Talking to Mom in Yosemite
Dan and I boarded Enzo for our trip to Yosemite, thinking bears, hikes, restricted areas to take dogs to and a very small tent would not make for a very pleasant trip for the three of us. It was a good decision. We didn’t have a reservation and the campground we ended up in didn’t allow dogs anyway. We ended up camping above the valley, 2,000 feet above the valley in Tamarack, which was a beautiful campground, but there was no water except a creek and a very windy, steep, long road down it which until very recently was not paved, so it is mostly for tent camping. That makes for a nice quiet camp experience mostly. Thanks very much selfish parents of 4 teenage boys who sent them over to our side of the campground to get high and rowdy. But no generators from motor homes or trailers, which was really nice. We snagged a nice spot in the corner and had lovely neighbors the whole time we were there. Up in the campsite the weather was great for camping. Shorts and t-shirt during the height of the day. Jacket, jeans and fire for the evening.
We planned to go down into the valley and see the sights so we got going early and took the hour of so ride down in. We were there the week after Labor Day, hoping that conventional wisdom would be correct and the park would be less crowded. I guess it was, but I sure wouldn’t want to see summer crowds!
The ride in was beautiful, descending 2,000 feet gave us opportunities for many overlooks and we went through an astounding change in climate and environment.
We stopped at this amazing overlook of the valley, still not fully understanding what we were looking at…
and this perfectly framed view of Half Dome.
We could feel it getting warmer as we got closer to the bottom. It had been a pleasant 60 something up in Tamarack Campground. It quickly warmed up to the 80’s as we hit the valley floor. The crowds also increased, as did the sheer awe of being at the bottom but so close to these sheer cliffs rising straight up from the valley
floor through some geological miracle. The waterfalls were minimal because we were there in the beginning of September, but that didn’t take away from the breathtaking splendor. Or the disbelief that people actually climbed these very cliffs, for better or worse. We spent about 30 minutes with a group of people coming and going around a fellow with an impressive scope trained on El Capitan. He had us all convinced that we saw someone climbing up there, just above that crack, next to the vertical line, under that splintered part….Then we went a bit down the road to a fellow with a more impressive scope and saw that it was just more of that crack! Hahahaha. Well, it was fun to consider and marvel.
Parking wasn’t too bad in the morning and we left the car to explore on foot. The volunteers at a booth on the edge of the parking lot were very helpful, friendly, relaxed and informative. Turns out they were the only park people we would meet that were. The paid personnel were OVER it. I guess the summer had taken its toll and they were more likely to bear spray a tourist than help them.
We found the valley very confusing and not well marked. We did the little hike to Lower Yosemite Falls, which was pretty and probably spectacular in the spring if you could get near it. It was crowded enough in September, so I can only imagine. It was also getting very warm, and there didn’t seem to be any breeze down in the valley. Crowds, heat, still air and cranky people are not my favorite mix. We drove around a bit more of the area and out to the Ahwahnee Hotel because I had always wanted to check it out.
Again we were able to park pretty easily, walked up marveling at the architecture and the amazing setting. Many perfect logs had gone into the entrance to this beautiful lodge. We entered the lobby and saw the lounge on the left, deciding a cocktail and sitting a moment in the cool would be nice. Before we could set foot in the lounge a fellow about the size and demeanor of Lurch from the Addams Family told us we could get in line and order a drink at the bar then walk about the hotel or outside on the patio with it. Only those ordering food could sit in the bar. Apparently we didn’t look like food orderers, or guests at the lodge. Dan was not going to be deterred and marched up to the bar where there were two seats, asked the bartender if we could sit there, got a grunt, which he took to mean yes, please have a seat, it will be delightful to have you join us, and we sat. The bartenders served everyone, the people in line, the people at the tables, the kitchen staff, everyone, before us which just turned the experience even more special. I couldn’t really get into the spirit of the sign outside the lounge that said “the Ahwahnee welcomes you”. We left shortly after that one long awaited drink and Lurch actually said “There you go.” Welcomed indeed!
We did walk around a bit and the rooms on the ground floor were beautiful. 2 fireplaces in the Grand Lobby were so big Dan was dwarfed by
them. I don’t think they had been lit for the season yet but the whole area smelled deliciously of wood smoke. I can only imagine the fires burning in the winter, snow outside, Lurch on patrol for impostors…
The one last thing I wanted to do was check out the dining room to see what the fuss was all about. People were lining up for dinner, too intimidated to even step up to the large doorways and peek in the dining room. Not me, I had already defied Lurch and lived, I wanted to see it and I snapped this photo:
Ok, that is seriously beautiful! There were gasps of disbelief from the people behind me and I think I heard one horrified voice exclaim “They only take reserVAtions!” I love the look of it, but I was not disappointed to be leaving the House of Attitude behind. Back to my humble campsite please!
The ride down to our campsite once we reached the peak wound down through some beautiful woods, great boulders and some very burned out areas from the huge wildfire that roared through there last year. The progress after one year is remarkable, but it is still difficult to see the devastation. The best part was that the trees that grew along that path were the kind my mom always wanted for a Christmas tree. Mom was a real Christmas elf, if not Mrs. Claus herself. When she and Dad went tree shopping she would make him unwrap every tree in the lot that was the right height, shake it out real good to see the shape, twirl it for her and then do the next one. And she usually wasn’t satisfied with one tree lot. She liked the really expensive kind that had very few branches and was kind of blue silver colored. I’m not sure she ever got to have one of those, but she always loved them and pointed them out whenever she saw them. That made me really enjoy the drive because I felt particularly close to Mom as I rode past all those perfect Christmas trees, the ones that hadn’t burned.
I have some brass bells that were in her craft basket, and I have a bunch of tiny shells I collected on Kauai. I have been stringing the shells and hanging the bells on them and giving them to special people.
I decided to bring some on this trip to hang in places my mom would like. Dan and I went walking off of this road and found 2 of these perfect trees set apart from the others a bit that we thought Mom would like.
He grabbed a stick and tromped through the brush, got sap all over himself and hung the bell high in the tallest tree.
He stepped back and I snapped a picture, looked at it in my phone screen and started to laugh and cry. Bent over double just bawling and laughing. Dan came running over, he figured this had to be good and asked me what the heck. I told him I had heard Mom clear as day tsk her tongue and say “Well…” and as she said it I saw what she saw. The tree Dan put it in actually had 2 trunks. Look again, you’ll see it in the picture above. Clear as day, 2 trunks. Mom would never let that stand. That would NEVER do! Dan had a very good laugh too, recognizing that I really had heard her because that was EXACTLY what she would say and mean. I told him he didn’t have to move it but he said he always does what Marie wants. And he immediately retrieved his stick and waded back in to hang it on the other tree with the perfect trunk.
We stood proudly looking at his handiwork for at least 30 minutes, laughing and crying and remembering what a wonderful pill my mom could be! She would be the first to admit it and laugh about it.
So that is where Mom’s bell sits. In its perfect spot, far off the beaten path. It has a beautiful view, a perfect tree and will probably never be found, which is perfect. Thanks for the laugh Mom, it was so good to hear from you.