While driving out of Sequoia National Park, we encountered a little snow in the upper elevations. There was none on the roadway, but it had snowed a week before and the snow on the forest floor hadn't completely melted. This despite the fact that it was nearly 40 degrees according to the thermometer in the rental. On our drive out of San Francisco, the weather reports were indicating that the snow level was at 6,500 feet and where we encountered the snow seemed to correspond to this report. We drove from Sequoia National Park into King's Canyon National park and on to Fresno and eventually Oakhurst which is near the southwest entrance to Yosemite. We stayed at the Best Western in Oakhurst and had an excellent meal at the restaurant next door.
Early the next morning, Tuesday, and I do mean early, we went to a local drug store to stock up on provisions as all the weather reporters were claiming that you must have a blanket, flashlight, food and basic provisions if you are to be traveling in the mountains. We took their word for it after our driving experience on the previous day. The weather reports were still claiming the the snow level was 6,000-6,500 feet as we drove out of Oakhurst toward the gate of Yosemite. We arrived at the gate to be greeted by a park ranger who collected our 20 dollars and began asking about whether our tires were snow tires, whether we had four-wheel drive and whether we had snow chains. As it turns out, California law requires Snow chains for traveling in Yosemite, which is kind of strange since it is completely controlled by the National Park Service.
In any event, as the ranger was letting us know that the snow level was expected to stay above 6,000 feet during the day and that on the 20 miles of roadway we would be traveling the road elevation only got above 7,000 feet for a few miles, I noticed snow falling between the car window and the window on the kiosk where the ranger was standing, elevation 4,000 feet. The ranger noticed this too and indicated that if we wanted to go to the Mariposa sequoia grove just a few miles away and on a different road that we should go now because the road would probably be closing soon. Given the choice of getting a quick start on the trip to Yosemite Valley and seeing the big trees in the snow, we decided on the trees and headed in that direction.
Sherry in the parking lot for the Mariposa Sequoia Grove. Temperature 34 degrees.
Once we arrived at the Mariposa Grove parking lot and got out, we quickly realized that due to the snow and slush that we probably didn't want to hike the mile to the grove that the map indicated. So we snapped a few pictures in the parking lot and started to head back to the rental when a ranger drove up and asked us to hurry out because they were closing off the road in.
Thus began one of the most harrying experiences of my life. Instead of the 2-3 miles of snow/slush covered road, we drove about 15 of the 20 miles on roadway on which you could not see the center line for the snow. I have to admit that the traction wasn't nearly as bad as I have seen on the ice covered roads here, but that was only because it was new snow and hadn't been packed into ice yet. Sherry took one picture during the drive in.
Snow on the roadway on the way up. This was when you could still see the centerline.
By the time we got to Yosemite Village, the jeep was covered in snow. Yosemite Village is in Yosemite Valley and at an elevation of around 4,500 feet if I remember correctly. So the snow hadn't accumulated as badly there by mid-morning. That would change as the day went by.
The Jeep after a couple of hours parked at the Yosemite Village store parking lot.
We hadn't really planned on snow but it wasn't really that cold so we just bought some shell type jackets and did some exploring around Yosemite Village. We were attempting to waste some time before check-in at the Ahwahnee lodge nearby. Because of the clouds and snow, there was very little visibility and no way to see anything that wasn't really close by, and nothing was. We had seen some deer in Seqouia National Park the previous day and saw a coyote in a clearing on the way to the hotel. While we were at the village shop, a squirrel had gotten in and was running around. The clerk complained about it and I asked about squirrel season. The teller was not amused in the least and began to lecture me about the no hunting rule in National Parks.
Coyote in a clearing near the Ahwahnee Lodge
Finally we arrived at the Ahwahnee and checked in early. The Ahwahnee is a beautiful place to stay. Just how beautiful would not be made clear until the following day when the clouds started to clear. But we did get a few hints during the day as we walked around the lodge.
Every once in a while the clouds would break a little. Ahwahnee Lodge near a rock face in Yosemite Valley.
Sherry in front of a Yellow Pine. They get pretty big.
Sherry and me dining in the Ahwahnee dining hall. Its the nicest restaurant in which I have ever dined.