14 Reasons to backpack Yosemite in Winter
By John P. DeGrazio
For my final Panorama update of 2014, I’d like to share photos from my last foray into the Yosemite wilderness this year. The trip began at Badger Pass as we loaded our packs, put on our snowshoes, and hiked along the Glacier Point Road on a clear, crisp December morning. Our plan was to spend 3 days enjoying the iconic scenery above Yosemite Valley on the South Rim. My guests were a pair of adventurous Europeans making the most of their holiday visit to the US.
We were well prepared for this excursion but there is no real preparation for the cold overnight temperatures we experienced both nights. Fortunately, the wind was low, and the conditions were right for a winter campfire. Pieter, a former Belgian Scout, was a self proclaimed pyrotechnician who worked tirelessly to build a fire after an inauspicious first (and second and third) attempt. His tenacity earned him the nickname ‘Jack London’ for whom he and Pauline (originally from The Netherlands) were unfamiliar. With the additional heat from our blazing campfire, we spent each evening under the stars with bellies full of gourmet camp food until we were forced to escape the temporary comforts into our unheated tents. On the second night, we agreed to name our site Camp Johnny Cash for Pieter’s masterful work. Everybody loves Johnny.
The nights were rough, but the mornings were sublime. Confidence ruled our second day, and as the sun warmed our souls, we explored the rim along the Pohono Trail. We chose an extended hike down toward civilization at Inspiration Point where we encountered seven people. The trail was crowded. After escaping the masses with a picnic at a semi-secret location off the trail, our group began the return journey with an almost 2000 foot elevation gain. It was hard work, but we were rewarded with some of the most fascinating views of El Capitan and the entire Yosemite High Country any of us had ever seen. Here are some panorama images from our trip.