Yosemite Snowshoe Adventures

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Yosemite Snowshoe Adventures Above El Capitan by John P. DeGrazio

After a slow start to our wet season, we have received enough snow in the Yosemite High Sierra to open the Badger Pass Road today, February 7th. What does that mean, you ask? It means Yosemite National Park can now officially host winter activities like snowshoeing and skiing from Badger Pass. It means we will be able to lead you on a guided snowshoe trek in the Yosemite High Country to our favorite winter destination, Dewey Point. Call us today to make your trip to Yosemite more memorable (209) 532-7014 or toll free (800) 886-8009. We’ll be waiting for your call.

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Snowshoeing is back Jenn and Dan!

Mirror Lake: Yosemite iPhonography Panoramas 2.6.14

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Yosemite Mirror Lake Panorama with Half Dome and Mt. Watkins by John P. DeGrazio

Massive Granite 

By John P. DeGrazio 

Looking up at Half Dome is quite impressive no matter where one stands. I recently had the opportunity to visit the first place I ever hiked in Yosemite National Park, Mirror Lake. On my first wide eyed visit, I knew very little about the majestic peak above me; only that I knew I wanted to be on top of it. The next day I attained that goal, and the idea was hatched to launch YExplore. On the trail, we discussed the idea to take people all around Yosemite to uncover beautiful vistas while learning how to make landscape images with expert photographers.

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Half Dome above Mirror Lake, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio

The scope of YExplore has changed over the years, and we now include a full slate of Yosemite activities while learning about the human and natural history of the park and the surrounding Sierra Nevada. Our goal is to take people to unique areas of Yosemite that are “off the beaten path”, so to speak. While we would probably not take you to Mirror Lake on a busy July afternoon (which was where I was in 2003), it is a wonderful area to explore in winter. Sweeping vistas present themselves wherever you may be in Yosemite Valley, and gazing at Half Dome is a favorite activity on a quiet January morning. Mirror Lake is perfect for images of Half Dome and Mt. Watkins.

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Half Dome Rising Above Mirror Lake in Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio

Winter Activities Welcome in Yosemite

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Clouds Rest, Half Dome, and Sentinel Dome from Dewey Point by John P. DeGrazio

Time to Celebrate Winter in Yosemite 

by John P. DeGrazio

The snow is here, it’s time to celebrate another winter in Yosemite National Park. As you may know, we have been pretty dry here in Yosemite for the past 2 years, but this winter has already been pretty promising in terms of precipitation. I was digging through a couple of old photos this morning and stumbled upon these 2 from a Yosemite Snowshoe Trek I made to Dewey Point in the fabled Winter of 2011. It was an epic year for snow, and we’re all hopeful for some big storms this winter and spring.

Getting to this point was worth the effort. It’s a 7 mile roundtrip hike that leads you through a couple of meadows, an undulating forest, and then finally, out to Dewey Point where you literally stand 3,200′ above Yosemite Valley. We had the added bonus of blazing the trail that day since we were the first to venture out that morning right after the huge storm. We were rewarded by being the first group to make it to the Point, and we were able to take photos of the undisturbed landscape.

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El Capitan from Dewey Point by John P. DeGrazio

 

May Your Holidays be Filled with Adventure and Cheesecake

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The DeGrazios on a Yosemite Winter Adventure

Happy Holidays from YExplore! It’s important to remember the holiday season is for sharing special times with family and friends. As you sit around the table eating that last piece of cheesecake, just remember it’s never too early to enact your pre-summer fitness plan. I’ve recently published a couple of articles explaining the importance of staying active all winter to avoid the post-holiday blues. Now that we have a solid base of snow in the Sierra, I am really looking forward to leading some of our snowshoe adventures in Yosemite.

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Yosemite Crane Flat Snow Play

Here is a piece I wrote sharing Healthful Holiday Tips from Yosemite National Park. I had a little fun with it describing ways you can continue to enjoy holiday meals while burning calories as you add them.

