The Fall in Winter

Yosemite's Horsetail Fall gears up for its sun-sweet show.

WATERFIRE: A waterfall, let us all agree, doesn't need any gewgaws or extras cluttering up what it does best. What it does best, of course, is transport water from a higher area to a lower area at an impressively forceful and rapid speed. That's a bit of a dry summary, but it is a sight humans have found quite beguiling and postcard-worthy over the ages. And it really needs nothing else added. But, every once and awhile, a waterfall comes along that gives us a little something more. One of the most famous waterfalls to do so is Horsetail Fall in Yosemite, which, come mid- to late-February, can achieve a certain fiery appearance come sunset, courtesy of several factors, not least among them its particular place in the valley.

WHERE AND WHEN: The when is indeed February, but it can be tricky and unpredictable, like all things involving sun and earth. If clouds are around you could be well out of luck for the day. The show was predicted to start wrapping around President's Day last year, so you could let that be your general guide for 2012. Now, about the where; you'll want to get to the El Capitan picnic area. Very easy and accessible. Bet you'll find a whole bunch of photographers, too, with their big cameras pointed up. It's hard to beat something beautiful happening to something that is already beautiful, and, given that those moments don't come around often enough, people do show to try and catch the all-too-brief phenomenon.

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