Day One (Friday)
Claire drove us there. Entry was a breeze despite the reservation requirement. Almost as soon as we entered the park, we started seeing snow on the ground. Stopped for a few pictures of the Merced Gorge at the entrance, and saw a coyote who was kind enough to pose for us right next to the road. Took a few more pictures of Bridalveil Falls from the roadside.
Drove over to try to see the Firefall (supposed to happen around 5:20 pm), but the falls was cloaked in a cloud. At least we got familiar with the setup – parking was just over a mile away from the lookout and one lane of traffic was blocked off for pedestrians to walk between the viewpoints and the parking. Would have been great to have a onewheel, especially if we want to try to catch the falls multiple days. There were 3-4 main viewing areas along the road, with the first one providing the most dramatic angle in my opinion. This spot had the least amount of space for spectators, so many photographers were crowded quite close to get a shot in the small opening between trees. It was dark by the time we hiked back to our cars.
By the time we got to our campsite, it was too late to go to the only open store in the park to buy firewood (best not to import firewood, and we didn’t notice any sellers outside the park). The campsite was covered in snow. I spent about 1 hour shovelling out a space for our tent and a walkway between the car, tent, picnic table, and fire pit, using our woefully inadequate folding camp shovel, while Claire prepared sausage mac and cheese. I tried to collect firewood but couldn’t find anything big enough, or dry enough. Next time, bring a hand saw or hatchet. After we pitched the tent and cleaned up from dinner, we went straight to bed, it was pretty cold. It rained lightly from late night through the morning. Some water managed to get into our tent through the seams and rain-fly, so I need to address that before we camp again.
The first half of the day was not supposed to be clear, I decided to wait to explore the valley until the next day to get better views of the peaks. Instead, we drove up to Tuolumne Grove. Had to put on snow chains for the first time. Past a certain elevation, the trees became covered in snow as well, it was beautiful. We snowshoed from the trailhead to the grove of Giant Sequoias. 3 Miles total for our first snowshoeing experience. It was not as difficult as I had imagined, we definitely could do a longer hike in the future. Trail was well-worn and easy to follow. Definitely want to do some more snowshoeing or Nordic skiing next year.
That afternoon, we stopped for a couple more photo ops in the valley before realizing the weather had cleared up nicely and we decided to try to catch the Firefall again. Claire stayed at the first spot and captured great images of it. I explored the last view-point, which was the largest and most popular, but the display was not very dramatic from this angle. Everyone clapped and cheered regardless, perhaps not wanting to admit a letdown after all the social media hype these days. We bought some firewood on our way back and roasted bratwursts on sticks over the open fire. Caramelized some onions and peppers in the skillet over the fire, and ate it all on pretzel rolls. The temperature Saturday night was surprisingly not that cold.
Sunday was supposed to be clear weather in the valley so we went to all the usual Yosemite suspects – Lower Yosemite Fall Trail (flowing nicely), hiked around the valley, and drove to Tunnel View. Saw another coyote in a field in the valley along the way. We got back to our campsite with just enough time to hike to Mirror Lakes and back before dark. Dinner Sunday was silver turtles, which really hit the spot. Ground beef, poblano, potato, corn and a few other veggies with random mix of spices from our house. I attempted dutch oven cobbler in the skillet covered with foil, but really overcooked it. The middle was tasty, but the coals were in too direct of contact with the skillet. Really need to use a proper dutch oven.
Final Day (Monday)
The weatherman said it was going to start raining in the late morning, and we did not want to pack up in the rain, so we booked it out of there as fast as we could once we woke up. Stopped for a mocha at Pony Espresso in Mariposa, and made our way home.