Witness to rebirth in Yosemite during spring

Los Angeles Times staff photographer

Spring in Yosemite unfolds like the complex opening movement of a symphony that becomes increasingly frenzied. Fortunately, the conductor has done this for an eternity, so there are no false notes.

From my front-row seat to this masterpiece, I see — and photograph — Yosemite’s rebirth for this, the third part of a four-part series that has allowed me to make pictures of the park in every season. (Summer, the final installment, will appear June 20 in the Travel section.)

Fall and winter in Yosemite are noteworthy for what disappears. But spring is all about beginning again. In Cook’s Meadow, the grasses that lay dormant through the winter begin their resurrection, pushing through layers of crusted snow. One blade, then five, then 20 emerge to form a meadow of lush greenery. Leaves begin sprouting on the iconic elm tree in the center of the meadow, stripped by the change of seasons last fall. Nearby, the bracken ferns shake their winter slumber and push through the soft soil, eventually forming a graceful, lacey work of natural art.

Sunshine and warmth play a return engagement. Snow at the higher elevations melts, and the runoff collects in the streams, rivers, lakes and waterfalls, some of which you can see before you hear. The volume of water that crashes against the rocks at the base of Bridalveil Fall is so heavy that it sounds like dynamite. The accompanying mist can stagger an unsuspecting visitor, soaking his clothing and ruining unprotected camera equipment.

Along the banks of the Merced River, flowers that look like white crepe paper are about to sprout amid the spoon-shaped leaves of the dogwood trees. North and south of the old stone Pohono Bridge and along the Merced River, the dogwood display attracts photographers from all over the world.

As spring reaches its crescendo, voices begin to fill the void of winter’s silence. The visitors who fled the snow and cold are returning.

So are friendly local mule deer herds, which are showing off their newest members, and the male adolescents sport several new prongs.

With a smile and a wink, the conductor waves his baton, the musicians in this granite cathedral play their instruments, and Yosemite is again in perfect harmony.