Postcards from Yosemite and beyond: Winter snowfall blankets the Sierra

Snow coats the banks of a river lined with conifers below a sheer granite prominence.
A dusting of snow covers the trees and Half Dome, seen from Yosemite Valley.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
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After nearly two years of focusing on COVID-19 and working inside 13 different hospitals for the Los Angeles Times, it was finally time to go outside, away from crowds, and take a break from the pandemic.

First stop: the General Grant Tree in snow — sometimes called the nation’s Christmas tree — located in Grant Grove in Kings Canyon National Park.

I was attempting to make my way to General Sherman and other sequoias affected by the KNP Complex fire, but the road between Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park remains closed due to inclement weather.

Rays of sunlight shine through a grove of majestic sequoia trees on snow-covered ground.
A snow-covered Grant Grove in Kings Canyon National Park.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
The trunk of a massive sequoia dwarfs surrounding trees as it rises from snow-covered ground.
The General Grant tree in Kings Canyon National Park is the world’s second-largest by trunk volume.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
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Bright green moss is contrasted by ice on a sequoia.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

General Grant did not disappoint. The tree is about 268 feet high, and the circumference of the trunk is 107 feet, second in size only to General Sherman.

The crowd was minimal and the path slow due to ice, allowing me to focus both on the details of the icicles dripping from moss and the giant Sequoia in the snow.

Yosemite took my breath away. My first visit. Ancient giant granite cliffs. Snow-covered meadows. Ice weighing down the pine needles. The rush of the waterfalls breaking the silent air. I am already planning my second visit.

Ice crystals on glass
Ice crystals form on the car window in the early morning Tuesday in Yosemite National Park.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
Two small icicles dangle from a moss-covered rock.
Two small icicles dangle from a moss-covered rock in Grant Grove in Kings Canyon National Park.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
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And lastly, a brief stop to photograph trees affected by the Caldor fire near Martin Meadows, about 35 miles south of Lake Tahoe. The Caldor fire burned 221,835 acres in the fall of 2021. Recent storms have dropped multiple feet of snow, with more on the way.

My spirit feels rejuvenated having a few days void of focusing on COVID-19.

During winter’s solstice, I took the long drive home through fog on icy roads. It gave me time to reflect on the impermanence of life, the inevitability of death and the continuum of hope during my brief excursion from the city.

General Grant is about 3,000 years old. El Capitan in Yosemite Valley was formed roughly 200 million years ago. And one day children will again play in the forests scarred by fire. We will get past the pandemic in time. And I felt at peace having spent time in nature.

“In every walk with Nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” — John Muir

The crowded trunks of small trees blackened by fire rise from snowy ground.
Trees burned by the Caldor fire stand near Martin Meadows off California Highway 88 between the Silver Lake and Kirkwood Mountain resorts.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
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A small copse of bare decidious trees is backdropped by taller confiers and a snowy granite slope.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
A bare, brown granite formation constrasts with more-distant snowy mountains.
El Capitan and Half Dome, as seen from Tunnel View in Yosemite National Park.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
A waterfall plummets down a granite prominence marked by patches of snow and ice.
Upper Yosemite Fall plummets among patches of snow and ice in Yosemite Valley.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
Delicate ice crystals cling to a tree's needles.
Ice crystals cover trees in between winter storms in Yosemite National Park.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
A man and two children walk a snow-covered trail lined by evergreens.
Martin Tschopp, left, walks with his children Kai, 12, middle, and Maia, 10, in Grant Grove in Kings Canyon National Park.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
Two boys, one seated and another on his belly, ride sleds on packed snow.
Cesar Torres, 8, of Madera, front, and Adrian Jovani Castillo, 11, have a blast sledding near an old burn area not far from the entrance of Yosemite National Park.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
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A large granite prominence towers behind sparse conifers lining a stream with snowy banks.
El Capitan rises above Yosemite Valley.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
Snow clings to the steep granite rock walls of El Capitan.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
Clumps of snow top the stubs of blackened trees.
Clumps of snow top the stubs of blackened trees in Yosemite Valley.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
Bare tree trunks glow in fading light.
As the sun sets, the light shifts red momentarily on trees with old burn marks not far from an entrance gate at Yosemite National Park.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
Light shines from a small, many-windowed building with a steeple flanked by evergreens under a night sky.
Light shines from the Yosemite Chapel at night in Yosemite National Park.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
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