Tag Archives: travel

Yosemite

My family moved to California when I was 9, but in the 20 subsequent years that I lived there, I never once visited Yosemite.  Yosemite was an idea – an amorphous National Park, somewhere out there (was it north, south, east?  Who knew?).  You know, where Yosemite Sam lives!  I had heard the terms “El Capitan” and “Half Dome,” but never specifically linked them in my mind to Yosemite, and certainly couldn’t form a mental image of either of them.

It turns out that Yosemite is breathtaking.  And I hereby accuse my parents of child neglect for not exposing me to this phenomenal place when I was an impressionable youth.

First of all, Yosemite is in the middle of nowhere – and it’s HUGE.  Here it is on a map – pretty much due east of the Bay Area.  Notice the paucity of interstates leading to it:

That’s right – it’s basically little state highways all the way.  And it’s about a 4 hour drive, just to get to one of the park entrances (of which there are 2 on the west side).  Once you get into the park, it’s about another hour’s drive to get to any real destination.  And you’ve got to CLIMB to get there.  Yosemite Valley, and yes, it is actually a valley, it at 4000 feet.  The surrounding mountains climb to 10,000 ft.  Our campground was at an impressive 9,000 feet, which made the uphill walk from the bathroom a long, breathless, crawl.

So this is what Yosemite looks like:

It is spectacular.  The pictures really don’t do it justice.  That big giant rock is Half Dome – it’s not the only dome in the valley.  We visited one that was near our campground called Lambert Dome.  The base isn’t too steep to walk quite a ways up, which the kids eagerly did!  Here is the gang making their way up as far as they felt they could safely go:

Walking back down proved more challenging than we thought – Jake had the bright idea to employ a crab-walk.  His reasoning was that four feet are steadier than two!

The river that cuts through the valley is called the Merced.  It’s filled with snowmelt, and as a consequence is extremely cold.  But that didn’t stop us from swimming!  It’s right underneath El Capitan.  Here is Nate diving in – Brrrrrrrr!

We also hiked to Mirror Lake, which isn’t actually a lake at all – just part of another river that flows right by the base of Half Dome.  We all swam a bit (even colder than the Merced!!), and Uncle Sam dove off a rock into the icy waters:

It really was a beautiful spot – well worth the whiny hike to get out there.  Here are each of the kids enjoying the chilly water:

It was an absolutely amazing three days.  I wish we had been able to stay longer, but two nights of camping is about all I can take.  We’ll have to plan another trip in a few years, once the kids are old enough to do some day-hikes.  There is so much to see there – but only so much that little legs can accomplish!

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Back Into Gear

I’m not sure what it was about this particular vacation, but I’m finding it very hard to get back into gear now that we’re home.  I went to bed last night at 9:30, and woke up at 8.  For the second day in a row.  I know I’m tired, but should I be that tired after our vacation?  It’s supposed to be vacation!  I’m supposed to be well-rested!

However, when I look at everything we did over our vacation, I can see why it’s been so hard to pick myself up and start doing laundry, unpacking, etc.  Here is a brief pictorial recap of our 10 day adventure in California.  More detail to follow in later posts.

We visited the Oakland Zoo:

Jake and Lydia took a bike ride with Grandpa out the Nimitz Trail while Aaron and I walked.  It was a stunningly beautiful day:

We also rode the steam trains – a particular favorite for Aaron.  What is it about four year olds and trains?

The highlight of our trip was camping in Yosemite.  We were there for three days and two nights, and took advantage of every moment.  This is Half Dome in the distance, swimming (and freezing!) in the Merced River, and Bridalveil Falls:

We also went to an A’s game, and stayed for the entire game:

And we went to the Exploratorium and the Palace of Fine Arts in the city:

On our last day, we took the Amtrak for a beautiful ride to a nice playground/nature area in Martinez (where I neglected to take pictures).  Then we flew out on the red-eye, during which the kids slept (some more than others) and the adults did not.

Long story short: the grown-ups are still recovering from our whirlwind trip.  Back to work tomorrow.  Yeehaw!

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Memory Monday

Every Monday I’m going to try to post a picture and talk about a memory.  It’s really just a gimmick to get me posting *at least* once a week, and give me something interesting (to me!) to talk about.  So here is installment #1:

In August of 1995, Nate and I were newly engaged, and moving across the country, east to west.  We took the northern route – I had driven 80 several times in each direction, and was eager to see something other than Nebraska.  So, we toodled along 90, taking side-trips as the urge struck us.  We decided to stop at Mt. Rushmore.  We were there at the same time as the Sturgis biker rally (who knew?!), so it was just us and a whole bunch of Harley dudes.  The Black Hills region of South Dakota is amazing.  It’s rocky, and scrubby, and majestic.  As you can see from the photograph, the day was picture-perfect – not a cloud in the sky.

The thing about Mt. Rushmore is that you can’t really get up close.  I mean, it’s huge, of course, so you can see if from far away, but when you’re looking at it, it still feels like you’re really far away.  We thought, “Hey, let’s take one of those helicopter rides so we can see it up close!”  This is, of course, a terrible idea.  I am a white-knuckle flyer.  I have no idea why I thought this was a good idea.  So anyway, we signed up, paid our exorbitant amount of money, and climbed aboard.  The helicopter wasn’t like the kind that you see monitoring traffic or landing at hospitals – this was one of those old-style, mosquito-looking things.  There were no doors (we were strapped in with seat belts), and there was clear plastic all around, so we could look down between our feet and see the ground.

So we climb in, and at this point, I was still excited.  And then we lifted off, leaving my stomach behind.  I clutched Nate’s hand in a death-grip, and stopped breathing.  The flight lasted 5 minutes, during which I took maybe three gasping breaths.  I was blindly clicking away with the camera the whole time (not looking through the viewfinder because I couldn’t move), so we got a couple of grainy shots of Washington’s nose, and many shots of rocky mountain with scrubby brush.  The whole time, Nate was chattering away over the headset with the pilot, who was a retired military man who had flown choppers in The Nam.  Once they got on that tack, he let out the throttle and showed us what he could do.  I almost died.

Of course, we survived.  Nate said, “That was awesome!  Did you get any good pictures?” to which I replied, “I have no idea.”

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