Update: hear about my adventures and the story behind the dry December on KQED news.
After hearing the news of Tioga Pass reopening on Friday afternoon, I knew I couldn’t resist the lure of seeing Tuolumne Meadows this late in the season. The road opening this late in the winter is a rarity—since 1980, it’s been open only three times in December and the latest date was December 11 (although it did reopen briefly in 1999 on January 1).
But the statistics don’t capture the magnificence of the sublime season in Tioga Country. I stood on the west shore of Tenaya Lake and listened as the ice shifted and broke—it sounded like whales singing (you can hear this music at the beginning of the video I posted in this entry). At the more solidly frozen eastern shore, I slid across the lake in my sneakers, accompanied by Paul, a resident of Crowley Lake, as he skated and yielded his hockey stick. We both agreed on the sheer awesomeness of being out here so late in the year. Touching one of the tops of the “ghost trees” peeking out of the ice of Tenaya Lake definitely ranked as one of the coolest nature moments of the year for me.
Driving to Tioga Pass, I gazed at my favorite mountain friends, Mt Conness, Mt Dana, Mt Gibbs, and Cathedral Peak—and also noticed their distinct lack of a winter coat. Last year the snowfall shattered a number of records, but so far this season winter seems slow to arrive. Although we need the snow and the water it brings (70% of our water in the west comes from snowpack), I am grateful into this rare glimpse at the winter world of Tuolumne and the Yosemite high country. So my request to Mother Nature (and the National Park Service) is to keep the pass open through the holidays, and then let it snow!