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John DeGrazio Enjoys Nature’s Bakery Fig Bars

And here is something I wrote for one of our sponsors, Nature’s Bakery. I am an ambassador for the healthy snack company who provide us with tasty Fig Bars that we give out on our trips in Yosemite.

I hope you enjoy reading these lighthearted ways to enjoy your holidays while preparing for your next wave of adventures in 2014. Have a wonderful holiday season and a healthy new year.

Be adventurous,

John

Cathedral Rocks: Yosemite iPhonography Panoramas 12.16.13

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Sun setting behind Cathedral Rocks, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio

I recently led a hike in Yosemite Valley with a visitor from Germany on his first Yosemite adventure. The forecast called for rain and snow during the day with some clearing in the afternoon. Our hike led us to the top of Yosemite Falls where our sight was limited, but it did not hamper our experience. The snow fell quietly on us as very few others braved the elements on this day’s adventure.

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Yosemite Falls in a snow globe by John P. DeGrazio

We imagined ourselves inside a snow globe as we gazed upon the middle cascades and lower falls from a familiar lookout.

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Clearing Storm above Yosemite Falls by John P. DeGrazio

The clouds began to break upon our return to the Valley floor. As I exited the Valley, I stopped in El Capitan Meadow to take a couple of images of the sun setting behind the Cathedral Rocks. It was another breathtaking journey that proved winter in Yosemite is always a magical time to visit.

Photographing with a camera phone was once frowned upon as a lazy way out of making an image. With advancing technology, these phones are becoming more integral in everyday “outdoor” life. I am currently using the iPhone 5 with an 8 megapixel camera, and will share the world of Yosemite through my phone.

yexplore.com

Yosemite Adventures: Merced Pass Lakes

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Sidelit Pines on Upper Merced Pass Lake by John P. DeGrazio

Hike the Extra Miles to Reconnect with Friends, Yourself

By John P. DeGrazio

Sometimes it takes extraordinary circumstances to bring two parties together. Other times, it’s a simple meeting in a familiar setting. My friend Evan and I have hiked much of the Yosemite backcountry in the past several years, but we both recognized we were long overdue for our next adventure and had a plan to remedy that oversight. Evan and I like to embark on journeys that require covering over 20 miles in a day and have created our very own “Marathon Hike” series. From Merced Lake to the Middle Fork of the Tuolumne on snowshoes, we have covered a lot of ground together in Yosemite National Park.

Our goal last week was to hike from Mono Meadows to the Merced Pass in a day. It was actually our goal 3 weeks ago before an early snowstorm temporarily closed the Glacier Point Rd. With clear skies and mild temperatures, our plan was back on track. The Merced Pass hike is a 27 mile round trip adventure from Mono Meadows along the Illilouette Creek behind Mt. Starr King and towards Mt. Clark, Red Peak, and Merced Peak. The elevation gain was probably somewhere around 3000 feet for the day so it was not unthinkable to tackle this hike in a day.

Traditionally, this is my go to area for seeing bears, and like a backpack trip here in August, we were disappointed once again to spend the hike alone. Although, we did see lots of scat everywhere, just no furry creatures besides a couple of squirrels and chipmunks. That was our only disappointment, however. We moved quickly and covered the first 10 miles of the trek in great time. This set us up for a pre-dark return, and we were already making our dinner plans back in the Valley. In case you haven’t noticed in prior posts, food is a major motivator for me. Shocking, I know. I always recommend bringing comfort food along on every excursion and dinner plans always help to provide the much needed boost to end any journey regardless of how disappointing the pizza really was that night.

