The Road Into Winter

After years of drought, with barren brown winter hills and snow only at the highest elevations in the Sierra Nevada mountains, this year’s storms brought much welcomed rains to California. And in the high country it snowed. More than 800 inches, or 60 feet of snow, was deposited for a historic high on Tuolumne Meadows. Winter, with its magic foliage of snow, returned to Yosemite Valley.

The call of exploring “Yosemite in the Winter” beckoned artist/photographer, Terry Robinson, and me. We chose the lower road into the Park through Mariposa and along the Merced River as the high road through Wawona was often closed because of ice and snow. Later in the winter it became our only path as storms shut down the southern entrance when a section of Highway 41 between Fish Camp and the Park boundary washed out the road.

One of Terry’s jobs had included being a guide taking tourists into the park. He knew all the best spots to view Yosemite’s wonders and was generous in sharing them. As Terry’s car climbed in elevation from the Merced River floor through the rock overhangs towards Yosemite Valley, the transformation into the whiteness of winter was stunning.

One Terry’s favorite spots is a bend in the Merced River below El Capitan. The sky above us was dark with storm clouds and the top of the giant monolith was obscured by the blanket of gray. We trudged through snow, sinking knee deep, on the valley loop trail. As we came around the misty bend, suddenly a light broke through the overcast on the face of El Capitan. Terry referred to it as “The God Light.” It was one of those moments of awe and splendor that burns the love of the Holy Spirit into your being.

 I am reminded of my friend and photographer, William Neill’s book Yosemite The Promise of Wilderness. This was the promise being fulfilled as the light lit up the face of granite along the river.

Millions if not billions of photographs have been taken of Yosemite, from the black and white view camera photos of Ansel Adams, to the cell phone images of tourists. You may ask if there is any need for more images of Half-Dome or El Capitan?

I was at the Ansel Adams Gallery listening to a talk by the famous artist, Penny Otwell, when she exclaimed passionately that she couldn’t wait to paint Half-Dome again. In Yosemite, there is always the opportunity for you to have the experience that opens your heart to the beauty in this world.

In sharing these images with you, it is my wish that they brighten your day.

Kerby Smith