Dan's Outside

I go, I see, I do, I walk, I think, I like…

A Fall Weekend in Yosemite

I had the opportunity to make one last fall color trip to Yosemite this past weekend – and this time I didn’t try to cram the whole trip into a single day.

I left reasonably early on Saturday so that I could be in the Valley shortly after dawn. On the first day I spent a fair amount of time chasing the last gasp of the fall foliage. It had been at its peak the previous weekend, so I knew that many of the leaves would have fallen – but there were still some great examples of autumn color, including large maple leaves in some of the shady areas along the south side of the Valley.

I ended the day by shooting the classic view of Half Dome from the meadow near Yosemite Village before camping in Upper Pines on Saturday night. I often wonder what the other nearby campers must think about my “camping” practices. Since I’m generally off photographing until the last light fades, I usually show up in camp after dark. I sit at the campsite picnic table cooking up a quick dinner on my backpacking stove, and then pretty much go right to sleep. Then I’m up an hour or more before sun rise and gone.

On Sunday I was up at 4:45 – somewhat consoling myself that with the time change it was really kind of, sort of, like 5:45 the day before – and leaving without breakfast to drive to Glacier Point to photograph the sunrise. I’m more used the the crowds that often assemble there in the summer to view the sunset, so I was a bit surprised to find only three other people enjoying the stunning view of the Sierra sunrise. (In fact, as near as I could tell, there were only five people on the entire Glacier Point road at this early hour.)

Having had no breakfast and finding nothing open at Glacier Point, I began to think about heading back to the Valley for some coffee and food. An hour or so after sunrise I started to drive back to the Valley, but got distracted by frost on Bridal Veil creek meadow, and then by interesting foliage and a burned area of the Valley floor.

By the time I finished with these distractions I realized that I had barely enough time to get to (what passes for) a coffee shop at Curry Village. Unfortunately – but not surprisingly – they had almost closed up a good half hour before they were scheduled to do so. I decide to forego the last stale looking muffin in their display and instead went back to Upper Pines and broke camp. I figured I might find something to eat over at Yosemite Village, and I made the mistake of getting a “breakfast croissant” at Degnan’s. Let me officially warn other Yosemite visitors against this unwise choice! Mine was made even less palatable when the “cook” neglected to remove the paper from the cheese slices before serving it to me. Yum. Not. At least they had espresso. :-)

Having the rest of the afternoon free before my planned sunset shoot I spent a bit more time in the Valley, including some time photographing meadows and oaks near the Ahwanhee. My plan was to then drive up near the Wawona Tunnel to check out that classic view before sunset. I often forego this overdone view of the Valley unless the conditions are really special, but having sufficient time I thought I’d check it out. My main plan was actually to photograph a different view of Half Dome and El Capitan from Highway 120. When I got to the Tunnel parking lot I quickly realized that a managed fire above El Capitan was interfering with all photographic opportunities at the west end of the Valley, so I decided to do another classic scene at the Sentinel Bridge. This view includes Half Dome and at this time of year a lot of interesting fall foliage over the Merced River.

As the light finally faded I got in the car and started the drive back to the Bay Area, glad that standard time had arrived, allowing me to get home “an hour earlier” than the previous week.

(Photos from this trip will appear at my photography web site over the next few weeks.)

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November 6, 2007 - Posted by | Commentary, Places, Trips, Yosemite

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