The fire fall eluded us. We had ventured to the Yosemite Valley to photograph the "fire fall" made famous by renowned photographer Galen Rowell. During the later part of February, on clear evenings, when the sun sets at the proper longitude, its golden rays illuminate the granite wall of the El Capitan monolith in Yosemite National Park. In turn, the alpenglow from the rock is reflected into the watery spray from Horsetail Falls that cascade down the face of El Capitan. This February, however, mother nature conspired against us. It requires a clear sky to trigger the fire fall effect. Our fear was that skies would be overcast. Not so, we had sparkling clear skies to the west. But, there was no water draining from the top of El Cap and, consequently, no waterfall and no fire fall.
In the hope of replicating Galen Rowell's famous photograph, Jane and I had planned a week's vacation with Bruce Hollingsworth and his wife Debbie to Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks. We had planned to be in Yosemite for several days to maximize the chance of clear skies. The thought that California's drought would dry up Horsetail Falls never occurred. Making up for this disappointment, the four of us enjoyed an expensive night out at the Ahwahnee Lodge. Bruce and I did pursue some photography in the valley but our hearts were not in it. In February, Yosemite needs snow to create interesting photographic compositions and there was none. Along the Merced River, with its low-water cascades and rocky shoreline, we did find some interesting scenes to photograph. Since there was no water to generate Horsetail Falls, we spent our time instead photographing Half Dome at twilight.
After three days we left the warm, snow-less Yosemite Valley for the higher elevations of Sequoia National Park. Jane and I have fond memories of a previous visit to Sequoia when there had been lots of snow. Although cooler than Yosemite, Sequoia also offered no snowy compositions. The long term weather forecast predicted an approaching storm that could bring snow. The front desk clerk at the Wuksachi Lodge did not express much confidence in the veracity of the forecast. Much to our surprise, however, it began to snow on our second day and it snowed almost continuously for some forty-eight hours, accumulating more than two feet of dry, fluffy snow. The ghost trees, that Jane and I had hoped to see during our January trip to Yellowstone, we found instead in Sequoia. With all this snow, we decided to stay an extra day to soak in the beauty of this newly created winter wonderland. Unfortunately, Bruce and Debbie had commitments in San Diego and could not stay. After installing chains on Bruce's vehicle, they headed down the mountain as Jane and I enjoyed libations and watched big snow flakes float down from the grey sky through the large lounge windows.