Archive for the ‘25 Years in Yosemite’ Category

A Memorable New Year’s Eve

Monday, December 31st, 2012

Three Brothers reflected in the Merced River on a moonlit night, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

Three Brothers reflected in the Merced River on a moonlit night, Yosemite NP, CA, USA

It was 1985 — I think. My fiancé Claudia and I had started working at The Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite Valley in September. On New Year’s Eve it snowed, but after dark the storm broke, and a full moon appeared through rifts in the clouds.

Someone suggested going cross-country skiing in the moonlight. With a few co-workers from the gallery and other valley friends we gathered our ski equipment and headed out to the Ahwahnee Meadow. There were nine of us altogether (I only know that because a snapshot of the group has survived). Most of the group weren’t experienced skiers, and I remember a lot of flailing and falling while we were trying to cross a ditch in the meadow.

Then someone had the brilliant idea of skiing to Mirror Lake, about two miles away. In our youthful exuberance and folly we all thought this sounded great. We skied out past the Ahwahnee Hotel and along the old roads that lead to the lake. At one point Claudia, myself, and a few others got behind the rest of the group, only to be ambushed by snowballs as we entered a stand of trees.

We eventually made it to Mirror Lake around midnight. None of us thought to bring any champagne, but it didn’t matter — we were quite happy anyway, and thought it was a fitting way to greet the new year.

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Falling Fire

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012
Horsetail Fall at sunset, February 1995

Horsetail Fall at sunset, February 1995

What makes Horsetail Fall so special? It seemed appropriate at this time of year to re-post this article from my 25 Years in Yosemite blog, where I talk about the photographic history of this waterfall, and the unique topography that creates the lighting phenomenon so many photographers have tried to capture:

Many people remember Yosemite’s firefall. On summer evenings from 1872 until 1968 the owners and employees of the Glacier Point Hotel pushed burning hot embers off the top of the Glacier Point cliff toward Yosemite Valley. The effect resembled a waterfall of fire. When the hotel burned down in 1969 the park service decided to end the ritual because this unnatural event caused visitors to trample meadows in their attempts to find a viewing spot.

I first visited Yosemite in 1980, so I never saw the firefall. On the park’s centennial anniversary in 1990 rumors spread that the park service would reenact the firefall, unannounced, but it never happened.

Yosemite, though, has an amazing natural “firefall.” For about ten days each February, if conditions are right, a thin ribbon of water dropping from the East Buttress of El Capitan, called Horsetail Fall, turns vivid orange when backlit by the setting sun.

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