Posted by: GeekHiker | February 27, 2008

Yosemite In Winter Trip Day 4: Mirror Lake & Half Dome

Tuesday dawned bright and cold again. Despite leaving the air on all night, even the hotel room was chilly, at least until either JaG or myself got out of one of our respective beds, ran to the heater and turned it on, and ran back.

We rolled out of our beds Tuesday morning, groggily downed some oatmeal (thank God for the hotel mini-kitchen), and headed in our little caravan into the park.

“Today,” we thought, “today, we shall don skis.”

It was not to be.

Our little caravan stopped first at the entrance station, just opening for the morning. We inquired as to the status of the road to Badger Pass. “Oh, it’s open,” said the friendly ranger, “I heard it on the road report this morning. Of course they’re open, there’s a lot of money to be made from the skiers today!”

Our hopes and dreams thus buoyed, we chained up the cars and headed up the road. An hour later, we arrived at the turn off to find the big white sign… with bold black lettering… “ROAD CLOSED”.


We would later find out that the plow they had brought up the previous day had broken down, and they were currently seeking a plow from further away to clear the road.

We would also learn later that day that our group trip was canceled, our deposits refunded. Although the skiers from over the weekend had made it out by this point, their extra time at the hut had led them to eat all the extra food.

And even worse: they drank all the alcohol.

With another unexpectedly open day ahead of us, our little group headed for Curry Village with the intention of renting snowshoes to tramp around the valley in. On our arrival, we discovered they wouldn’t be opening until mid-afternoon. It was only 10:30.

Sitting around and chatting, trying to figure out what to do next, JaG and I looked up to see the others in our group getting on the shuttle bus. Unbeknownst to us, they had decided to head to Mirror Lake. Since we were a bit in the dark as to these plans and completely unprepared, we watched them depart, gathered our things, and decided to simply walk the mile over to the Mirror Lake trailhead.

Day 04 - Snow Covered Tree

Snow covered (or “naturally flocked” if you will) tree on the way to Mirror Lake

I remember Mirror lake as a kid on trips in the summer, back in the days just after they had stopped dredging the lake on a regular basis and it was still silting in. Today Mirror Lake is mostly a series of seasonal ponds. The original road is closed to all vehicles all year now (except for shuttle buses and disability passes).

Day 04 - Along Mirror Lake Trail

Starting up the snow-covered Mirror Lake Trail

We headed along meadows (they have little plows to clear the walking paths in the park) and along icy roads and over the river, finally arriving at the Mirror Lake trailhead, then started up the two mile trail proper. Covered in snow (packed in many places by the large amount of foot traffic over the last couple of days), the trail was quiet except for the melting snow from the trees and the sound of Tenaya Creek trickling past snowbanks.

Day 04 - Looking Up At Half Dome

Tenaya Creek along the trail

As the trail continues up the canyon, the view of Half Dome shifts as you round the granite peak, revealing more and more of the monolith’s flat face.

Day 04 - Mirror Lake Trail

Half Dome & Tenaya Creek

Day 04 - Snow Covered Bridge

Snow-covered bridge along the trail

Day 04 - Half Dome Face

Looking up at the flat, sheer face of Half Dome

We wandered up the trail, snapping pictures, chatting and enjoying the solitude. As the snow on the trail got deeper and deeper (and became more and more work), we decided to turn around and head out. Originally we had thought to take the trail back to the Village, but as with the previous day, the rapidly passing short winter day was becoming colder fast, so we headed for the car.

Day 04 - Half Dome & Meadow

Half Dome & Meadow

Back at the village, we picked up groceries for dinner and debated where to go to try to get sunset shots. After a bit of indecision, we finally decided to return to the same meadow as the previous night.

On arriving, we waited a bit in the (relatively) warm car for the sun to drop, watching a lone photographer out in the middle of the meadow, tripod at the ready for the perfect shot.

As the sun dropped and Half Dome started to light up orange, I headed into the meadow and started taking pictures.

Day 04 - Half Dome Sunset

Half Dome at sunset

Unfortunately, as with the previous night, the clouds returned, and although the light started out looking great, it quickly faded rather than becoming more intense as I’d hoped. It’s always a bit sad when the light goes away, of course, but I could only imagine how the guy in the field for a solid hour, freezing his kiester off, must have felt.

We started driving out of the valley, making a short stop at the Chapel to photograph it in the rapidly fading light.

Day 04 - Chapel

Yosemite Chapel at sunset

As the evening chill came on, mist started rising off the snow, making for a mysterious cover to the valley floor.

Day 04 - Trees In The Mist

Trees in the Valley mist just after sunset

Satisfied with our pictures, we jumped back in the warm car and returned to the hotel. While the others had gone out for dinner that evening, JaG and I made use of the hotel mini-kitchen, fixing up pasta, salad and sourdough rolls for a tasty dinner.

And hoped that the next day, we might, we just might, at least make it to Badger Pass for a ski lesson…



  1. sounds like the “others in your group” were of a high school mentality… what’s up with them sneaking off and leaving you two behind!?

    once again, you impress me with your photos. i adore that little chapel. also impressive is that you hiked not on showshoes!

  2. Love the sunset pic of Half Dome. Reminds me of one or two that we have taken in the Rockies. Also ADORE the shot of the trail in the woods at the start of the trail, what a great angle!

    Sounds like you two had a way better time finding your own adventure and creating your own nourishment anyway!

  3. So, who are these “the others” and what is their major malfunction? Then Again, they gave you and JaG a nice solitary hike on what looks like a beautiful trail.

    Nice pictures.

  4. As always, wonderful photos!

  5. Hi, I used 1 of your Yosemite pictures for my blog post. Hope you dont mind. I do write where I got it from though. Thank you!

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