It rained every day since I had arrived. I had been hanging around Yosemite Valley for a week, not quite fitting in with the usual crowds of climbers and tourists. I’m a photographer and backpacker, seemingly ending up in the wrong place at the wrong time - the weather made for tricky shooting and even tougher trails. But I love the valley, and I couldn’t be dissuaded from sticking around, especially because there were rumors of snow in the forecast. If you’ve ever seen Yosemite in the snow, you’ll know why I stuck around.
The snow came, and quickly - the first night over a foot fell. The valley was quiet and muted. The light caught the fat flakes as they made their way down through the giant Ponderosa pines and piled up all around. The silence didn’t last long, and soon streams of cars made their way up the pass carrying everyone from around to get a glimpse of El Capitain dusted with snow. I decided this would be the perfect chance to get out into the backcountry and see how much snow I could track down.
I stopped by the ranger station to get permits and a bear canister then took off to the trailhead. Most of the lower elevation snow had melted by the time I set foot on the trail, but I caught up to it pretty quickly. I had gotten a late start and so I was also losing light too. But I pushed on, and soon I was walking thigh deep in the dry Sierra powder, I hadn’t even thought to bring snowshoes. The views opened up all around me as I got higher above the valley, and sights seldom seen with snow were all around me.
As the evening closed in, I tracked down my spot for the night. I hadn’t made it as far as I was hoping, so I settled for a spot tucked above the valley but back up in the trees. I stomped out a spot for my tent and set up camp then headed off to take a few photos. The light caught the snow and lit everything up golden, then pink as the sun went down over the valley. One of the best sunsets I’ve seen to this day. I heated up my dinner of chili and bread and enjoyed it’s warmth as I watched the last bit of color and light fade from the sky. I filled my Nalgene with hot water and tucked it into my Zenbivy for extra warmth, and then off to bed. I slept like a baby.
The morning brought more soft colors as the sun came up. And cold. It had dropped to around 15 degrees at my elevation. I pulled the boots out of my bag and put them on, and then made breakfast and coffee. I took my morning slowly then headed down into the valley.
About The Author: Mason Strehl is an avid outdoor adventurer and photographer based in Washington state. When he's not handling media here at Zenbivy, you can find him hiking in the backcountry, climbing peaks, or surfing. He has logged over 500 nights in a Zenbivy in almost every condition imaginable.
This trip started off as a lot of Alaskan trips do - with bags packed, loading up into a float plane. Alaska is incredibly inaccessible - it only has a handful of main highways and even those are limited with just small two-lane highways. Most of the state is accessible only by boat or plane.
I have been using my Zenbivy for years and I've spent well over 800 nights in it. I'll trekking poles for ice axes, tents for nights cowboy camping under the stars, but no matter the adventure, you can guarantee that my Zenbivy will be the first thing in my pack.
Stargazing is an amazing experience, and it will give you a little break from your home life and allow you to reconnect with nature for a night. Grab your Zenbivy quilt and head out to get lost in the stars.