Friday, January 14, 2011

Disneyland at Christmas

I love the Disney parks.  They at once appeal to the small child in me, and to the Operation Research trained adult in me--so many people moved efficiently through so many queues--it brings a tear to my eye.

This was the first year that I hit Disneyland at Christmas (Disney World I'd been to before).  The park is transformed by wonderful lights, but even better, the Haunted Mansion now becomes The Nightmare Before Christmas (go Tim Burton!) for a month.  As one of my all time favorite movies, I'd been looking forward to seeing that for a long time, and it did not disappoint.  Everything about the ride is transformed, from the opening line to the final entreaty to return.  The detail and number of things to watch for is amazing.

Decked out to the nines in giant icicle lights, Cinderella's Castle doesn't look half bad, either!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Yosemite in winter

This was the second time that I've been to Yosemite in winter and it was equally gorgeous this time around.  I was there four nights altogether with my folks and the weather was scary for a while but in the end cooperative.

It rained the first day out, but by the second day that had turned to a lovely snow that blanketed everything.  The morning hike to the Lower Yosemite Falls was about as far as you would want to go with that much snow falling.  By the next morning, the sun was shining on all that snow, and made every glade and meadow into a beautiful tableau.  First we took an early morning tour with a photographer from the Ansel Adams Gallery, then headed off to Mirror Lake.

That night we saw the Bracebridge Dinner--a combination seven course meal and medieval Christmas pageant.  It was wonderful, great performances and amazing food.  This took place in the main dining hall at the Ahwahnee Hotel, a grand fixture of Yosemite Valley.

The next day the sun was again out, and we headed up to the overlook for Vernal Falls.  That proved to be significantly steeper a hike than to Mirror Lake (although roughly the same distance) and so by the end of the day we were happy just to stay put for an hour and try to get some sunset pictures from the middle of the valley.  By this time, though, the clouds had rolled in, and fog enshrouded all the major sights.

So the next day we took to the higher elevations, leaving the valley and heading to Tuolumne Grove, where some of the Giant Sequoias stand tall.  These trees can live to be thousands of years old and are very impressive up close.  The clouds continued to linger throughout the day, although the sun peeked through more at sunset this time.

Our final morning in the valley the skies cleared and the sun shone full force on the Upper Yosemite Falls, giving a wonderful rainbow across the water.  El Capitan and the tunnel overlook were also clear as a bell, and made for a great final few hours in Yosemite.