Cook's Meadow, Yosemite National Park, California
Cook’s Meadow: A Morning to Remember
"During our hike to Cathedral Beach, we met an avid California photographer who recommended Cook’s Meadow for some morning photography. While we were grateful for the tip, I was also somewhat skeptical about this particular location. The meadow appeared to be too close to the Yosemite Falls bus stop, a busy tourist site. The snow covered terrain also looked barren and lifeless, at least compared to the nearby park landmarks.
Acting against my better instincts, I hiked into the snow covered meadow at about 4:30 A.M. the next day morning in near total darkness. After trekking along the meandering Merced River for about a half hour, I found myself still alone and fairly deep into the meadow. The moment the sound of my footsteps came to a halt, I was shrouded in total silence and a kind of profound stillness that defies description. After turning off my head lamp, I relished the solitude and a strong sense of belonging in nature. Reflecting back, as cliché as this may seem, this was one of those rare moments where I could actually “hear myself think.”
Simultaneously, as my eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness, I was treated with a placid visual wonderland. The crisp snow covered meadow seemed to extend without borders, punctuated by the black river water and leafless trees in stark silhouette. Steam was rising from the river and tree line, cloaking a good part of the valley in a mysterious mist. Peering further across the expansive valley, I next recognized the blue-gray outlines of massive Half Dome and Cathedral Rocks.
Quietly, in the pre-dawn light, I set up my tripod and photographed the frozen meadow from various vantage points. The resulting photographs can only partially capture the true beauty and essence of this tranquil setting. My memories of the whole experience are far more lucid and multi-dimensional than the best photographs from the trip. Yet, were it not for this photography venture, I would have never been in Cook’s Meadow at daybreak for such an inspirational experience."
Excerpt from working draft, "Winter Serenity: Images from Yosemite National Park," © 2012, Marcus W. Reinkensmeyer.