Sunday, January 22, 2012

Bottomless Bucket List and Beauty of Nature

When one has a serious disease, one thinks about creating bucket lists.  In my opinion everyone should have the bucket list anyway and try to live life as though the amount of time you have left is uncertain.  I did not adhere to that dictum myself for most of my life but now I have an endless list of things I want to do, or perhaps more appropriately, a bottomless bucket.

Incidentally, says that bucket list is a very recent term, popularized by the 2007 movie of the same name.  However, June Thomas in Slate traces the term back to 2004 from a book and even finds a use as early as 1993 in a NLRB report.  I seem to remember hearing the phrase before the 2007 movie but certainly it is likely that the movie helped the term become ubiquitous.

In any event, I decided with the Better Half that we would see Yosemite National Park in all four seasons this year.  We actually started in early June 2010 after my first and horrific round of chemotherapy, thereby catching the park in Spring.  We returned in late June, early July 2011,  October 2011 and last weekend, January 13-16, 2012.  We got somewhat representative weather in the first three trips.  However, the trip last weekend wound up being very unusual because Yosemite did not have any snow.

The absence of snow was good news and bad news for me.  The bad news was that we really did not get the typical winter pictures at Yosemite and we did not get to see Badger Pass which is only open when  there is snow.  The good news was that we were able to go on roads that are normally closed during the winter, specifically Glacier Point and Tioga Pass.

On the first day we were in the Valley, we went to the Tunnel View on our way to catch sunset at Glacier Point.  At Tunnel View, a reporter from channel 2 in San Francisco interviewed us because Yosemite had decided to allow free entrance for the holiday weekend due to the lack of snow.  We are in the beginning of the interview.  Don't blink or you will miss us.

YOSEMITE: Vistors to enjoy free admission and unseasonable...

We then were able to get to Glacier Point about a half hour before sundown.  Here are four pictures of Half Dome taken from roughly the same point in the four different seasons:

Late spring 2010

Early Summer 2011

Autumn 2011

Winter (January) 2012
The other wonderful place we were able to visit by car was Tioga Road.  We were told on our trip there on January 15, 2012 that this year is the first since 1933 that the Tioga Road has been open in winter.  The road closed two days later on January 17, 2012 as storm systems moved into the area, unfortunately including a deadly storm last night in Yosemite Valley, reminding us that nature can be beautiful and baneful.

On Tioga Road we stopped at Olmsted Point to get a sun-riddled photo of the back side of Half Dome  and a distant shot of Tenaya Lake:
View of Half Dome from Olmsted Point

View of Tenaya Lake from Olmsted Point
Tenaya Lake

Then we moved on to Tenaya Lake which was frozen solid and readily suitable for ice skating for  the first time since 1930.  Based on the tip from our waiter at the Ahwahnee, my daughter bought a pair of used skates from the Curry Village ice rink and took off across the lake in what she described as an unbelievable experience.  True, the ice was not as pristine as that in an indoor rink but she said that being able to skate the distance of two olympic rinks in the beautiful outdoors was spectacular.  Even I walked out on the ice after discovering that it was less slippery for my UGG boots than the pebbles or leaves on the hills down to the lake.  My daughter's dog enjoyed a run as well.

Catch Foot Spiral on Tenaya Lake

Taking Off on Tenaya Lake

Novella enjoys the ice on Tenaya Lake

A dog and her  boy
Returning from the other side of Tenaya Lake

ADDENDUM (JANUARY 27, 2012)  According to an article in the Los Angeles Times today (1/27/12) the 1933 date above was the first date records were kept so it may indeed be much longer than 79 years since Tenaya Lake and the Tioga Road were open and clear of snow in mid January.   As for the causes of the anomalous weather this year (other than the fact that I wanted snow and thus the weather thwarted me), the article cites both global warming projections and natural volatility of weather in California.  All I can say is that I am glad I saw Yosemite two years in a row after record snow fall so that the waterfalls were full and plentiful.