A hop, skip and a few hours drive from San Francisco, I find myself a in completely different world in Yosemite National Park and experiencing a landscape unlike anything I’ve ever encountered before.
As I left San Francisco, the weather was as stereotypical Californian as it could be with blue skies and bright sunshine, yet as I approached the rising mountains of Yosemite, I felt an immediate shift in the air. As if I had driven through a portal to another world, a mere matter of minutes after the ascent began up winding forest roads, I suddenly found myself driving right through a snow cloud. Well aware that I had brought neither snow chains nor even winter clothing, I was beginning to wonder whether I’d even make it to the hotel or would be able to hike in these conditions.
As I eventually drove up to the entrance of the Big Trees Lodge past a half-frozen fountain, the snow was as persistent as ever and I was sure that my arrival this early in the season might have been a poorly timed decision. Though, with few people around, I was given a rather good room at the very back of Moore Cottage with a shared bathroom and quickly dropped off my bags and found an extra sweater to layer up with. The hotel consists of several picturesque Victorian buildings with classic white verandas and surrounded by the lush Yosemite nature. There’s only wifi in one little sun lounge at the farthest end of one the of main buildings, so I was fairly glad that I had stocked up on a few books in advance.
Determined to not let the weather keep me indoors, I crossed the nearby river and walked to the pioneer village, which was completely abandoned as the snow continued to coat the roofs of the small wooden houses and the adjacent covered bridge.
Yet, in a shift of weather unlike anything I’ve seen, from one moment to the next, the clouds parted, the snow stopped and the afternoon sun suddenly appeared.
As I made my way back to the hotel, I was told by the staff that as the weather was improving, the tunnel into the main Yosemite valley was now open for cars without snow chains and I figured that I could get in a quick afternoon walk along the mist trail along Vernal fall.
As the first half of the trail is asphalted, it proved an good route to ease into the hiking before reaching the spray of the fall and the steep incline of the cliff side. There were few people on the trail in the afternoon sun, so I had good stretches to myself where I could simply lose myself in the view with the sound of the water coming down nearby.
Standing atop the fall and looking down onto the misty trail below, I can’t help but feel that in the span of a single day, I’ve experienced several seasons within Yosemite and am already falling under its spell. I simply can’t recommend a trip to this natural wonder enough.