I love winter, and I love snow. But when Claudia and I learned that our house might get two or more feet of snow during the last weekend of February we knew things might get difficult.
We’ve lived in our house in Mariposa since 2005, and several times have received eight inches of snow, and once even got ten inches. Our road and driveway don’t get plowed, and feature a couple of steep hills, but with high clearance and four-wheel-drive we can get in and out with eight or ten inches of snow. But not more than that. With two feet of snow we’d be stuck for awhile.
And with that much snow lots of trees and limbs were bound to fall, taking out power lines, so we’d probably also be without electricity. We have a generator, but if we couldn’t go out and get more fuel for it we’d have to use the generator sparingly.
Being stuck at home without power for perhaps a week or more didn’t sound like much fun, so we decided to escape and make an impromptu road trip. We ended up going to Death Valley, Zion, Valley of Fire, and Lone Pine.
It turned into a great trip. Our first stop was Death Valley, where we got to experience an uncommon event for the driest place in North America: rain. We saw clouds, mist, salt flats filled with water, and lots of snow in the surrounding mountains, giving them an alpine look that you don’t often see. It was fun to experience and photograph, and I’ve included a selection of photos here from during and after the storm in Death Valley. I’ll post photos from the rest of our trip later.
We’re back home now. While we were gone our neighborhood got close to three feet of snow, and there was still 15 inches of very wet snow on the ground in places when we returned. Lots of limbs came down, and the power went out three times, for a total of about four days. Most of our neighbors were stuck in place for the better part of a week. But everyone is safe and sound, with no major damage to structures.
When we first returned home we had to park at the bottom of our long driveway, but heavy rain over the last couple of days has melted most of the snow, and with our neighbor’s help we were able to clear a large downed branch from the driveway, so we can now get in and out normally. Almost all the live oaks on our property have either toppled or lost branches, so things are a mess. (Live oaks are evergreen, and not designed to handle that much snow.) But our house escaped damage, so we were lucky. Many people around the state have suffered much worse. It’s been quite a winter!
— 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.