Traveling to Yosemite Valley in the winter is taking a gamble–but one well worth taking. The approaches to the park are a nasty set of roads that are either closed outright (from the east) or require chains in winter weather conditions. You must have a stomach for steep climbs,hairpin turns, and shear drop-offs. It is white-knuckle driving, especially in a van! We were rewarded with ethereal landscapes off ground fog, misty rain, snow, and the well-photographed Half Dome, El Capitan, and numerous waterfalls peeking in and out of the clouds. The grandeur is difficult to capture and we have renewed respect for the skills of Ansel Adams. Despite predictions of rain, we spent two night in the only open campground and walked many of the shorter trails to iconic spots. Our favorite took us to Mirror Lake through thick forests of Ponderosa Pines and and mossy rocks that had once perched high above. Walking back to the van at dusk, we were happy to see a family of mule deer–rather than bears or mountain lions– foraging in a roadside meadow. The most bustling spot was Tunnel View, where we added a self-portrait to the millions already taken there.

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