Have you ever heard about a person, or a thing, or place, that you’re sure you’re going to dislike so strongly that you avoid it to the detriment to yourself? That place for me has been Yosemite. For some reason, the thought of Yosemite, or actually getting to Yosemite has always given me the creeps. I have avoided it like the plague. Instead of imagining charming camp sites, I conjured up meth labs. Instead of thoughts of biking through the bucolic meadows, I envisioned Biker Gangs rounding every corner. It was classic flashback to Bad Nor Cal 1970s, and I couldn’t get past it. The more enthusiasm people had for Yosemite, the more I decided it wasn’t for me.
I mean, we weren’t big campers to begin with after my mother’s Edict of 1974, which stated “no more ‘dirt camping.'” Apparently, the multiple trips to Buckskin, Az. with small children (one of whom found every cigarette butt at camp, promptly ingesting it.) And so, we didn’t. My former husband had no interest in camping, apparently he’d heard of my mother’s Edict. Upon my divorce, and effort to re-invent myself I jumped at the opportunity to camp. And guess what? We loved it and made several trips to Camp Richardson in Tahoe.
However, I was still leary about camping in Yosemite. Could the tall tales of its beauty really measure up? Would it be worth the drive? What if I was expected to HIKE? After repeatedly turning down an offer to accompany 4 other families on an annual trip to Housekeeping Camp in Yosemite, I accepted.
I took my youngest Houligan, my niece, and my nephew, ages 13, 12, and 11. After a long drive that included car-sickness, and car trouble, set to Deliverance banjo music, we arrived around mid-night, quickly unpacked, and settled into our 3 sided ‘tent.’ It had a double bed, a set of bunks, some shelving AND (gasp!) electricity. All set on a concrete floor. Total luxury camping compared to what we’d been doing!
The first morning I woke early and stepped out of the tent. In the pre-dawn fogginess, I glanced up and saw Half Dome thinly veiled in mist. It was so shockingly beautiful it took my breath away. All I could think of was John Muir hiking through this valley and Ansel Adams’ images re-created before me in real life. As Muir stated, “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.” This was the Yosemite before me.
Over the next few days, we went on adventure after adventure. We hiked Mist Trail (much more treacherous than I’d anticipated), rode bikes to Bridal Veil Falls, rafted the Merced river, had cocktail hour at the venerable Ahwahnee Lodge, and ate beautiful al fresco meals that my gourmand traveling companions provided. The kids biked and hiked and kept up with the adults, not to mention rounds and rounds of competitive team chess. Did you know there was such a thing?
As we watched the Americans play Germany at the World Cup, we ate our breakfast, camp-style, in the Curry Village lodge. We drifted down the river at dusk, cocktails in hand, only to be ambushed by water guns and the errant children we’d left behind.
In short, we communed with nature and it was heaven.