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Looking lost (not really) in the Yosemite Backcountry at Merced Pass

We arrived at Merced Pass shortly after 1pm and remained well positioned to hike out during daylight hours. Then we got an idea. An awful idea. We got a wonderful, awful idea! Don’t know how that Grinch reference really fits into this, but I’m sticking with it in the context of getting back before dark. After we ate our lunch at the pass, we decided to visit each of the Merced Pass Lakes. We figured we could hit each lake and still get off the trail as the sun was setting. Both were easy cross country traverses to reach and probably shaved about a half mile from our original route, but we learned quickly why we would be leaving the trail chaperoned by the moonlight.

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Arriving at Upper Merced Pass Lake by John P. DeGrazio

The Upper Merced Pass Lake was the smaller, more enchanting of the glacial depressions. Our brief photo stop turned into a one hour impromptu session of abstracts and side lighting. We were so excited to reach this lake at such an opportune time that we decided to reach into the lake to splash into its welcoming water.

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Icy Reflection in the Upper Merced Pass Lake by John P. DeGrazio

Evan’s initial inclination was to possibly take a quick dip into the lake to provide some refreshment from a long hike, but he quickly came to his proverbial senses after experiencing numbness in his fingers. Sometimes we may appear to be rugged mountain men. This was not one of those instances.

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Glowing Pines at Upper Merced Pass Lake, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio

Happily photographing several subjects at the Upper Lake, we then moved to the Lower Lake for more excitement. The lighting conditions were not as favorable there, but we still managed to take a few snaps. On our way back we realized there was no way to return in the light, but we welcomed the moonlight as it rose from behind us. Although, we only hiked for a total of 12 hours, the darkness made it seem longer. The return was filled with movie quotes, funny jokes, tall tales, and a smattering of politics. The breadth of our political discussion centered around our disbelief that anyone who could spend a day in the wilderness would turn a blind eye toward protecting it. We were both hopeful I could somehow enlighten a certain disbeliever who currently represents the area containing Yosemite National Park and its surrounding area yet continues to try everything in his power to denude this beautiful land. I digress.

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Lodgepoles in Upper Merced Pass Lake, Yosemite by John P. DeGrazio

It turns out I took my own dip crossing a stream on our return. Hiking out in soggy socks is no way to complete a trek, but crossing streams in the dark will sometimes have unintended consequences. Because it is virtually impossible to fill a 12 hour hike with stimulating conversation, we often spent stretches alone with our own thoughts. This is one of the biggest takeaways I advocate for activities like hiking and biking. I relish valuable time spent gathering my ideas on these extended excursions. I am able to draft blog entries, plan calendars, and augment offerings while away from the office in an ‘unplugged’ outdoor setting. We ended our day tired but energized; fulfilled but craving more adventure. We felt as if we could solve the world’s problems and planned our next trip while assuring each other we would not let as much time pass between outings. Maybe the U.N. or U.S. Congress can book a future Yosemite Tour with us? Just an idea.

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Row of Lodgepole Pines at Upper Merced Pass Lake, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio

Cystic Fibrosis Xtreme Yosemite El Capitan Hike 9.28.13

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Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Yosemite Xtreme Hike to El Capitan 9.15.12

This Saturday we will be proudly leading the group from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation on their Xtreme Yosemite Hike to the top of El Capitan. Last year’s trip was a smashing success, and we have about 30 participants this year who have already raised over $100,000. This is a dedicated group who are determined to find a cure for Cystic Fibrosis. It is an honor to lead this intrepid chapter on their 22 mile journey once again.  Please visit their website to make a donation or learn other ways to help and try to find a cure.

Feed from YExplore Adventure Blog: http://yexplore.com/adventure-blog/.

 

Backpacker Backstories: Yosemite Weekly Photos 6.05.13

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Backpacking Through a Burnt Out Forest in Yosemite by John P. DeGrazio

A Week in the Woods

By John P. DeGrazio

Reaching the solitude of Yosemite’s wilderness is often the cure to life’s doldrums. We often share this magical place with many who sometimes feel worn down when they meet us and amazingly feel refreshed after hiking a 20+ miles in 3 days. Isn’t it funny how that works? You’d be surprised with what you can accomplish with such a rejuvenated spirit. Each of the last 2 groups I led into Yosemite’s Backcountry had members who shocked themselves by reaching new heights they thought they’d never achieve. I love capturing these moments with images. It’s fun to have our explorers pose for fun photos, but it’s even more rewarding when I can capture some of the essence of our trips without them even knowing.

