Day 12: Heading Home From Home
As a group, we have agreed to meet at Yosemite Lodge (now called “Yosemite Valley Lodge”) for breakfast at eight. We are all up by six thirty, disassembling our tents, folding up our sleeping bags, stuffing things back into our cars. The return to civilization begins. Continue reading
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
Day 6: Do It For The Cheeseburgers!
“Do it for the cheeseburgers!” is our mantra for the last day’s hike from Indian Ridge to our car on Tioga Road. We have adapted it from our biking mantra for the 40-mile round trip ride from our home in Half Moon Bay to Duarte’s in Pescadero, where we “Do it for the pie!”. Olallieberry pie, to be exact. A la mode. After the artichoke-green chili soup and warm sourdough bread with butter.
Having a goal in mind helps on the steep uphill climbs. When the idea of “conquering” a hill is just not enough to get the legs going, doing it for the pie sometimes will.
In this case, it is the thought of a cheeseburger from the Tuolumne Meadows grill, another twenty miles or so down Tioga Road from where our car is parked.
But first, there is the climb. Continue reading
Day 5: Dream Campsite on Indian Ridge
Our packs are getting lighter, I think. The ratio of food to garbage in our bear canisters has finally reached the tipping point of more garbage than food. These are the signs that we are nearing the end of our trip.
Our final night is spent on Indian Ridge, overlooking North Dome, with views stretching from Clouds Rest to Half Dome and all the way down the Valley to Eagle Rock and Three Brothers.
We score the campsite I had spotted on our first night, when we headed down to the creek for water. It is the most luxurious space of all the sites so far. Perched at the apex of the ridge, there are two Ponderosa pines positioned perfectly for sitting and enjoying the outstretched views of Half Dome and Clouds Rest. Two clusters of low madrone bushes provide some privacy from both the trail to North Dome and the rest of the ridge descending down toward the Valley. Three separate living spaces are defined by the borders of the madrones, the rocks, and the trees.
The wildlife show here consists of alpine chipmunks, which crisscross the trail and hop from one rock to the next, then disappear in the madrone bushes. Continue reading
Day 4: Sherpa Steps to El Capitan
The nosebleeds started three years ago, on our backpacking trip from Tenaya Lake to Clouds Rest to Little Yosemite Valley. That was another case of trying to go light by carrying less water, and sleeping at a high altitude. Ever since then, Randy has brought a kit of supplies with him to deal with sudden nosebleeds in the wilderness. I pass the time by theorizing about the causes and possible remedies – not of the symptom of having nosebleeds, but of the determining factors.
I contemplate the mystery of how the blood vessel constricting effects of the pseudoephedrine in Claritin-D could paradoxically promote bleeding. I wonder if the drying effect of the antihistamine in Claritin is too much in the already dry alpine air. I blame coffee, wine, and not enough electrolytes. I wonder if he should have done a sinus rinse using water taken from the creek. I even imagine how it would be possible, on future trips, to bring distilled water to do sinus rinses in the backcountry.
These are the things that go through my head as his nose is bleeding in the middle of the night. I also note, with some mixture of horror and pride at the accuracy of my self-assessment, that this is the kind of parent I would be, if I were to become one — an analyzer, a fixer of things. I am not a natural when it comes to providing pure comfort and soothing presence. My mind is usually too busy understanding “why”. Any abilities I now have in the area of healing and calming presence I have acquired from many days, weeks, and months of attending workshops and retreats and practice. Continue reading