Yosemite is truly uncrowded now; I've been hiking where I see no one all day. I went up to Little Yosemite Valley for the night last week, and saw 4 people on the way; in the summertime it'd be 400 people. The campground there was calm and quiet with most nighttime noise coming from a spotted owl and the brightest fires were from Geminid meteors overhead. Half Dome leans completely away from the sun before 5pm and its cold shoulders cool off quickly then. I went up to George Anderson's spring and cabin but no one was there, either.
The Merced has dropped to below average, for just the second short stretch in a year. Yosemite Falls and the others are light but not anemic. There's very little snow at any elevation.
Yesterday was our annual Christmas Bird Count wherein several dozen amateur naturalists spend the day afield accounting for all avians. All-star Michael Ross added the first-ever Say's Phoebes to the count. Thomas Say went to boarding school with John Kirk Townsend (of Townsend's Warbler, for example). Townsend did some of his western natural history work in the company of Thomas Nuttall (of Nuttall's Woodpecker). Nuttall never got to the Sierra but he came to coastal California in 1835 where he bumped into one of his former Harvard students, Richard Henry Dana, Jr. (that's right, "Two Years Before the Mast"). On his second trip to California, Dana made it up to Yosemite and spent time with Galen Clark. Clark, of course, is buried in the Valley's cemetery, the residents of which Michael and I think of as some of the people from our village. Even after all these years we are 4 degrees of separation from the fellow for whom the phoebe is named.
Winter solstice is at hand, when the darkest days will start to stretch and lighten a bit. Here's hoping the Sierra gets Nevada and all of us range in the light soon.