Day 11: Friday Finale, Milkweed Beetles, & Food Upcycling
Today’s forecasted high is 103 degrees. It is the last day of work for the volunteer crew. Two other times in the past, I’ve participated in the picnic table building, so I remember certain things quite well. The vice grips used by one person to hold the head of a stripped bolt, while a power drill is used by another to unscrew the nut from the other side. Moving wood planks and metal hardware into position, placing nuts and hitting them with the power drills. Recharging the drills. Painting the wood planks. Lifting, flipping, and carrying the finished tables.
This year I don’t do any of that. It’s Randy and the other eleven volunteers who pile into the van each morning and drive over to Lower Pines campground, near the amphitheater, to do this work. Continue reading
Day 10: Starting Out Early In The Morning
Thursday. I am well aware that I have only this and one more morning in which to get out early enough to sketch and paint before the baking sun begins to saturate the Valley. I’m on my bike by eight o’clock. Sara Midda’s South of France sketchbook pops into my head, with her delicate vignettes depicting details, colors, and memories of every season of the year in southern France. I decide to make vignettes of the smallest details I can find this morning on my bike ride. I’ve been trying to stare at massive granite walls and follow the contours with my eyes and hands. Now I’m going to notice the minutiae. Continue reading
Day 9: Made in the Shade
Wednesday is the volunteers’ day off. In years past, we have spent our Wednesdays doing such ambitious hikes as Mount Dana, Mount Hoffmann, and Four Mile Trail. But two years ago, knowing we had a backpacking trip ahead of us, tacked onto the end of the work week, we decided to take it easy. One of the other volunteers lent us his inflatable raft. We took the shuttle bus all the way to Happy Isles, and found a spot to put in near Sugar Pine bridge. The water was so low we were sitting on rocks for much of the time, but we did manage to make our way all the way to our home base, just past Sentinel Beach.
This year, having already worked hard on our backpacking trip, and with the exceptional heat (today’s high forecast to be 103), we have a very unambitious agenda. We get on our bikes and see if we can catch the ranger program at 9:30. Turns out it is cancelled. We head just beyond the Yosemite Museum to the Yosemite Cemetery. I never knew there was a cemetery until Ranger Karen mentioned yesterday that the only sequoia trees in the Valley are the ones planted around the tombstone of Galen Clark, Yosemite’s first park ranger. Continue reading
Day 8: Geo-Mythology, Ranger Karen, and Lisa-Chu-rri Sauce
I am up before my 5:45am alarm again. Today’s breakfast menu is hash browns, scrambled eggs, sausage patties, and the leftover black bean and corn salad from last night’s dinner. I find out Mary Lou has never made hash browns from boxed or frozen potatoes…only by grating fresh ones.
“Trust me, it’ll work,” I say. We have picked up a carton of dehydrated shredded potatoes from Yosemite Lodge, and I am ready to go at them, testing my hash brown flipping skills on a larger scale than I’ve ever done before. The skillets we have are the size of backyard garbage can lids. The spatula is the size of a Kindle reader. Mary Lou is a skeptic all the way until the moment she tastes the cooked hash browns. Continue reading
Day 7: Cooking, Biking, and Sketching
My alarm is set for 5:40am. My first job in the morning is to put two pots of coffee on the stove. We promise our volunteers coffee by 6:15, and breakfast by 7. My eyes open at 5:25. The sun is already up but hasn’t started to warm the floor of the valley yet. From my tent, it is about a thousand feet to the vault toilet, and then another thousand feet back to the bear locker where my toothbrush and toothpaste are stored. Then about twenty feet to the hand washing station set up near the kitchen.
The menu for today’s breakfast is bacon and French toast. Mary Lou takes charge of the bacon. I am in charge of the French toast. I crack ten eggs into a stainless steel bowl the size of a restaurant wok. Our supplies are stored inside a trailer which is dark at this time of day. We are still not totally familiar with the contents of the five different coolers with perishable items, so I am often opening and closing all five before I locate the one ingredient I need. Continue reading
I just returned from an epic 12-day journey, my longest continuous stay so far, in Yosemite National Park. First night (a Tuesday in July) at Crane Flat Campground — lucky to get the one open campsite reservation online. Next five days/four nights in the backcountry. Entering at Porcupine Creek trailhead, camping on North Dome, then top of Yosemite Falls with a day hike to El Capitan, then back to Indian Ridge (near North Dome) for the final night. The final seven days were spent in Yosemite Valley Yellow Pines campground as volunteers with Yosemite Conservancy. This was our fifth year of service as volunteers with YC, and my first time as Assistant Cook, helping with preparation of hot breakfasts and dinners for the work crew of twelve volunteers all week long. I loved it!
I have just finished gathering and photographing/scanning all of the art images I created during my twelve days. A total of forty-six images, each with a mini story that will allow me to retrace my steps, one day at a time, and share each episode with you, in twelve, bite-sized portions. Each post will go up at 10:00am Pacific Time. At the end of the twelve days of posting, I will post the entire body of work on the front page of this website, as one project.
In the meantime, sit back and take a walk with me through one of our nation’s finest treasures. Continue reading