Back in June, Jesse and I attended a friend's wedding up in Mammoth, California and decided to swing through Yosemite Valley before driving back home down to Los Angeles. Yosemite is on the opposite side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range from Mammoth, so the only way to access it is by driving the famous scenic highway 120, also known as Tioga Road.
The week leading up to the wedding, Mammoth was having an 80-degree week with plenty of California sunshine. But the weekend we drove up the sun zipped away, the clouds rolled in, and the rain fell hard. The highs were in the 50s and the mountains were completely dusted with snow.
Jesse and I love the rainy weather because we never have it in Los Angeles. There's a running joke in the city that no one can drive when it rains and that people say, "what's that wet stuff falling from the sky?" So whenever we get to experience a change in scenery we pretty much go nuts.
So naturally, we were going nuts in Mammoth when we realized the kind of weather we had, especially mid-June. Despite all the times we've been to Yosemite, we'd never experienced it in the rain or fog so we had to detour our route home over the Sierras and down the I-5.
The only trouble is that the Sierras are quite high. Like, tallest-mountain-in-the-lower-48-states high. Many of the roads shut down in the winter or when bad weather occurs. But we though, "eh, it's June. It's summer!"
We started up Tioga Road with the rain smattering our windshield. The ominous snowy mountains and low fog surrounded us as we carved our way through the scenic highway. We were gaining elevation quickly and b-lining it to the gates of Yosemite National Park. Suddenly the rain became heavier... and the more wet... and then I realized it was sleeting. Oh goody; why oh why were we driving a 2-wheel drive car through the snowy Sierras?
We arrived at the gate to the park and I rolled down my window to chat with the ranger, the cold sleet pouring in and dampening my face. "We're probably going to shut the road down in a few minutes" the ranger told me. "Drive through and try not to stop."
Well we just had to make stops. I mean look at it!
Last fall we'd stood on the shore of Tenaya Lake in a t-shirt and shorts. Now we were watching the clouds engulf the snow-capped mountains! We were totally in awe. The fresh air and wet drops drove us insane - in a good way. We were like little kids pointing out different streams and waterfalls to each other in excitement; like we'd never seen water before!
When we reached Olmstead Point we could see the clouds surrounding Half Dome and we got so giddy. We couldn't wait to make it over to Tunnel View to see the valley!
We kept chugging along Tioga Road trying to obey the ranger's orders as best we could. Every now and then we could catch a hint of the sun trying to peak out from behind the clouds. We were worried the clouds would disappear from Yosemite Valley before we made it.
When we rounded the corner down and caught our first glimpse of Bridal Veil Falls, the clouds were dissipating. We thought we missed it. But we continued on to Tunnel View anyway because we weren't stopping.
We parked at the moderately-crowded Tunnel View parking lot, still rushing just in case. When we got out of the car and turned toward the view, we couldn't believe our eyes.
Yosemite loves to put on a show, always. Whether it's a color show, a water show, a cloud show, or an animal show, Yosemite is always putting on a show. Whenever I visit, I always say, "God's showing off". And that day was no different. The colors of the trees, the shading of the rock, and the last bit of puffy clouds hanging out in the valley.
It was magnificent.
And still to this day this photo makes me gasp when I look at it. It brings back those emotions from that moment I laid eyes on the valley and witnessed its Earthy colors. No matter how many times I visit Tunnel View, each visit is uniquely different and uniquely special.