2 of these images were taken from a Half Dome Backpack trip. We currently have some limited availability for 2 upcoming Half Dome Backpack Tours June 18-19 and July 1-2. We don’t anticipate them being available much longer but please feel free to contact us if you are interested.

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Gazing at Half Dome by John P. DeGrazio

 

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Reflection of a Yosemite Backpacker by John P. DeGrazio
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Catching some Refreshing Mist from Vernal Fall

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Yosemite Sunsets

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Lake Vernon Sunset with Lenticular Clouds, Yosemite National Park

Backpacking in Yosemite 

by John P. DeGrazio

I’ve recently had the pleasure of leading two separate 3 Day Yosemite backpack trips over the past couple of weeks in two very distinct parts of the park. Backpacking is much more demanding than day hikes but the rewards are countless. Here are a few sunset photos I managed to get with my Canon S95 and a portable Gorilla Pod.

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Sunset on Mt. Clark, Yosemite National Park
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Sunset on Kolana Rock, Hetch Hetchy, Yosemite National Park

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Echoes and the Bunnymen

Cathedral Peak, Cockscomb, and Echo Peaks from Lower Cathedral Lake
Cathedral Peak, Cockscomb, and Echo Peaks from Lower Cathedral Lake; Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio

By John P. DeGrazio

Mountaineers aren’t made; they’re born.

Waking up at 5 am is never fun, but sometimes it is more tolerable than others. As my alarm sounded, I sprung out of bed, eager to meet the day’s challenge. I couldn’t shovel the oatmeal in my mouth fast enough, and I sprinted out the door with a full pack of food, water, and plenty of sunscreen.

Morning Light on the Back Side of Pywiack Dome, Yosemite National Park
Morning Light on the Back Side of Pywiack Dome, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio
Gabe Mange Feeling Strong
Gabe Mange Feeling Strong by John P. DeGrazio

We arrived at Pywiack Lake, some like to call it Tenaya Lake, at about 8 am and immediately began our  journey. After some early morning shots of Pywiack Dome, we followed the climbers trail up the Cascades to Lower Cathedral Lake where we were greeted by stunning views of Cathedral Peak, my first multi pitch climb in Yosemite. I was with Red Bro in charge, Gabe Mange, and he was feeling strong.

Tenaya Peak and Pywiack Lake, Yosemite National Park
Tenaya Peak and Pywiack Lake, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio
Early Morning, Pywiack Cascades, Yosemite National Park
Early Morning, Pywiack Cascades, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio
That's What Beards are For
That’s What Beards are For by John P. DeGrazio

We treated ourselves to some sunflower seeds and other snacks before we continued our journey. We stopped briefly to chat with 3 firemen who declined our invitation to join us on the Echo Peaks and a lone camper who all thought we were a bit out of sorts. When I tried to explain what our goal was, Gabe nudged me to end the conversation and reminded me “We’re like on a big mission, man.” From the Upper Cathedral Lake, we ascended through a decent amount of snow to the bench above beautiful Budd Lake.

Eichorn Pinnacle and Cathedral Peak, Yosemite National Park
Eichorn Pinnacle and Cathedral Peak, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio

From there, I declared “Dude, we’re camping here in a few weeks”. Gabe concurred.

Cathedral Peak and Clouds, Yosemite National Park
Cathedral Peak and Clouds, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio

The views were sublime. I was overwhelmed by emotion as I felt my spirit lifted from my body in way that I have experienced many times before, but only in the mountains. Cathedral Peak was simply stunning, and I had never seen Mt. Dana look so beautiful, all 13,061 feet of her.

