Lightning in the air...
I am spellbound by this place. When I first moved to California back in '97, the first thing I wanted to see was Yosemite. I have been there a dozen times and each one has been a totally unique experience. The latest was a repeat winter snowshoeing/camping trip to Dewey Point overlooking the Yosemite Valley and across from El Capitan.
Like the previous year, we drove most of the night to get an early start snowshoeing from Badger Pass to Dewey Point to camp for the weekend in the snow. This was to be a 1 year anniversary for me and my sweetheart who met in a wilderness training class sponsored by the Santa Rosa Junior College. This year we met up with the current class to share the experience again.
The weather forecast looked ominous but we were still gung ho to weather whatever came our way. As soon as we set out with our backpacks and snow shoes, the weather started to turn and we had to set up camp, not near Dewey Point but back in the shelter of a wooded grove off the trail and out of the wind. The mid afternoon temperature was hovering near freezing by the time we started to put up our tents. The predicted snow started out as icy pellets nearly the size of BBs.
We got settled in and made some lunch and decided to take a short nap. The icy precipitation would stick to the tent and we would occasionally bat at the sides to get it to slide off. We got up to hear some commotion about some of the class campers not being seen for 2 hours. We were losing daylight and the snow was changing over to heavier flurries. It was predicted that up to 3 feet would fall over the next 24 hours. We tried following several sets of snow shoe tracks to see if we could locate the 2 missing students. We regrouped and started searching the main trails to see if we could located them or signs that they might have crossed the trail. After about an hour we did locate them and they were OK. They forgot one of important rules about letting someone know where you are going and when you plan to be back. They didn't take their "10 essentials" either. It turned out OK but could have been disastrous if they had gotten turned around in the heavy snow. Even my 30 inch snow shoe foot prints were obliterated within 15 minutes when I back tracked to the camp to let the others know we had found them.
Along with the snow came higher winds and an occasional flash followed by a thunder clap that echoed all over the grove we were sheltering in. It was strangely comforting as I remember snow storms in Maine as a boy. You can literally feel lightning in the air when it?s snowing. We got back to camp and everyone was glad that no one got hurt or worse. We all went to our respective tents and went about the business of getting some hot food in us and readying ourselves for more wild weather.
We ended up taking two hours around midnight to dig out our tent. A few of the other tents didn't fare as well and collapsed during the night but no one was rattled by the experience. The next morning broke with every tree laden with a thick blanket of snow. We started the process of digging out AGAIN and found out that the trip was being cut short due to more snow on the way. We were both sad and glad that the weekend trip would be shortened as it would take too long to pack everything up and break trail again on the trip out in fresh snow.
As it turned out, several other campers were doing the same thing so the trail was quickly reestablished with this new "march of the penguins". We got out by noon back to Badger Pass to find our vehicles covered like they had been there all winter. We dug them out and drove all the way back home to have snow still clinging like we had just pulled out of the parking lot.
We went to Yosemite to camp in the snows at 7000 feet and to see the grandeur of Yosemite's awesome views in winter. We didn't see much of what we saw the year before but the experience of being there and seeing another side to this majestic place has me planning for more. I think you could spend 366 days there a year and not see all that this wonderland has to offer. I only hope that the rest of my days have some small slices of time partitioned to take it all in.