Long before the Oak Fire, Claudia and I had planned to go on a trip into the Sierra backcountry with some photographer friends. We would be using mules to transport our gear into a remote campsite, staying for six nights, and making day hikes to nearby photo locations.
The fire threatened to disrupt those plans, but once we were able to return home, and our power was restored, it seemed possible that we could make the trip. It meant we had to pack rather hurriedly, but it was doable, and seemed like the perfect getaway.
It turned out to be quite an adventure. The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for the mountains on our first day, and soon after we set up camp that afternoon an intense thunderstorm developed overhead. We all huddled in our tents, pummeled by torrential rain and hail, while lightning struck all around us.
Claudia and I made this video of ourselves reacting to a loud clap of thunder while we waited out the storm in our tent.
We had tried to pick tent sites that wouldn’t flood, but that proved to be impossible, since every conceivable spot had water pouring into it. When Claudia and I realized there was a pool of water around our tent we got out, thinking that our body weight might force water up through the floor of our tent. We had set up a canopy to provide a sheltered place to cook and eat in the rain, but that was standing in six inches of water, so Claudia and I waited out the remainder of the storm standing under a group of trees.
The rain let up somewhat by evening. We could see that the creek we had crossed to reach our camp was now a raging torrent full of brown water. We clearly weren’t going to be able to cross that creek for awhile, but we had plenty of food, and lots of places we could explore on our side of the creek.
When the rain eased up a bit we looked at the creek we had crossed to get to our camp, which was now a raging torrent. Seemed like we might be stuck for awhile!
The rain stopped after dark, then returned around 2:00 a.m., and continued most of the next day. But the rain-generated mist wrapping around the nearby mountains was quite photogenic, so we ventured out whenever the rain let up a bit. Then, late in the day, the rain actually stopped, and we were treated to an incredible sunset.
The sun came out the next day, allowing us to dry out our clothes and relax a bit. The rest of the trip brought only a few sprinkles, but lots of photogenic clouds. We had great conditions for photography, but more importantly, we had a wonderful time hanging out together while exploring and photographing a beautiful area. It was just what we needed.
Here are some photos from those first two rainy days, but I’ll post images from the rest of the trip soon.
— Michael Frye
Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He is the author or principal photographer of The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite, Yosemite Meditations, Yosemite Meditations for Women, Yosemite Meditations for Adventurers, and Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters. He has also written three eBooks: Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom, Exposure for Outdoor Photography, and Landscapes in Lightroom: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide. Michael has written numerous magazine articles on the art and technique of photography, and his images have been published in over thirty countries around the world. Michael has lived either in or near Yosemite National Park since 1983, currently residing just outside the park in Mariposa, California.