Our approach to the Echo Peaks was pretty straightforward, and we didn’t encounter any problems besides a few postholing incidents. We chugged a couple of shots of Red Ace, and Gabe received a jolt of energy he had never felt before. Not to be confused with the other poisonous energy drinks on the market, Red Ace is an all natural beet shot. Each bottle contains three organic beets, and I have been assured by my new friend Miles, the company’s owner, that scientists have proved this supplement can provide energy as well as help mountaineers adjust to higher altitudes. Gabe and I were convinced as we saluted our new found tonic.

Every Climber Needs a Good Partner, Echo Peaks, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio
Every Climber Needs a Good Partner, Echo Peaks, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio

We climbed three of the Echoes in all, and made one last push to the Cockscomb, an 11,005 foot peak in the center of the Cathedral Range.

Alpinist Glow, Yosemite National Park
Alpinist Glow, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio

We grabbed the summit and decided to call it a day. Our plan was to get down for some fish tacos, but as it always seems, we were in no hurry to leave this magical place. We stopped to photograph the majesty of the peaks who welcomed us. We were not the only ones there that day, as we heard a couple of climbing teams on Cathedral. Although we were not alone, we felt so isolated from the rest of the world and were happy to share this most remarkable terrain with fellow adventurists.

We took our time on the descent and soaked in every last ray of sun as we approached the lake during sunset. We stopped to photograph at every turn where each lighting situation improved. We made it back to Pywaick, and the last bit of sunlight escaped as we ended our 12 hour excursion. We returned happy, tired, and hungry. Although we were feeling the pangs of hunger (missed our chance for tacos), our beings were completely satisfied with another bountiful mountainous feast. Next time we return, this area will be filled with many more adventurous souls on similar missions. This particular thought made our experience that much more memorable.

Cathedral Peak from the Bench
Cathedral Peak from the Bench, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio
Mt. Dana with Unicorn Peak, Yosemite National Park
Mt. Dana with Unicorn Peak, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio
Lenticulars and Mt. Conness, Yosemite National Park
Lenticulars and Mt. Conness, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio
On a Mission, Echo Peak #3, Yosemite National Park
On a Mission, Echo Peak #3, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio
Echo Peak #3, Yosemite National Park
Echo Peak #3, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio
Echo Lake from Echo Peak #3, Yosemite National Park
Echo Lake from Echo Peak #3, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio
Massive Matthes Crest, Yosemite National Park
Massive Matthes Crest, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio
Echo Peak #3, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio
Echo Peak #3, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio
Bunnymen, aka Team RedBro on the Echo Peaks, Yosemite National Park
Bunnymen, aka Team RedBro on the Echo Peaks, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio
Gabe Mange Descends the Echo Peaks, Yosemite National Park
Gabe Mange Descends the Echo Peaks, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio
Echo Peaks and Clouds by John P. DeGrazio
Echo Peaks and Clouds by John P. DeGrazio
The Cockscomb, Yosemite National Park
The Cockscomb, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio
Gabriel Mange and the Echo Peaks
Gabriel Mange and the Echo Peaks, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio
Whitebark Pine and Cathedral Peak
Whitebark Pine and Cathedral Peak, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio
Reflection of Cathedral Peak from Lower Cathedral Lake
Reflection of Cathedral Peak from Lower Cathedral Lake, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio
Cathedral Peak from Icy Lower Cathedral Lake
Cathedral Peak from Icy Lower Cathedral Lake, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio
Cathedral Peak from the Pywiack Cascades Headwaters
Cathedral Peak from the Pywiack Cascades Headwaters, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio
Gabe Mange Photographing Pywiack Cascades
Gabe Mange Photographing Pywiack Cascades, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio
Pywiack Cascades, Yosemite National Park
Pywiack Cascades, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio
Last Light on Cathedral Peak from Pywiack Dome
Last Light on Cathedral Peak from Pywiack Dome, Yosemite National Park by John P. DeGrazio

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