El Capitan's Big February Show

Horsetail Fall is set to glow again -- fingers (and sunlight) crossed.

THAT HUNK O' GRANITE: El Capitan, one of the most known, beloved, and visited monoliths in the world, was around long before the internet and television and newspapers and books. But the internet and television and newspapers and, yes, soon books and movies, too, are and will make up for lost time covering the Yosemite National Park icon, thanks to the epic Dawn Wall climb completed by Kevin Jorgeson and Tommy Caldwell on Wednesday, Jan. 14. It's big news, and for good reason: Many said that a hand-and-foot climb of one of the sheerest walls in the world couldn't be done. Now it has been, and while most people aren't plotting their own Dawn Wall ascent, many are pondering a Yosemite visit, the better to ponder El Cap and all of its marvelous mysteries. And one of those mysteries happens to be just ahead, though it is only mysterious on the surface (so, in other words, science explains the magic, as it often does, which doesn't deplete the thrill at all). We speak of Horsetail Fall, a waterfall located "on the shoulder of El Capitan" that seems to catch fire, courtesy of our planet's nearest star, each year for a few days come the middle to late February.

ACTUALLY, MAKE THAT A FEW HOURS... maybe. It's tricky to predict when the "firefall" effect will be seen, because so much of it depends on timing and the weather. But the promise of the stunner of a light show still draws people who love a good natural spectacle. You'll need to head for the El Capitan picnic area, around evening, because the day's "waning light" helps set the waterfall aglow. Keeping an eye on the forecast, to make sure cloud cover isn't too thick, is smart, and researching past experiences of people who've spied the non-fire firefall can inspire when you make for the park. Need more on this strange once-a-year phenomenon? Click. And hope that the sun and water and rock again come together in that perfect, photo-ready way. (They've been doing so for a few years now, so chances are good.)

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