Yosemite National Park Sign in the snow
Mike's Meanderings National Park Treasures

Solitude In a Yosemite Snow Globe

Growing up during Minnesota winters was great as a young kid. Snowball fights. Skiing. Ice fishing. Building a snowman. But as life morphed into my 30’s, 40’s, …. wait, I think I’ll stop right there to save further embarrassment … the cold and the white fluffy stuff really lost its luster. So here we were, over 2,000 miles from home, cussing at the meteorologist on the local news. REALLY! Up to a foot of snow in the higher elevations of the Sierra Nevada mountains? This early April trip to California and Yosemite National Park was SUPPOSED to be a respite from the late season chill that was hanging on back home.

Welcome Home Weather
Just the day before we arrived at the Yosemite National Park gate amidst the beginning of the wet, chunky flakes. For safety reasons, the park rangers turned all vehicles away that didn’t have 4-wheel drive capabilities or chains for the tires. After flashing our Minnesota driver’s licenses, we were simply waved on through. (I guess we did have an all-wheel drive vehicle, but the story sounds so much better with the license flashing thing!)

About 15 minutes later the snow turned to a downpour and then stopped shortly there-after, so we figured we were in the clear for the rest of our short stay. Now here we were, a few hours later back at the hotel, pinning our hopes on a bubbly, weather-reading toothpick in a yellow and white dress. She told us through a way-too-big manufactured smile (and way-too-small television screen) that there may be 12 more inches of the frozen stuff on the ground by the time we awoke the next morning.

Yosemite at Sunrise?
Our original plan was to rise early to catch the sunrise in the park. When we asked a ranger what time the sunrise occurred, he chuckled and told us that unless we got out of the valley and way up into the snow-covered mountains, it was highly unlikely that we could even see the sphere of sun before noon. The sky would eventually just get lighter, he said. With this new snowy forecast to go along with that ranger’s assessment of sunrise, we started to rethink our game plan.

A beautiful Yosemite National Park "Sunrise" over the river
The sun beams over the river in Yosemite National Park were as impressive as any “sunrise” I’ve ever seen

In the end we decided to go for it, anyway. It was our last day here, so we might as well maximize our time in the park, right? We drove from nearby El Portal into Yosemite right at daybreak. There wasn’t another car on the road. As we turned from El Portal Road onto Southside Drive and crossed the Merced River, both of us gasped.

Yosemite National Park Sunbeams
The “Sunrise” on a deserted Yosemite National Park road

The tunnel of snowy tree cover had suddenly changed. There may not have been a sunrise, so to speak in this area, but streams of radiant light pierced through the canopy and found their way to the sparkling, rushing river. We pulled the car over and let the brightness and beauty overtake us, feeling God’s presence right there, right now.

The Magic of Solitude
Each beam felt like a warm, welcoming arm reaching down from above. Our faith and appreciation for this beautiful creation had us both shaking our heads and clicking away on our cameras.

Yosemite National Park Mule Deer, up close and personal
Yosemite National Park deer trying to hitch a ride!

Finally, we got back in the car and continued toward the trailhead for Bridalveil Falls. A group of mule deer joined us, and one nearly poked his head in through the Jeep window!

Yosemite National Park first footprints in the snow
Leaving our mark on a snowy Yosemite National Park pathway

We were the first vehicle in the parking lot and as we started down the short, quarter-mile trail, our two sets of footprints were the day’s only marks on Mother Nature’s 2-inch (not 12-inches as predicted) snow-covered path. This solitude made the peaceful quiet all the more special.

Falling Into Contentment
Once at the viewing site of the falls, we marveled at the strength of the water. The fresh melting going on atop the mountain fed the river hungrily before its 617-foot headlong plunge to where we were standing. After spending nearly 30 minutes alone with this amazing spectacle, a group of three other explorers finally broke our peaceful seclusion.

Bridalveil Falls in Yosemite National Park
Bridalveil Falls rushes with April snowmelt in Yosemite National Park

As our steps followed the crystal-clear river back toward the parking lot, plenty of sighs of contentment were heard along that trail. We were thrilled we had gone with our gut feeling and got up early, despite the Ranger’s discouragement and the Weather Twiggy’s warnings. Just like a snow globe, sometimes you gotta shake things up to make your own magic happen. This Yosemite morning definitely fell into that category.

Have you ever made a “follow-your-gut decision” in the great outdoors that paid off in spades?  Do you have any photos to commemorate the moment? Park Yourself Outdoors would LOVE to hear how you shook your own personal snow globe and made magic happen. Go ahead. Tell us your story/show us your photos in the comments box below!

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