Every year there is a phenomena that occurs in Yosemite National Park when the elements work together just right. People come from all around the world to see and photograph the "firefall", but only the lucky ones get to see it. There is a run off waterfall on the face of El Capitan called Horsetail falls that only happens in the winter. When the sun sets in mid February the light hits the fall just right making it look like lava flowing off the mountain.
HERE IS A LITTLE BIT ABOUT OUR EXPERIENCE, WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO, AND WHY YOU SHOULD PLAN A TRIP TO YOSEMITE IN FEBRUARY.
We left Utah late Thursday night after work, everyone stoked on the thought that we might see firefalls for the first time. The weather wasn't looking good for us but everyone had a positive attitude. We arrived in Yosemite Valley early Friday morning and it looked like the weather forecast scared everyone away. We had the park all to ourselves. Although it was pouring rain, there was something magical about all of the low hanging clouds. We made the rounds in the valley stopping at the different waterfalls (in all of my times to Yosemite I have never seen so much water flowing). To have these majestic places all to ourselves was incredible. We spent the night eating pizza and playing cards, praying that the weather would be in our favor tomorrow.
We fell asleep in the bus to the sound of rain drops bouncing off of the roof, and woke up to the sun shining through the windows! As I got out of bed and stepped outside, all I could see was blue skies and couldn't help but think that today was the day. That morning I took my girlfriend to the meadow that I told her I liked her for the first time. We walked around listening to 'our song' and reminisced on the night that we sat in the meadow and stared at the stars. We both had big smiles on our faces and she had no idea what was coming as I got down on one knee and asked her to marry me. Things couldn't have been any more perfect. With our heads in the clouds we headed to horsetail falls to claim our spot for sunset.
Like I said earlier, conditions have to be perfect for Horsetail Falls to light up. Here is what you need to know if you plan to photograph "firefalls".
1. Timing - The Firefall only happens during sunset in mid February. February 17-19 is considered the peak. Where the setting sun hits Yosemite Valley at the perfect angle to illuminate Horsetail falls. Firefall can also light up a couple days before and after the "peak".
2. Weather - Keep your eyes on the weather forecast, if its rainy or snowy or even if there are too many clouds, it won't happen.
3. Claim your spot early - There are many viewpoints for Horsetail falls along both Northside Drive and Southside Drive and along the Merced River. Spend the morning scouting and finding the spot that you like the best. Some of the spots can fill up with hundreds of photographers and their tripods so claim your spot early and then sit back and relax. Bring a chair and a book.
4. Tripod and Lens - You are going to want a tripod and a long lens (70-200). The fall is 2,000 feet above the valley floor, trust me you're going to want that zoom lens. Majority of pictures you see of this phenomena are captures with a similar lens.
We found our spot around 3:30 pm on Saturday, the skies were still blue and everyone was stoked for what we were about to see. Now we just had to wait for the sun to set. Around 4:30 some clouds started to blow in and pretty soon the skies were dark. It's amazing how fast things can change in the High Sierras. We still had another hour before the sun set so we were hopeful that it would clear up. With about 10 minutes left, the sun popped through and the clouds starting turning pink. The only problem was a big cloud nestled up against El Cap covering up the falls. It wasn't moving quite fast enough and by the time you could see the falls again, the sun had gone down for the night. Everyone quietly packed up the gear hoping for better luck tomorrow.
The weather didn't want to cooperate again on Sunday, making us 0/3. Even though it rained the entirety of the trip and we didn't get to experience what we went there for. Everyone still had a good time. Majority of the things in life you have no control over, but you can always choose to have a good time. You can expect to see us at the firefall in 2018!
P.S. - Want to give a shout out to our friends that made the trek with us. In all reality trips are only as good as the people that are there with you. And we have some of the best anyone could ask for.
- James Barnett- He introduced us to Bad and Boujee.
- Taylor Blank- She never stopped laughing the whole trip.
- Gray Anderson- Always a treat. He makes up the third amigo.
- Jose Romero- Completing squad goals with his sprinter van.
- Sam Medina- For bringing all the treats. That morning guac was bomb.
- Callie McMullin- Well you got engaged so that made the trip exciting.