The Story Behind the Photo: Vernal Fall

I took this photo along Yosemite’s famed Mist Trail. I was only about a mile from the trailhead when I saw a chain of large rocks jutting out into the Merced River.  I cautiously made my way out onto the rocks to check out the view upriver.

Vernal Fall was directly in front of me, maybe a quarter of a mile away. It is the widest of the many incredible waterfalls within Yosemite.  Yet as powerful as Vernal Fall normally is, it was amplified exponentially that day.  The valley was flooded just three days earlier and it was May, so the great cataract was fed by a plethora of Spring runoff.

The huge fall folded over a 300 foot high cliff, only to come crashing down upon a cluster of colossal boulders. The mighty explosion of water on rock filled the air with a thick blanket of mist.  Even where I stood, a good distance downriver, I was enveloped by the spray.

Soon I rejoined the trail, which led me to a massive staircase built of rocks and small boulders. Several hundred granite steps, steep and slippery, stood between me and the brink of Vernal Fall.  The large stairs hugged the mountainside en route to the top of the stunning waterfall.

The guttural roar of the waterfall was absolutely deafening, making it hard to concentrate as I hurried up the water-logged steps. The granite staircase was fully engulfed in the fall’s mist. By the time I reached the top of Vernal Fall I was soaked and shivering.

Vernal Falls
Vernal Fall

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