather conditions, as sometimes they reveal new perspectives on landscapes that you otherwise wouldn’t have experienced. After all the clearest days can be experienced through any number of photography collections, but the textured light that shines through cloud can feel much more unique. This was pretty much our experience during our 2 night stint at the famous Yosemite National Park. Our hopes were high for Yosemite, with the dramatic landscapes captured through the photographs of artists such as Ansel Adams providing inspiration for our trip to the US in the first place. We woke on our first morning (after arriving late at night to the Wawona Campground) to drive up to the valley, where a huge deluge of snow greeted us. We had planned to tackle a walk or two that afternoon but the snowfall was too heavy. A little downhearted, we instead joined in on a ranger walk around the valley on the search for some endemic fauna. The focus of the walk was to find some Ensatina, a genus of salamanders that have been described as a ‘ring species’. The following diagram and this site help explain what this means, but basically the group forms a horseshoe shape around the mountains of the Sierra Nevada. While each of the populations can interbreed, the two furthest or ‘end’ species cannot (although gene flow may occur between then). Therefore they provide great evidence for evolution, show how populations diverge from one another genetically in a way that usually only is seen over a great deal of time.
We did in fact manage to track one of these guys down pretty quickly (although after the untimely death of our camera battery), apparently no easy feat according to the ranger. And as he pointed out it is always a pretty special thing to come across a life form you never have before, especially one so unique.
With day one breaking even, we hoped that day two would give us a chance to get into some walks and avoid leaving Yosemite with dry boots. Luckily the snowfall had ceased during the night and the morning was fairly clear, revealing the huge granite rock faces the park is famous for.
Feeling hopeful we set off for our walk, the destination being the Vernal and Nevada Falls on the ‘Mist Trail’. We kicked off from ‘Happy Isles’ where a herd of deer were getting plenty of attention and seemed very used to their human company (and most people seemed to be respecting their privacy by refraining from patting).
The first section was quite busy, and climbed up gravel to a bridge where most people seemed to be checking out Vernal Falls (about 1.5km in) before turning back. As flagged earlier, yesterdays weather had really been a blessing in disguise as the path was steaming and the trees sweating to provide a stunning setting.
The track became increasingly snowy as we continued to approach Nevada, and a series of steep switchbacks kept us alert.
Each turn gave a different glimpse over the Valley, until finally the awe inspiring vista across to the falls was revealed. And lucky for us even Half Dome managed to peak out briefly from behind some clouds. You could really feel everyone around you at Liberty Point being inspired by this special place, and it was one of those spots (Crater Lake was another) where we simply didn’t want to turn back and leave.
Of course all good things must come to an end, and after a quick walk to Mirror Lake and Yosemite Falls to round out the day, we headed back towards the California Coast in the dead of night, marking down Yosemite as a place we would definitely need to return to in another season to take in the full range of its visual performances.
- Trail notes for the Mist Trail