Laura and Lee's Cataract Catharsis

June 14-18, 2001

The middle of June...must be time for our annual trip to Yosemite! :-) I never get tired of it - I think it's my favorite place in the world. Of course I wish I didn't have to share it with so many *other* people, but... ;-)

I had duly made our reservations a year and a day before - still no luck with Yosemite Lodge, but at least we had cabins WITH bath in Curry Village this time. In fact before we left for this trip I made our reservations for 2002 - and for next year I *did* get into Yosemite Lodge - woo hoo!

Thursday, June 14

We had planned to leave home at 9:30, but the best laid plans are subject to change when there are cats involved...I noticed a problem with one of ours and felt I needed to take her to the vet - but they couldn't see her until 2:00. Fortunately, the vet said she was fine, but it meant we didn't leave Walt & Barb's until a little after 4:00 - which put us right in the middle of rush hour traffic in both San Diego AND L.A. We got stuck in traffic in L.A. - at one point it took us about 30 minutes to go 3 miles! Ugh.

We were planning to spend the night with Lee's dad and grandmother in Visalia, and we made it up there about 11:30, though we did make a stop in Visalia for some wonderful milkshakes at Mearle's, which is supposedly the inspiration for the malt shop in American Graffiti.

Friday, June 15

We had a nice visit (though short) with Tom and Gram, and then Friday after a breakfast of Gram's yummy pancakes we left and drove into Yosemite - it's about 2 hours to the park entrance from Visalia. We stopped at a little place called "Wawona", which is just inside the park, and toured the Yosemite Pioneer History Center, something we'd never done before. They had old cabins and buildings they had brought from various areas of the park and reassembled, and also a bunch of old wagons and stagecoaches and other vehicles that were used for transportation in the park before cars. There was a covered bridge, and Lee, Walt, and Barb admired the huge beams that had been shaped by hand. Lee discovered the old Army "Powder Room", which was once used as a jail.

We had lunch at the Wawona Hotel, which was built in 1876. Very old-fashioned, but it seems very odd to find it in Yosemite, because it's more resort-like - in addition to this fountain and lily pond there are even tennis courts and a 9 hole golf course there! You can tell that it's a much more relaxed environment around there - it was very peaceful.

We requested a table outside on the porch, which was very pleasant. The food was good but the service was slow - but as it turned out we had slow service everywhere during this Yosemite trip.

There's more information on the architecture of the Wawona at the National Park Service's "Architecture in the Parks" web site.

From Wawona it's another 45+ minutes down into the valley itself. We had to stop at the traditional "Inspiration Point" site for pictures - it's the first opportunity you have to get a good look at the valley. The waterfalls were much lower than usual at this time of year - the Sierra Nevada had a lower-than-normal snow year. It looked more like mid-July than mid-June. Horsetail Fall, located just west of El Capitan, had very little water still flowing over it - Barb said it looked more like Rat-tail Fall. :-)

It was 4:00 or so by the time we arrived at Curry Village and we had a little bit of hassle at check-in - at first the guy told us they had been expecting us the night *before*!!! But that was evidently the reservation for *next* year that he first pulled up. Anyways, he eventually got it straightened out.

This time we stayed in the cabins *with* bathroom, which was a HUGE improvement over the cabins without bath that we had last year. There are two units in each building, and so we had a building for just the four of us. The buildings aren't nearly as close together as the cabins w/o bath and tent cabins are, plus they are on the *other* side of Curry Village, so it was a lot quieter and there weren't nearly so many people around. The population density is one of the things I dislike about Curry Village, but over on this side it was very peaceful. We even had several deer wander through less than 20 feet from the cabin.

The cabins had a front porch (though not enclosed), and it was very nice to sit out there in the afternoons/evenings and read or talk. I'd have to say that I think the cabins with bath are the best value in the park at $75.00/night - I certainly wouldn't hesitate to stay there again. Not that our rooms didn't have problems - Walt and Barb had to do some surgery on their shower head to get any water flow, and two of the screens on the windows in our room were missing, so we couldn't open those windows (unless we wanted to let the bugs in!). And the tile in our shower was in pretty bad shape, though Walt and Barb's had been redone fairly recently.

