yosemite late october

We arrived in Yosemite the day after the first winter storm of the season came through. Snow had dusted the higher elevations and a thin coat still clung to the top of many of the Valley’s prominent geological features like Half Dome, Sentinel Dome and Cloud’s Rest.

Although Yosemite has always been one of my favorite places anywhere, it had been almost 15 years since my last visits, when I spent half-months in November and May on an artists’ residency program. Fortunately a life-long relationship with Yosemite is one that you can pick up and resume after many years away. It took a little while to get the hang of the road system, but the place felt like home right away.

I mentioned the snow. Here’s the trail to Sentinal Dome. Oooh pretty. But the trail was slippery as the snow thawed and I was holding an unprotected camera and the day was getting late, so I turned around not long after this photo.

Fall isn’t typically the time to experience Yosemte’s waterfalls at their peak. Here’s the face of Upper Yosemite Falls, more like Upper Yosemite Seep. The young French couple that I was pacing part of the way up the trail seemed a little disappointed.

You can see here the meager flow into the little twin pools at the top of the falls, right before the creek takes a leap that will launch it into a the journey that marks it as North America’s tallest waterfall, or in this case, North America’s tallest seep. So, yah, fall isn’t the best time to see Yosemite’s famous waterworks.

But October and November can bring terrific leaf colors to the park. Here’s what the drive into the Valley looked like the day the sun came out.

I hope you like yellow. That’s the predominant autumn leaf color down in the valley. Yellow, and brown. Bigleaf maples and various shrubs were doing the yellow thing. Oaks turned yellow-brown, then brown. The Valley dogwoods can color up a rich burgundy shade, but this year they were skipping the red and going straight to brown. Oh disappointment, thy color this season is brown.

A couple thousand feet higher in elevation, somewhere around 6200 feet, the colors were more varied. Yellow, we have yellow. I’m not sure what this low roadside shrub is, but it was pretty brilliant yellow. Ferns were also going through a straw-yellow stage on as the green drained from the leaves.

And up here we got the non-brown leaves on the Pacific dogwoods, right now going through their candy-pink phase. Some will turn dark burgundy before falling. Others…we’re back to brown again. But brown via pink, no complaints.

And this last one is a subtle eye-candystore of some of the leaf colors: pink, yellow, straw. Almost East Coast leaf colors–minus the blizzards (or scary hurricanes)…

7 thoughts on “yosemite late october

  1. Town Mouse

    Oh, pretty! Yes, I agree, Yosemite is beautiful any time of the year. I love it in the snow – and it’s not so crowded. But the fall colors I’ve never seen, and now I’m starting to think what fun!

  2. ryan

    Makes me wish I was there right now. Looks like a great visit. I actually think it’s kind of great how the country’s tallest seep has the after-image of the waterfall and that great notch in the rock up at the top. I’ve swam in the pools up there, but it looks like it was far too cold during your visit.

  3. James Post author

    TM, I’m sure you’d enjoy the autumn. The sights are great, and the crowd-factor is nothing like it is during the peak season.

    Brent, thanks! It helps to be able to start with compelling subject material…

    Ryan, I didn’t do a good job of capturing the snow flurries at the top of the falls, not to mention the intense cold north wind. Definitely not a time to dip into the pools unless there was a sauna nearby.

    Sensible, I’m sure you’d enjoy Yosemite, too. I hope you get an opportunity!

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