A Fall to Remember

Rim Fire leaves the area looking like a moonscape

As you may have seen on the TV news or Internet or in your newspaper, there have been some unfortunate events up this way lately. First, in August, the Rim Fire that started just a few miles away from Groveland consumed more than 400 square miles, closing Highway 120 into Yosemite National Park. Then, less than a month later, just as we were starting to recover from this first big tourism hit... the government shutdown closed Yosemite entirely. Yosemite tourism accounts for about 90% of Groveland's business, so you can guess what this did to the end of our summer season.

CBS News did a story recently on how these twin disasters have affected our little mountain community. The statistics therein are not an exaggeration, it really is a struggle for our local businesses, especially as we head into the lean winter season.

The good news: Now is the perfect time to visit Groveland and Yosemite National Park. The summer crowds are gone, for the most part, although some people who patiently waited through both the fire and the closure are now visiting. Yosemite does have fall color in the form of black oaks whose leaves vary from golden to shades of orange, and the dogwoods with their breathtaking displays in scarlet, salmon, peach, and gold. When contrasted with the evergreen pines and cedars, the show is unparalleled. The valley floor is carpeted with golden grasses and huge yellow bracken fern fronds, while along the streams brown cattails release their fluffy white seed down that drifts along the breezes, creating the impression that filmmaker Ridley Scott must be setting up a shot for his next movie. The local wildlife is especially active, as woodpeckers, squirrels, chipmunks and mice are constantly on the move, looking for acorns and seeds to store for the winter. Deer wander the meadows looking for a nutritious mouthful before migrating to the lower elevations, and coyotes are on the prowl due to the increased activities of their rodent diet.

More good news: Yes, Yosemite is open in the winter! Many times during the fall and winter, the front desk receives calls from travelers wondering if the park is open. While the Tioga Pass road through the upper elevations of the park is closed due to snow and avalanche dangers (the pass, at 9,500 feet is the highest in California), Yosemite Valley is always open in the winter, barring extreme storm conditions. If you have chains for your vehicle, you can access the valley and other areas of the park, such as Wawona, even if there's heavy snow. Yosemite in winter is absolutely sublime in its unique beauty as snow-covered pines and oaks compete for "most beautiful tree." Sheets of ice fall from the face of Yosemite Falls every morning, and a cone of ice forms at the base of the upper fall when the mist freezes into "snow," phenomena that Sierra Club founder John Muir remarked on.

If you've thought about a visit to The Groveland Hotel, we'd love to see you, and help you plan your Yosemite-gold country trip. The crowds are gone, the air is crisp, and the ever-changing landscape is a photographer's dream, whether you're a professional or you just like posting to Instagram from your cell phone. Now is the time to come see us.

Groveland 2013