Tag Archives: Yosemite


I didn’t grow up camping.  It’s just not something we did as a family, though my parents certainly knew how to camp and did their own fair share of camping as young newlyweds touring Europe.  So – I don’t really know how to camp.  Tents are a mystery.  Starting a campfire seems like a bit of black magic.  The only camp food I can produce is a s’more.

Lucky for me, my brother and sister-in-law are expert campers, and are more than willing to take the lead.  We camped this year at Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park.  It’s a pretty large campground, with bathrooms that have running water.  Despite the fact that there are over 300 campsites in this campground, it didn’t feel crowded at all.  There were other people camping right beside us on either side, but there are so many trees that we kind of forgot they were there.

This is what our campsite looked like:

Center right was our big tent, which slept Nate, Lydia, Aaron and I.  The little tent behind the trees all the way on the right was Jake’s tent.  I was pleased and surprised that Jake wanted his own tent – I guess he’s really not scared of the dark anymore.  Or bears.  He was very happy to have his own quiet space to retreat to.  The little tent on the left was the play tent, where the little kids could go to escape the mosquitos and color, draw, or play games.  My brother’s family tent was off to the left a little bit more.  Directly ahead is the campfire, picnic table, and bear box.

Yes, there are bear boxes.  Despite the fact that we didn’t see a single bear (which I was happy about at the time, but now that we didn’t see one, I kinda wish we had seen one!), we were very conscientious about using the bear box.  We took NO FOOD AT ALL into any tent, and no toiletries either.  Including chapstick.  I was taking no chances – I did not want to wake up to a bear rooting around in my tent for my chapstick!

My brother brought his hammock, and the kids had lots of fun swinging each other around.  Here is Aaron swinging cousin Henry in the hammock:

Camp cooking is something that is very intimidating to me – how to feed all those people on a little cook stove?  With only the ingredients you’ve brought with you?  Well, Sam and Deia make it look easy.  Deia is the brains of the operation – she plans the menu and coordinates the packing.  Sam is more like the wrangler – he pulls it all together and makes it happen.  Of course, it helps if you have a beer in hand:

Camping is really a lot of work, but the payoff is huge.  It’s really nice just to sit in nature and… be.  That’s it.  There are no distractions.  There are no screens.  There is no news.  My phone had no service.  When it got dark, we huddled around the campfire and talked.  When we got up in the morning, we huddled around the campfire and nursed our coffees and hot cocoas.  The kids ran around and built rock towers and battled each other around the fallen logs and boulders.  The grown-ups cooked and cleaned up and laughed and just existed together.

When you strip everything else away – all the trappings of daily life – it’s the people who are left.  And when you’re camping, you can just be together, in the same space, very simply, and remember it wistfully later when you have ten emails to answer and the phone won’t stop ringing, and one kid is whining to watch a TV show and another is complaining that he doesn’t want that much milk in his cereal, and you’re late for work.  Can you tell I’m back in the real world now?


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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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