Last year, I headed up to Yosemite on Halloween for several reasons. First, I knew that there would still be some color in the valley as many of the Oaks and Cottonwoods hold on to their leaves into November. Secondly, the first Winter storm of the year was due to roll in. Lastly, the road to Glacier Point was still open, but it was due to close for the season as soon as that storm blew in. With the promise of colorful leaves in the valley along with some shots of new snow on the surrounding peaks, I took off with high hopes.
As I arrived in the valley some 6.5 hours later, I was immediately struck by how low the water levels were throughout the park. Both Bridal Veil and Yosemite Falls were bone dry and the Merced River was more like a creek at this point. As the afternoon light was already quickly disappearing, I knew my shooting itme in the valley would be very limited. I knew I would probably only be able to go around the loop once before taking off for Glacier Point. As the Three Brothers were on my list, I stopped at the pullout just past Cathedral Beach and quickly grabbed a shot.
Next stop was the bend in the Merced River for some Fall leaves and a reflection of Half Dome:
I was hoping to get a shot of Ansel Adams’ Elm Tree with some orange leaves so that was my third stop:
I have always had a difficult time shooting panoramas in Yosemite as the walls of the valley don’t usually lend themselves to using wide lenses for panos, but for some reason, the 14-24 worked fine for this one. Note the completely dry Yosemite Falls. They had been dry for months at this point:
After quickly grabbing some shots from the gates of the valley, I decided I needed to get moving up to Glacier Point if I was to make it up there before the view became completely obscured by clouds.
As I arrived, I was immediately struck by how EMPTY the place was. It was late on a Friday afternoon but there were only a couple of other cars in the parking lot. Perhaps people just assumed they had already closed the road for the season? During the Summer, this entire area would have been swarming with people, but as I arrived, it looked completely deserted:
The sun was already pretty much behind the clouds at this point as the sky was growing darker around me as I continued to shoot. After grabbing some shots from the overlook, I set off down the 4 mile trail looking for a different vantage point from which to shoot back towards Half Dome. I walked for a half mile or so when I finally came upon a clearing and set up my tripod.
After only a few minutes of shooting, the sky grew darker, and it was at that moment that I found myself having one of my best experiences in Yosemite thus far. I’ve always been a bit of a weather junkie, and I LOVE that moment when a storm moves in and it’s just about to unload on you. As I was shooting, I glanced up and noticed a very dark bank of clouds heading directly toward me. As it began to snow, it occurred to me that I might actually be one of the last guests to drive off of glacier point road before they locked the gates for the Winter Season. I defintley remember thinking that there was no where else I would rather be at that moment as I stood alone at Glacier Point in the first snow storm of the season.
After relishing the moment, I made a hasty retreat back to my car as the view was quickly deteriorating. I drove down through the snow to stay the night with my good friends Scott and Denise Ganser who live nearby in Mariposa. I fell asleep that night listening to the rain outside hoping that the next morning would bring me a decent sunrise with fresh snow along the rim of the valley.
(To be continued)