Thursday, January 20, 2011

Yosemite in Winter - 2 of 3

Jenny and I agreed that the previous day was such a delight that we could drive home right away and feel satisfied. Still we were excited about the day's photographic opportunities - and, despite subfreezing temperatures the previous night, we'd managed to stay warm and wake relatively refreshed. We began the morning with a favorite excursion: a hike to Mirror Lake.

Keeping our feet on crunchy snow to avoid slippery ice patches we climbed a moderately steep incline, saying hello to the occasional snowshoe-wearing trekker. From time to time we passed groups of folks sledding down snowy hills. Jenny and I agreed that we'd buy some sleds for our next winter trip (though I secretly hoped that we could find a hill with a decent ski lift). Arriving at Mirror Lake we delighted to see that much of the surface was frozen over. Gingerly, and then with growing confidence, we crossed the frozen plateau and peered at branches that dipped underneath the ice.

Later we headed for the prairie near Yosemite lodge, gazing at the mist hanging over the snow. I saw a clutch of trees standing in spindly solitude against the white plain; I knew I had to snap some pictures. The sun hung low, so I dashed out of the car. I wanted that light. Jenny saw the thick layer of snow and contemplated her socks. This hike would be solitary, she announced, but I didn't mind. Like a wheezing locomotive I clomped my legs up and down through the snow in a steady push toward the grove. Midway to my destination I abandoned hope of keeping my feet dry. I was committed, my camera ready. I arrived just in time - for the sun to set behind the cliff. I smiled anyway.

Looking back toward the lodge I saw a thin line of cars parked along the prairie's edge. A few folks had ventured onto the field. Some threw snowballs; others made snowmen. They were laughing, but I couldn't hear them. Alone near that grove of naked trees I could only hear my own breathing. An icy chill was creeping through my socks, tingling my feet. I hurriedly composed shots of reflecting ice and that arrow of trees. I dreaded the march back through the snow, but I couldn't tarry. Though Jenny is patient I couldn't make her wait too long. I turned away from the grove and began to ply my way back.

We enjoyed lunch and hiked a little more, climbing a treacherously frozen pathway to Bridalveil Fall. Then we made our way to the tunnel view and its glorious panorama of El Cap, Half Dome, the Three Brothers, and Bridalveil. As usual we fielded requests to take pictures for other couples (once more I appreciated our decision long ago to buy a cheap but functional tripod). Jenny struggled to make sense of the controls of one especially odd camera while I surveyed the scene. Finally it was time for us to begin our drive to Scotts Valley, both of us missing our kitties and anticipating a relaxed evening back home. There was just one last drive Jenny wanted us to take, a detour that would lead to a most surprising encounter.

(Photographs by Andrew and Jenny Wood)

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