After we got everything unloaded from the car and had relaxed for a while, we walked over to Yosemite Village (about a mile) and wandered around and had dinner at the pizza place. Last year it was a pasta place - we liked the pasta incarnation better! Lee asked one of the employees why the change had been made, and he said "management" thought a pizza place would be better. Sigh. After dinner we walked back to Curry Village (though we had to stop to apply mosquito repellant as we were walking by a meadow) and sat on the deck for a while...we were all tired, so we went to bed around 9:00. (Pictured: Bridalveil Fall)

A note about the weather - it was just beautiful, and pretty typical for this time of the year. The days were sunny with highs in the upper 80s, and at night it was in the upper 50s or low 60s. It was pretty chilly in the morning until the sun got high enough to get over the walls of the valley, but then it warmed up quickly.

This year we had brought bikes with us, since we had such fun when we rented them last year. Biking around the valley was great - it was a lot easier than trying to drive to most places! And it was very nice to have our own so that we could just go when we wanted to, and NOT have to rent - especially since in the mornings we were going BEFORE the rental place was open!

Saturday, June 16

Saturday morning we rode our bikes over to the Ahwahnee Hotel and met my parents and their friends Jim and Sherry for breakfast. (My parents live over on the east side of the Sierras near Mammoth and they had driven over Tioga Pass that morning - from their home to the valley is about 2.5 hours.) They were already there and seated when we arrived - we walked into the dining room and saw them, and then I noticed this large Tigger sitting next to Sherry at the table - she had gotten him for my birthday, but couldn't wait until then to give him to me. :-) He's very cute - he stands rather than sits, and he's about 2 feet tall. "Big Tig" and "Little Tig" had a lot of fun together.

We all had a wonderful breakfast - the Ahwahnee has quite a variety of things on their breakfast menu. At our table we had apple crepes, eggs benedict, eggs foresta, the "Trailhand" breakfast, spicy vegetable hash, granola, oatmeal and fruit. And they include a really nice pastry basket with muffins and bread and coffeecake - we went through several of those.

(Here's the NPS architecture site on the Ahwahnee Hotel.)

After breakfast we rode back to our cabin and the others drove back and met us there, and we got ready to go hiking. We'd decided to do the 4 mile trail (which is really 4.8 miles), which goes from the floor of the valley up about 3200 feet to the top of Glacier Point. It was the only major trail in the valley that Lee and I hadn't done, and we ended up splitting into two groups to do it - Mom, Dad, Walt, and Barb drove our Xterra to Glacier Point and hiked down, and Jim, Sherry, Lee and I drove their car to the base of the trail and hiked up. Hiking up was a nice challenge - but we all felt really good, and we actually made very good time - 2 hours and 45 minutes including stops. I think Jim could have done it in an hour and a half - he just powers up the trail! :-)

There are some great views of Yosemite Falls and Half Dome from the trail, and I found some wildflowers, too. (Wildflowers were not as plentiful as last year - spring came earlier this year and we were kind of in between spring and summer at this point.)

We met the other group as we were about 2/3 of the way up (they had had to drive for about an hour to get to their starting point), and exchanged car keys and car locations. Though they would have to be *blind* to miss where we had parked - it was *exactly* at the bottom of the trail, and they would walk straight into it!!! :-)

Once we got up to Glacier Point we spent about 40 minutes admiring the view and eating a late lunch before finding the car and heading back down to the valley. We made a quick stop at Washburn Point where we had a great view of Vernal and Nevada Falls - the only time I got to see them this trip, since we never had a chance to hike up that trail at all. So many little time...

We met the other half of our group at the ice cream place in the Village - they'd been there about 15 minutes, so our timing was pretty good. Mom and Dad and Sherry and Jim left about 4:30, and the rest of us went back and got cleaned up and had dinner at the buffet in Curry Village. It's ok, not great, but filling, and there weren't too many people there.

