Yosemite National Park, California, USA

Feb 2017


Yosemite has been on my list to visit since Apple rolled out OS X 10.10. ;-) After years of staring my screen saver, I was so happy to finally visit this place for real. But what really motivated me to visit at this time of the year was firefall. The first time when I heard of "firefall" was on Instagram. I saw this stunning image of a golden lava-like waterfall pouring out of a granite mountain, I was stunned. I did not think something like that exists. So I googled and researched a bit more about firefall, what it is, where is it, when does it happen, and etc. This was back in Jan 2017. What I learned is that fireball is a natural phenomenon that happens around Feb each year in Yosemite National Park, on waterfall named Horsetail Fall. There are many factors to play in order for the fall to glow: there must be enough snow on the top of the El Capitan mountain; there must be enough sunshine to melt it and cause the flow of the waterfall; there must be a clear sky at the sunset. When all of these elements worked out, the ray of the setting sun will transform white waterfall into red and orange colors.  In one word, one has to be incredibly lucky in order to witness this. 

But this was back in Jan, which is a month away. I had no idea if all of these is going to work out, but then again, a trip just to see Yosemite sounds already good to me, firefall or not. The first thing when you are planning to Yosemite is accommodation. It is very hard to find accommodation in the park and most of the time you will find out that most of them are booked. Luckily, I found a cute little lodge in the park via Scenic Wonders (https://www.scenicwonders.com). There are many cute lodges on this website, and some of them have a great view to the valley. You just need to go through the list and see what's available. In addition to lodging, other things you need to consider are snow chains for the car (Yosemite can have a lot of snows this time of the year. It is a compulsory to have snow chains in the car when you visit the park.); cell phone coverage (There is very poor cell phone connection in the park. My experience is that AT&T and Verizon have the best reception there. If you plan to do some real-time social media broadcasting, make sure you have those two networks on your phone); gas/feul (there is only one gas station in the park near the entrance. So I would highly recommend you to load up your car before entering the park. Otherwise you will end up losing a lot of your precious time in the park to look for gas); food (there is a little general store, which you can find groceries. And dining out options are very limited. Therefore, it is better that you plan ahead and bring food/grocery into the park and cook yourself.).

After a month of anxious waiting, it was finally the weekend of our trip. As it turned out, the weather for that two days was fantastic! Sunny and warm. The weeks right before and after the weekend were packed with snowy days. The park, just as we heard and expected, was beyond stunning. Everywhere we went, we were in awe and could hardly believe how beautiful the places is. The thing with Yosemite is, it changes throughout the year. My husband has been to the park once years ago in October, and he told me the park looks differently as there were no waterfalls and rivers were shallow. But this year, it has a record high-level of snowfall, which means plenty of water for the falls. Under the Yosemite fall, for example, it had so much water that the man-made bridge was damaged, which means all hiking trails to the top of the fall were closed. 

Since the weather was gorgeous and there are a lot of water in the waterfall, we knew our chance to see firefall was pretty high. Started around 4 pm (sunset is at 5:20), we headed towards the Horsetail fall to find a spot for watching and photographing the fall. The place was already packed with cars and people. After hour of waiting in the freezing cold, we finally saw firefall and loved every minute of it. The fall started to glow around 5 pm and got just more and more orange, and almost red towards the end of the glow. The whole process lasted around 20 mins. We were extremely happy to be able to witness this natural wonder on our first try, as some people we talked have been there for years and could't see it.

All in all, our weekend in Yosemite was mesmerizing and those memories will be kept forever in our hearts.