Yosemite National Park finally got some snow this winter, but this time it took a while. The lack of snow had locals concerned because of the heightened risk for forest fires. No melting snow in the spring means worsened conditions for the fires that threaten California every year. So I am glad it finally snowed, but I am also thankful I got to visit Yosemite in the snow-less part of the winter for several reasons:
- It is a rarity
No snow in the middle of January at Yosemite is unheard of. The San Jose Mercury News reported that the conditions at Yosemite this year have been rarely, if ever, seen in the park’s 147-year history.
I was able to travel on Tioga Pass Road, California’s highest state highway, and have a view of the frozen Tenaya and Ellery Lakes. According to the article, the Tioga Pass into Yosemite has never been opened that far into January, as far as records can tell. Modern record-keeping began in 1933; since then, the latest the pass has been open was January 1 in 2000. Kari Cobb, a Yosemite spokesperson announced that if the snow melts the pass will be reopen, the article said, allowing visitors to drive through even later into the year, which hasn’t happened in the past 70 years. If the snow sticks, the pass will be most likely closed until the summer.
Another reason for loving it?
- Few people
I had never been to Yosemite before, but another more frequent visitor of the park mentioned how in the summer “it’s worse than Disney.” According to A Guide to Yosemite National Park, a very useful informational site, between 3.4 and 4.1 million people visit Yosemite National Park each year. The park is most popular in the summer. Because conditions are tougher in winter, and driving and hiking options are limited, fewer people visit during that time of the year.
Apparently, not many people knew, including myself (because I traveled all the way from this coast), there had not been any snow. For that reason there were not many people at all. The park felt empty and therefore more into the wilderness and awesome. Very easy trails that on any summer day would have been packed with people, or closed in a normal winter day, were empty and open. I hiked up to Sentinel Dome (2.2 miles round trip) right before sunrise for a beautiful 360 degree view of the park. The foot marks on the trail reminded me of how rare the emptiness of that place was and I felt extremely fortunate to have it all to myself.
- The scenery is different and beautiful during winter.
-Sleeping outside under the stars in a good sleeping bag (hoping the bears are hibernating) is priceless.
The experience was amazing overall. But although it was beautiful and I was lucky to experience such a rarity, it for sure says something about climate change. Something to think about.