We went back and sat on our porch for a while and talked - I guess we were in a silly mood, because our topic of conversation was what Yosemite would be like if *Disney* were the concessionaire. :-) Warning: the following is NOT at all politically correct! :-)

We decided that there would be "Pioneer Land" where you stayed in log cabins, and "Indian Land" where you stayed in teepees, and "Robber Baron Land" where you stayed in a fancy hotel with a jacuzzi in the room - I wanted to stay in Robber Baron Land. :-) I think we also had Hippie Land and Touron Land (Tourist + Moron = Touron - Sherry and Jim taught us that one - these are the people who think that Mt. Rushmore is natural, or that the falls in Yosemite are turned off/on according to the water budget - you can read more about "Tourons" here). And then there was Bleeding Heart Liberal Land - right next door to Strip Mine/Clear Cut/Off Shore Drilling/Dam the Rivers Land. :-)

Sunday, June 17

Sunday morning we biked over to the Village and had breakfast at the deli - their sign advertised that they had "cinnamon rolls baked fresh daily" - but whatever day they were fresh, it definitely *wasn't* on Sunday. They were barely edible after they were heated in the microwave. Ick. After that we biked around the valley floor for a couple of hours, stopping several places like Swinging Bridge (don't know why it's called that, since it *doesn't* swing, but you get this great view of Yosemite Falls from there) and Lower Yosemite Fall, to take pictures. The valley is relatively flat, but there are some small hills, and it was nice to have multiple gears - the rental bikes we had last year were only single speed.

We also stopped along the road by this meadow. The sign says:

"On this site President Theodore Roosevelt sat beside a campfire with John Muir on May 17, 1903 and talked forest good. Muir urged the President to work for preservation of priceless remnants of America's wilderness. At this spot one of our country's foremost conservationists received great inspiration."

We're not sure what talking "forest good" is...maybe they mean: "Life is like a never know what nuts you'll find inside". "Leafy is as leafy does". "Sometimes there just aren't enough trees". :-)

(And for those of you who have seen "The American Adventure" at Disney World, this is NOT the location of the Roosevelt/Muir meeting as portrayed there - Disney has combined features of Sentinel Dome and Half Dome to create a place that does not actually exist. :-) )

By late morning it was getting warm, so we decided a change of transportation mode was in order, and got ready for river rafting. We could rent rafts and launch them in the river very close to where we were staying, so we did that, and stopped after 20 minutes or so for lunch, which we'd brought with us. The water was *much* lower than last year - there were a couple of places where we got hung up a little bit in shallow spots. (We had two rafts.) We saw several duck families - they seemed to be enjoying the water. Lee, Barb, and Walt did not find the water temperature nearly as comfortable as the ducks did, and I think they took the all time shortest swim. :-) (Walt was in and out of the water way too fast for the camera!)

It took about 2 1/2 hours to float the 3 miles - we had to paddle a bit. It was nice, though, and fairly cool. Last year the driver who drove the bus that took us back to the rental place was, uhh...different. This year we had a much more personable driver, and when we referred to last year's driver, she knew exactly who we were talking about, and said he was "no longer with the company". :-)

After we got back we sat on the deck for a while and read, then got cleaned up and a little dressed up (we actually wore pants!) and went over to Yosemite Lodge for dinner in the Mountain Room - most of the tables have a view of Yosemite Falls. Our waiter was pretty slow but our bus girl was terrific and kept us well-supplied with water and got plates out of the way. The food was pretty good - the guys had steaks, Barb had the rack of lamb, and I had the 5 cheese ravioli. For dessert Barb had the chocolate raspberry tiramisu, Walt had a berry tart, and Lee and I split the chocolate layer cake, which was quite acceptably chocolatey - though still not nearly as good as the chocolate spoon cake they used to have. We did some shopping at the Lodge gift shop after dinner, then drove back to Curry Village.

Barb and I went to see an actor named Lee Stetson do one of his one-man John Muir shows (we've seen him *multiple* times, but had only seen this show, John Among the Animals, once), which was right at the Curry Village Amphitheater, so it was very convenient. By the time that was over it was time for bed.

Monday, June 18

On Monday morning we did most of our packing, then biked over to Happy Isles and Mirror Lake. It was pretty chilly since the sun hadn't risen in the valley yet. We biked back over to the Ahwahnee for breakfast again. Unfortunately we arrived just after 3 large groups so the service was very slow - the kitchen had too many orders come in at once. We rode back to Curry Village after breakfast and finished packing the car and got on the road at 11:00. Had a little bit of traffic coming through L.A. but nothing like it was on Thursday. We got to Walt and Barb's a little after 7:00, and got back to our place about 8:00.

Random Thoughts

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Tigger's 2001 Yosemite Odyssey

Text and photographs copyright © 2001, by Laura Gilbreath and Lee Zimmerman. Feel free to link to this document, but you may not redistribute it in any form without the express written consent of the copyright holder.

Laura Gilbreath,
Last updated 7/3/2001

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