Sub-freezing temperatures didn't stop us from tackling one of Yosemite's many incredible hikes.
An article by Evan Quarnstrom
Yosemite’s towering granite walls never cease to amaze me. I still remember the first time my eyes gazed upon the valley, and up to that point, I really had very little interest in the outdoors. I was 20 years old and the magic of Yosemite planted its seed in my mind, sending me on a mission to experience the outdoors as I had never done before. Just a few months later I did my first backpacking trip in Big Sur, and things took off from there. (I have definitely learned a lot since that first three-day, water-deprived, tentless backpacking trip that I completed in jeans.)
Now since I was up in Santa Cruz for the 2018/19 holidays and fresh off the adrenaline rush of seeing Free Solo, Madison and I decided to make the hop across California’s Central Valley and head up into the Sierras for a quick excursion to Yosemite.
The countless avid readers of my blog will remember that my summer 2018 plans to go to Yosemite, which included a permit to hike the famed Half Dome, were postponed due to the Ferguson Fire. Regardless, we ended up making the most out of that trip, but we were determined to come back.
We chose an interesting time to go to Yosemite, due to the physical and political climate.
I had never been to Yosemite in the winter or done any sub-freezing hiking for that matter. I knew the temperature would pose its own set of challenges and lessons to be learned.
On the other hand, the United States government had just partially shut down. President Trump’s $5 billion ransom to secure funding for a ‘physically imposing’ structure at the southern border had put the National Park funding on the chopping block.
Despite some widespread sensationalized articles circulating online, the government shutdown in Yosemite went largely unnoticed by me, other than the evident scarcity of park rangers. We were not drowning in trash and feces as some of the articles had made it seem.
We packed our warmest clothes, splurged on an off-season priced hotel not far from the valley entrance, and headed off for a quick two-day trip in Yosemite.
After a day spent taking in the scenery, it was time to hit the trails. We decided to tackle Yosemite Point via the Upper Yosemite Falls Trail. I had only ever hiked on the south side of the valley (Half Dome, Sentinel Dome, Taft Point, etc.) and Yosemite Point’s 10 mile hike with 3,600 feet of elevation gain on the valley’s north face seemed like the perfect challenge without pushing our limits in the icy conditions.
Yosemite Falls, among the highest waterfalls in the world at 2,400 feet, is one of the main attractions of the park. In the spring and summer it’s a rushing torrent of water, but during our winter visit it was just a relative trickle. However, the snow and icy version of the waterfall sheds a different light on its beauty.
When all was said and done, it was a refreshing change to see Yosemite during a different season. The valley is most well-known for its Spring and Summer looks, but I enjoyed the winter just as much. The snow, ice, and relative lack of crowds showed its beauty in a unique way that is worth experiencing.
Now let’s hope we win the Half Dome lottery again in 2019. We’ll be back!