On February 18th, I went into Yosemite early so I could have enough time to do some hiking and sightseeing before the Firefall. I was going to try to hike to Mirror Lake and the Vernal Fall footbridge, but I only ended up having enough time for Mirror Lake.
The park was unbelievably crowded, a stark contrast from the day before. I had to park about a mile away from the Mirror Lake trailhead. Instead of taking the road, which was shorter, I took the Valley Loop Trail to Mirror Lake. That turned out to be not such a great idea. I thought the Valley Loop Trail was flat(ish), but apparently not the segment to Mirror Lake.
Not only did the trail have various inclines, there were also large sections that were covered in ice and there was no way to avoid it. I left my micro spikes in the car because I didn’t expect to need them on an easy hike to Mirror Lake. I find it surprising that as many times as I slipped, I never completely wiped out.
When I arrived at Mirror Lake, I scoped it out to find a way to get to the other side so I could hike the paved road out, but I couldn’t find a place. I ended up on this beach area where I met two guys who were putting their shoes and socks back on. I asked if they had gotten in the water and they said no. I guess they were just getting rocks out of their shoes.
I asked the guys if they knew of a way around to the other side and they said they saw some people walking through the lake. It was a shallow, calm section so it was crossable. It’s just that the water was freezing. However, I was determined not to take the same trail back and have to go on those somewhat steep descents on ice, so I took off my shoes and socks and braved the frigid water of Mirror Lake. The guys thought it was “sexy,” in their words.
I’m sure that in the summertime Mirror Lake feels awesome, but as I was crossing this time, in the middle of winter, I couldn’t feel the lower half of my legs. Thankfully, I made it safely across and onto the snow on the other side. As soon as I put my socks and shoes back on, my feet warmed up again. Those new winter boots did the trick. I’m so glad I bought them. I was also glad that I didn’t mess up my new PowerStep insoles which have provided outstanding support for my plantar fasciitis.
The next part of the adventure was finding parking to get to the Firefall as I was racing to catch the sunset at this point. I should have stayed where I was parked because I ended up having to park at Curry Village, about four miles away from the Firefall. I took the shuttle to the Firefall and barely made it in time. I suppose I could have just skipped it. No thanks to some late afternoon haze, there was no real Firefall.
I had set up my DSLR and had it on the tripod ready for the show. But when I noticed the lack of lighting and people leaving, I broke my setup down and my new friends and I headed out. As we walked away, we heard people cheering behind us so we turned around and saw a little sliver of light on the Firefall. All I could do was take a few pics with my phone at that point. It was nothing like Friday’s sunset, but still, it was something.
One thing I should mention. The official name of the Firefall is Horsetail Fall. They call it the Firefall because many moons ago, they used to pour fire lit logs down the fall to create the effect. They stopped that due to environmental concerns but even without fire being poured over the fall, the way the setting sun hits it with the right conditions (only in February), it naturally creates the effect of a fire fall, so it’s still known as the Firefall.