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Hi! from Yosemite

A Yosemite Adventure for Non-Campers

by Karen Dale

The first time we went to Yosemite together, my mom and I decided to rough it. We hadn’t made reservations a year in advance, as everyone recommends, so we knew that what accommodations were available would be minimal. We found out that they had these things called “tent-cabins” in Camp Curry, and decided that we could probably survive without our own bathroom or solid walls for a few nights. We were up for an adventure¾this was Yosemite, for Pete’s sake!¾it wasn’t about the indoors.

Mom had been to Yosemite once before, but this was my first time seeing the place. I wasn’t really expecting much because, at the time, I was a pretty big nature cynic who felt like I had already done enough hiking and nature-walking in my life. I quickly learned that Yosemite is the place where believers are made. After hours spent driving through scenery ranging from ho-hum to nice, I was abruptly amazed. 

Once you pass through the main gates, the long drive to the valley leads you through the standard California Sierra Mountain fare of endless pine trees. It’s nice, but nothing too out-of-the-ordinary. After a time, you begin to see waterfalls and hints of the wonders to come. And then, I don’t remember if you round a bend and blammo there it is, or if that’s just how it struck me, but suddenly you come onto a panoramic view of what seems like an oasis in a dessert of palm trees. 

The vista of the valley floor bordered by El Capitan and Half Dome is incredible¾like stepping into a postcard. So, my cynicism began to alleviate almost immediately upon site of our destination. It also helped that we were driving my mom’s Miata with the top down, and all of a sudden those pine trees had more character than I’d ever noticed. I know Mom had planned the mode of our entrance on purpose, probably intent on vanquishing the blasé attitude with which I was expecting to meet every new sight.  

So we checked into our very humble lodgings after deciding not to try and upgrade to a cabin, where we would surely be more comfortable. We had no interest in wasting time standing in line each morning in an attempt to hold on to the cabin won by virtue of some poor shmuck’s cancellation. The possibility of having to move from cabin to cabin sounded like the biggest waste of time, since we wanted to spend most of our time seeing the sights, not the office. 

In opting for the tent, however, we now realize we were denying our true characters and deluding ourselves as to the intensity of our love for nature. They had cute little cots made up for us and little homey touches. It all seemed nice enough. Oh, how very deceptive. 

The night we spent in that tent was probably the coldest of either of our lives. No one once mentioned to us that it might be a good idea to bring a sleeping bag or something. This is just not something that crossed either of our hotel-happy minds, especially when the photo in the brochure pictured cute little rooms with warm-looking blankets on the bunks. Ha! Those blankets (well, one on each bed) were paper-thin and the late-Spring nights get a lot colder up in the mountains than in your average May in San Jose. Obviously not well thought-out on our parts, but it was anyone’s fault but our own at the time.  

The next morning, breakfast at the Camp Curry cafeteria was the last thing to brighten our spirits. I am an avowed enthusiast of institutional eggs (airport breakfast¾yum!), but I had no energy in my soul to appreciate even a simple joy like a hard-scrambled eggs with cold toast. We were both so grouchy and disillusioned, we made plans for a quick pass through the park and a speedy getaway back to civilization and a warm bathtub. All of our hopes of viewing the falls, hiking to the lake, and painting in the meadows held absolutely no interest for us that morning. We were depressed and defeated, and I personally planned on holding a grudge against this retched place for as long as my memory held in tact. 

Lucky for me, Mom had one last stroke of inspiration and suggested that we go sit in that long eight o’clock line and try to arm-wrestle a firm-walled cabin away from someone who had had the luxury of sleeping past sunrise.

Bless our Irish luck, the heavens opened up and bestowed upon us the most beautiful little bug-infested, mildew-laden, motel room cabin we had ever seen. It even came with a bathroom. Talk about appreciating the little things like never before. Renewed with the sense of impending comfort and warmth, we spent the day walking, painting, hiking, and reading in what was really a gorgeous place at the most gorgeous time of the year. 

Some big trees in Yosemite!

I think we experienced a re-affirmation of the things we value and the people who we really just aren’t. A hot bath and a quiet nap in the afternoon were pleasures that we needed as part of our vacation to feel like ourselves and maintain the energy to enjoy the wonders that surrounded us. We regained our vigor and enthusiasm which allowed us to see so many beautiful things and appreciate the park as it deserves. We were lucky enough to keep our little cabin for one more night; it turned out that standing in that morning line no longer qualified as a true inconvenience!

We now know what it takes for us to enjoy a place such as Yosemite, and nature in general. When friends suggest a trip to the park and express their passion for the Housekeeping campground, it takes all of five seconds for the “pass!” to leave my lips. I do believe that a trip to Yosemite would not be the same without my mom. Each time we go we treat ourselves better and better. We decided that on our next visit, it’s the Ahwahnee all the way!

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