For all the exploring I've done over the years throughout the American west, I'd never been inside of the central valley of Yosemite National Park, which next to the Grand Canyon is probably one of the country's most photographed natural places. Years back I'd done a backcountry trip south from Tuolumne Meadows, but being stuck in traffic jams from the droves of tourists that flood into the valley was always a bit of a turn off. Millions flock here every year, with numbers peaking the summer. That's not really what I'm after when looking to get outdoors. So I figured if I'm going to see Yosemite without the crowds, the best time to go would be early winter, before the snowpack got too deep for hiking. I planned to hit it up mid-week, on the way back up to Oregon to see my family for thanksgiving.
A few days before I was supposed to head off toward the park, it started to get hit with a winter storm, giving me some second thoughts as to the trips timing. The day I got to the park, a thin layer of snow was all that was left at the lower altitudes. The weather report was now predicting a severe pressure change from the fast moving storm, bringing with it hurricane force winds. All the campsites and tent cabins had been evacuated. Not really what I was expecting, but the park was practically abandoned, so in a way I got my wish of exploring Yosemite without the crowds. With no wilderness camping available either due to the winds, I stayed just outside the park, and spent a couple of days doing day hikes, including a nice few thousand foot climb up to Nevada Falls and Liberty Cap. The winds got pretty intense towards the tops of the cliff. Most of the falls were running low this time of year, with new moisture at the high altitudes from the recent storm still frozen. Might be nice to get back again in the early spring to see the falls running hard.
From Yosemite I headed up to Oregon a bit off the beaten path, along the Sacramento River. It was the right time of year for it. Migrations of geese, swans, and ducks filled the skies, flocks thousands deep, moving south with the coming of winter. A few Bald Eagles moved with them, perched overhead in dead old trees, looking for an easy meal.
As I traveled north into Oregon it became noticeably colder - a bit of a shock to the system coming from temperate SoCal. But it was good to be back in Oregon, catching up with friends and family. And while I was up in Portland, I spent an evening doing a shoot of Mt Hood above the Columbia River that I'd been wanting to do since I lived up there. Not a bad trip.