Monday, August 20, 2012

Go climb a rock.

That's the Yosemite Mountaineering School slogan, the one seen on t-shirts around the world.

And that's just what we did with The Pinks.

Day One: Drive to Yosemite Valley. We're told it's four hours from our house so of course we think we can do it faster than that. Nope. Summer traffic. A gutless-but-fuel-efficient Prius and windy, two-lane roads without guard rails. Night One was spent in relative luxury in a cottage at The Ahwahnee. Tech trivia: Steve Jobs and Laurene Powell married here in 1991.

We swam and played in the river. Don't underestimate the thrill of rock skipping, glacier-created sand between your toes and fast-moving snowmelt on a scorching day. Deer and squirrels were everywhere. The kids couldn't believe that the deer barely gave them a glance. Dave took a tour of the historic hotel, which opened in 1927 so wealthy people would come visit and see how worthwhile their support of this park was. Dolled up. Dinner with friends. And other friends. The sun went down and the kids played flashlight games with people atop Glacier Point, 3,200 feet above us and the valley floor.

The Pinks showed the appropriate amount of awe at the Valley. Unprompted. It'd easily been 20 years since I'd been to the park and it's magnificent. Granite rising from the valley floor. I doubt I thought the same when my dad forced me to backpack lengths of the John Muir Trail during my formative years. My friend and I traded backpacking stories. All these years I thought I was the only one who cried on the trail, and it wasn't from the sheer beauty of the surroundings, either.

Day Two: Breakfast in the hotel dining room. The ceiling is 34' high and supported by immense sugar pine trestles. Fortunately there is no dress code for breakfast because two of three kids dined in their pajamas. Hike to the base of Vernal Falls. Beautiful. Hot. Many people doing the same thing. The chances of us getting heatstroke were less than of us getting trampled. Visit to the Ansel Adams Gallery.

Depart Ahwahnee for Tuolomne Meadows, up at 8,900 feet. Shoot requisite picture of The Pinks at Half Dome Overlook. Stop at Tenaya Lake for Yosemite Conservancy ribbon cutting ceremony at East Beach. Sand play for kids. My fish friend, an accomplished open water swimmer, went for a dip while we played on the beach. She didn't even have the decency to shiver or to breathe hard after doing a fast mile in the 51F lake. No wetsuit, either. And then came the rain. Head for Tuolomne Meadows Lodge.

Lodge is tent cabins with bear boxes, cots, wood stoves, and a communal bathroom. Eat protein-heavy dinner in dining room, the only option. Witness numerous backpackers come to Lodge hoping for a dry room for the night. No such luck. Rain eventually stops. Play in Merced River. Spend evening making s'mores and laughing. Doze off and on all night wondering if sound outside cabin is bear or deer and if we should have put our toiletries in the bear box, like the Bear Aware Policy suggested.

Day Three: Eat flapjacks and bacon in dining room. Fishing at two different lakes. Bag lunches. Explain to kids Tree Line. Notice that fishing spots at elevation 10,000 feet are making it hard to breathe. Drive back to Bay. Sleep like the dead in my own bed.

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