Time does not wait for anyone, but you always have to wait for time.
The Horsetail Fall (called the “Firefall”) in Yosemite National Park transforms into a stream of fire when the sunset hits the water just right, occurring in mid-late February annually. It needs several factors to converge to trigger the effect: sufficient snowpack, warm temperatures and a clear sky at sunset. If conditions are just right, the Firefall will light up but last only ten minutes.
I sensed this could be an adventure, so I decided to travel to Yosemite to witness this incredible natural wonder. However, due to my recent work situation change, I only had the weekend free, only 48 hours, a very short time to travel there and back. I still took this chance to have a special adventure, enjoying to the fullest this place in this brief time.
This adventure was totally different from my past ones, a new and special experience for me: it started and ended on midnight from Feb. 20 to Feb. 22, 2022, completing all in just 48 hours. I drove to Yosemite National Park from Los Angeles, California, completely in the dark, stopping to take a breaks every few hours, then hit the road again. I gazed from the car window, the dawn and the first ray of sunrise appearing in the sky, especially layers of pink colors reflected off the mountains.
This special adventure started and ended on midnight.
In the early morning of the first 24 hours, I drove along the Wawona Road (Highway 41) to Yosemite Valley. In winter, most trees there are bare and snow covered both sides of the road. I wondered when it would end and I could see Tunnel View, my first stop, one of the famous views of Yosemite Valley. Because I had driven a long time, since midnight, I was a little bit rushed. I arrived at the entrance to Wawona Tunnel, the longest in California at just under a mile. I drove through it, all in the dark, music playing in my car, the entire time being in this tunnel, until the blue sky appeared slowly at the end of the tunnel.
I was greeted by the Tunnel View and stood there to witness the scene a while: the Bridalveil Falls on the right, El Capitan on the left and half Dome further in the distance. My hands were numb due to the low temperature. The most interesting thing for me was the presence of so many photographers there to capture every moment and angles of the scene together, talking and sharing photos, like a gathering of souls.
I saw sections of open meadows with rippling rivers and others of thick forests with only peepholes of the surrounding monoliths. This is one special part of Yosemite Valley, different from the rest of the valley.
I stopped my car at the side of road, then walked on the heavy snow, using my hands to claw the branches, and a new picturesque scene appeared: the reflection of El Capitan and bare trees, the sound of the river flowing attracted me deeply. I got closer to the river, looked at the surroundings, a whole white color played on the deep snow. It is another beautiful and special place for Yosemite, like a Sleeping Beauty: she is waiting something to happen quietly, maybe the right time to awaken.
Nothing shows nature’s transition from winter like the streams flowing over steep, rocky cliffs and no place in California boasts more magnificent waterfalls than Yosemite. I chased the waterfall endlessly, like a kid running into the barren grasses, far from the people who crowded on the bridge to take the photo of the waterfall. Everyone seemed to forget about their numb hands and faces, just listened to the powerful sound of streams flowing, looking like big ice drops from the air.
I hiked and climbed up to Lower Yosemite Falls. As the sun warms the rock, the ice melts and makes water flow, the sound echoing throughout the valley, the sheer force of the waterfall spraying mist on my face, the noise deafening. I am awakening.
In a flash, my spirit left the cage of my body and soared high, much higher than any waterfall in the world, making circles in the sky. Maybe this is one reason why I always chase waterfalls. Sleeping Beauty seems to find the passion in her heart.
I sat on the wood quietly, the sunlight reflected on my face, a little warmth in the winter air. I took time to observe my surroundings. I waited three hours to witness how the colors of the waterfall slightly changed until the water appeared a fiery orange color falling off the mountain. I was not concerned with time at all. It seemed to slow down a bit, allowing me to reflect upon the moment. Even at the end, though the Firefall was perhaps not as incredible as in previous years due to a lack of water, it indeed looked like a real massive lava flow.
After the Firefall show, I returned slowly, in no rush, and another beautiful moment unfolded: an amazing alpenglow on the mountains and reflection on the Merced River. I stood there awhile to appreciate it. Sleeping Beauty is using her way to amaze us.
Over the following 24 hours, I traveled to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. Along the way, the black, dark and dead dry trees gave the impression of a sleeping world, and a sense they are waiting the time to be reborn.
I arrived at the Giant Forest, home to the world’s biggest tree (by volume). Nature has a way of being awe-inspiring, and it was here: I was very impressed by the tree’s magnificent roots, wondering how long it took to grow into the most massive single-stem tree on Earth. Viewing from the side, it looked like one huge tree, but these trees actually were twins, hugging each other, their trunks scarred by a fire long ago, my love in the foreground, awed by its presence.
I was very tiny standing next to these gentle giants. I looked up at the blue sky and bare trees, rays of sunshine reflecting off the ice entering my eyes, the winter air and scene glowing. It is silent but full of mysterious power — time.
The sound of a rippling stream echoed around me, and wondering where it came, I followed the sound, walking far from the original trailhead, and came to the river covered in white snow. I felt life running through my veins, I seemed to see Sleeping Beauty awaken, welcomed the new day, the snowing melting into the water then flowing far away, creating a new chapter in her life.
When I got back to the airport, I felt exhausted but fulfilled and profoundly spiritual. For a brief time, I forgot about myself and came face to face with the majestic beauty of nature. I became all eyes, and my souls vibrated from the energy radiating from the landscape. I was not obsessed with time. I enjoyed the wait for the Firefall, I slowed down a bit to appreciate the mountains, rivers, waterfalls and people’s reactions.
I found new wisdom through you—Sleeping Beauty. Your power and beauty unfolds slowly, your time will come, the snow will give way, bare and dead trees will be lush and the rivers and falls will be filled with movement and life. They would be in the right time. You and I learn to wait for the time, witness and understand the power of time, meet love, happiness and wisdom. “Slow down, wait for the right time” is the best lesson I learned and can pass onto others from this special adventure.
It was midnight, 48 hours had passed, and my adventure ended. I closed my eyes, and a picture slowly emerged: I could see all those happy faces again, cheering for me.
I was finally home. Or that is how I felt at that time.