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Firefall at Yosemite

February 28, 2012
FEBRUARY 24, 2012 12:55PM

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My old freind Peter Stern had been telling me for years about his cousin Tom, a musician who’s played with Frank Wakefield, Dan Hicks, Taj Mahal, David Nelson of NRPS and THE guitar hero of my youth – Mike Bloomfield.

Last week I finally got to meet Tom, for dinner in Sausalito.  He had many fine music stories to tell, some of which I will relate in a future post.

As we were leaving I happened to tell him I was headed up to Grass Valley. Tom said, “You should swing by Yosemite. There’s this amazing thing that only happens for a few weeks this time of year – Fire Fall.” Apparently sunset strikes one of the falls at such an angle that for a few minutes the water appears to turn to lava. Sounded worth seeing. And we’d never been to Yosemite.

So we “swung by” Yosemite – it’s actually about 5 hours from Grass Valley -but never mind.

We arrived at the park in late afternoon, just enough time to rush around and see a few sights before finding a vantage point to see Fire Fall – which the park ranger said should happen around 5:45.

We saw this:

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El Capitan – 3000 foot sheer granite cliff. My son’s best freind and his girlfriend are hard core rock climbers, and claim they could climb it. Good luck to them.

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Half Dome. Don’t know if you can climb it or not. I’m not trying. This is a crappy point-and-click photo, but still worth 1000 words. And here are a few: Majestic. Monumental. Awe-inspiring. Mind-blowing.

Back in boarding school, before I discovered Mike Bloomfield, in a very dark time, I’d spend Saturday afternoons in the library looking at picture books of far off places, dreaming I was anywhere but where I was.

Some of my most vivid dreams came looking at pictures of Yosemite. What transported me even more than those cliffs was the waterfalls. Now I was finally seeing them. And they did bring these old eyes to tears:

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I’d read online that in order to find fire fall you just needed to look for gaggles of photo geeks toting tripods and fancy cameras.  And there they were. We parked.  It was a little after 5. I went down to look at the river, and, I’m sure like many before, wondered just how this placid creek could ever have carved Yosemite valley:

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I guess it took a long time, and lots of patience.

—————–

Now the afore-pictured falls are some of the major ones. The fall we were interested in -Horsetail – is minor. I didn’t notice it until a guy pointed it out to me. It looked like a dark stain on the side of El Capitan.

When we got to our vantage point there was this: IMG_1992

The photographer next to me said, “Not much rainfall this year. I don’t know what we’re going to see.”

I felt incipient disapointment, laced with a trickle of hope.  I suddenly flashed back to the late 60s. Seeking out natural miracles was part and parcel of the psychedelic times. Some stoned cat would run up to you on the street, and yell, “Full lunar eclipse tonight!” And we’d end up in some snow field, freezing our asses off, wondering if the clouds would ever break, or if that guy even had the right night. We did see the Northern Lights one night, but we were too far south to get more than a tip-of-the-tongue taste of their beauty.

Once I saw the sun set on the Pacific and turn into a hat before tipping itself at me, “goodbye.” But that was the last time I ever took LSD. So there’s no telling about that hat.

Here at Yosemite, 40 years after the psychedelic days, I felt that old stirring in me. Nature, perhaps about to reveal it’s divinity. Maybe that feeling was a lot older than 40 years. Maybe it was akin to what the ancients felt, as they looked up at comets, and stars, and imagined them as Gods.

The question was, though: is this going to be a dud, or not?

Around  5:20 I started to get my answer. I’ll let the pictures take it from here:

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IMG_1989Embers.

I don’t believe in God as such. I do beleive in J. S. Bach, and Jimi Hendrix. And the wonders of Yosemite Valley.

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Comments

You gave us the fire and all its glory. Beautiful.
rated with love
So glad you got to see it!
Yes, you can climb Half Dome-
need to get a permit first…
Wow.. have been seeing this on the news almost every day. So glad someone I know got to see it.
HUGGGGGGGG
Add Mozart, Miles and McLaughlin to the list and I’ll join your church. This post is a marvel, Muse – the photos, the script and the heart behind them.
Freakin’ Amazing! Beautiful photos Muse and I love the story also. Can’t wait to hear the other stories. This should be an EP!
Wow – Now I REALLY want to go there –
transported ~

thanks, LuminousMuse! ((tipping hat))

Oh, this is so great. The photos, your writing. Thanks so much for sharing. I loves me some fire!
Agree with Scanner, should be an EP!
This was utterly fantastic! I have never seen anything like it! Beautiful and surreal.
Gorgeous. Thank you for posting these photos. I’ll share them with my husband who used to be a rock climber, and has spoken fondly of the climbing mecca of Yosemite for years. Did the Colorado rock band Firefall take their name from this natural phenomenon?
And here I am stuck in Cedar Grove. Thanks for sharing.
lucky you! It doesn’t happen more than a few times a year, and then only for a few minutes.
This fire fall is just Luminous. 🙂
Scarlett is so clever!!
Thanks Luminous this was fascinating & beautiful.
I am only a couple of hours from Yosemite and never heard of this just magnificent!
That is so cool. I’ve always wanted to see Yosemite. Someday…
Neat pics Luminous. I’d never heard of the Yosemite phenomenon. But worth the five hour jog as a once in a lifetime special. I wonder how many oddities like this there are. At my cottage, most evenings a cottage across the channel will look like it’s on fire for 15 minutes because of the sunset. And there’s the occasional green flash when the sunk sinks over the watery horizon if the water is still enough.
Incredible! Thank you for sharing your journey with us! R.
Glorious! I’ve never heard of this phenomenon….but I did laugh when you mentioned the psychedelic promise of some natural wonder that ended up being a disappointment, and yet I’d guess you’d have those same experiences all over again, freezing ass and all. Maybe the benefit of maturity is that we really DO get to see what’s promised.
Magnificent. Glad you weren’t disappointed.
I’ve heard about this phenomenon, but hadn’t seen anyone’s personal photos of it before. Yours prove that it’s for real, not photoshopped or enhanced in any way. How magnificent! Thank you for sharing and I’m so glad you got to witness such a stunning display!
Nature is divine, isn’t it? Gorgeous scenes.
R♥
As a traveler and National Park junkie I appreciate your photos tremendously. Way back when, Yosemite was my first visit, It was another dry spring, and all we saw was a trickle. But El Capitan and Half Dome inspired me enough to see as many parks as possible. We spent 10 days this past September in Grand Teton and Yellowstone. It is the jewel of the system in my book.

Thanks for the wonderful photos and the narrative.

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