Back in March 2006, as the (then) typical mid-winter storm hit the Sierra Nevada mountains one Saturday morning, we decided to quickly pack up our camera gear and head out to Yosemite Valley to capture it. Route 140 being an all-season highway into the park made things easier, and the singular cop near Mariposa didn’t enforce any chains. The skies were a shadowy blue-gray when we entered the park at 11am, and by the end of the day had dumped more than 13 inches of snow on the valley floor. Being familiar visitors to the Valley, two things hit us the moment we hit the loop – a hushed silence and a complete lack of color.
The blanket of fresh snow had damped most of the echoes that would typically resonate due to the granite walls. We were walking through an anechoic chamber, occasionally livened up by the tapping of a woodpecker or the distant cry of a raven. And the burst of yellows, greens, oranges and blues that one has come to expect of the valley had been replaced by a stark monochrome landscape, disturbed only by a few rust leaves clinging on dearly to crisp bare branches or the artificial reds of human structures trying hard to peek through the white carpet. That night, icy winds cleaned up the valley of all clouds and fog. The following morning was crisp and clear, eventually setting the stage for one of the more spectacular sunsets we have witnessed.
Since 2011, we have been trying to repeat the 2006 storm experience every year, quickly driving up to the park at the first sign of moisture in the air during the Feb-March timeframe, and have been consistently greeted by barren granite cliffs devoid of any powder and crackling dry underbrush. The Californian drought is more severe than one wishes to acknowledge and the Sierra snow pack has become a fairytale wish. Grand lakes in the Eastern Sierras are turning into dust bowls and one frequently comes across foliage graveyards like the one shown at the beginning of the post.
Our hunt for a white February continues.