On a peak day in hiking season, as many as 60 climbers are likely to be scaling 889 meters to reach the top of Yosemite National Park’s El Capitan rock formation.
But for two weeks, in mid-to-late February, El Capitan attracts people who simply stand in awe at an illusion that its waterfall is a stream of molten lava. The setting sun hits the Horsetail Fall at just the right angle to light the water up, as if it is on fire.
“It just seems like it has its own source of light — that there’s nothing else creating it. It’s really an amazing and beautiful thing to see,” says photographer Michael Frye.
The phenomenon is temporary, lasting an average of 10 days, and depends upon adequate rain and melting snow. The sun lights up the falls for only about two minutes at dusk, but the remarkable scene draws many visitors to one of America’s most famous National Parks.