Tioga Pass will be opening fully tomorrow, July 1st – one of its latest opening dates ever. For the past week or so the pass has been open on a limited basis, from 10 to 11 a.m. and 3 to 4 p.m. each day, with no stopping or “recreating” allowed. But starting tomorrow it will be open 24 hours, with stopping and recreating – including photography! – permitted.
Yosemite Photo Conditions
One afternoon about ten days ago Claudia and I headed up Highway 120, west of Yosemite Valley, to check on the fall color. We found some colorful dogwoods between the Valley and Crane Flat, but west of Crane Flat most of the dogwoods were brown, scorched by the Ferguson Fire last summer. Or, to be more accurate, they had been scorched by firing operations (back burns) performed by firefighters along the road.
We decided to hike down to the Tuolumne Grove of giant sequoias. While the Ferguson Fire didn’t reach the Tuolumne Grove, the Rim Fire did in 2013. The media latched onto this story, with headlines about the fire threatening these ancient trees.
Last winter was a strange one in the Yosemite area, with most of the precipitation coming in March, followed by a big, warm rainstorm in early April that created flooding in Yosemite Valley. That rainstorm melted much of the snowpack below 9,000 feet, so spring came early in those low- and mid-elevation areas. We found some nice flower displays at those elevations, but nothing exceptional.
Above 9,000 feet, however, the snowpack remained intact, even after the early-April flood. And that lingering snow led to an exceptional bloom in the highest elevations. Back in July, before the fires, Claudia and I photographed the flowers as much as we could, and we also led our Range of Light workshop group to a couple of our favorite flower spots.
I just finished teaching a workshop, so I’m catching up on posting images from earlier this summer. As I mentioned in a recent post, Claudia and I made several trips in June to the higher elevations of Yosemite to look for wildflowers. We found many shooting stars, which are one of the early bloomers in the high country. They’re beautiful flowers, but they always grow in marshy areas, full of mosquitos. So over the years my brain has made an association between shooting stars and their accompanying insect pests, and just seeing these flowers triggers a psychological reaction that literally makes me itch.
But aside from that initial visceral reaction to the sight of shooting stars, mosquitos don’t generally faze me much. I’ve actually developed a partial immunity to the mosquitos in Yosemite, so bites don’t create welts or make me itch anymore. Mosquitos are still annoying, but a little insect repellent keeps them at bay and lets me concentrate on photographing flowers.
The Glacier Point Road opened early this year – on Saturday, April 28th. Then it closed again two days later due to a chance of snow. When Claudia and I drove up to Yosemite Valley on Tuesday to check on the dogwoods the Glacier Point Road was still closed.
On Wednesday afternoon I finished writing a post about the dogwoods, and then decided to look at the Yosemite webcams. The forecast called for a chance of showers and thunderstorms over the high country, and sure enough, the webcams showed some cloud buildup. I called the Yosemite road and weather number (209-372-0200), and lo and behold, the Glacier Point Road was open! At this point it was already 4:30 in the afternoon, but the sun wouldn’t set until 7:50, so there might still be enough time to get up to Glacier Point. I told Claudia the Glacier Point Road was open, and she didn’t hesitate: “Let’s go!”
Claudia and I went up to Yosemite Valley yesterday to check on the dogwoods. We had heard they were a bit late this year, but were starting to come out. And indeed they seem to be coming out quickly, and are close to their photographic peak now. Some are still greenish, a few looked a bit bedraggled already, and many seem to be leafing out quickly, but overall they were quite pretty. Some trees weren’t as full as I’ve seen them in the past, but others had more blossoms than usual.
Dogwoods bloom for two to three weeks, but I think they’re most photogenic when the blossoms are fresh (like now), and before the leaves get too big (which tends to hide the flowers a bit).