Friday Flashback (Part II)

(Yosemite. April 2006)

(As always, click on the photos to see a larger version.)

Where was I? Oh, right…getting ready to hike…

After checking in to our overnight lodging, we drove around a bit and took a couple of short hikes. I think I must have wandered around with my mouth and eyes wide open in awe the entire time we were out and about in the park. It’s such a beautiful place, beyond what I’m capable of describing in words. Even shrouded in the mystery of the fog, rain, and snow, it was beautiful. I felt as though I’d entered an entirely different world and dimension. I’m very thankful that John Muir worked so hard to preserve the area. I’ve always enjoyed his writings and I now have a better understanding of what inspired him.

Dinner that night was at the Ahwahnee Dining Room (the penultimate photo of this entry). Proper attire is required for dinner at the Ahwahnee Dining Room. I didn’t know this and really hadn’t packed for it. My thoughts in packing were: We can only take one very small suitcase between the two of us and we’re planning to hike. So of course I brought hiking type clothing (jeans, sweatshirts, thermal underwear, heavy socks, boots). Nobody mentioned a thing to me about dining at the Ahwahnee or I’d have been prepared for it. However, a pair of black jeans, a black long-sleeved shirt, and black shoes were apparently good enough to get me in because they didn’t turn us away. The guys, by the way, looked much nicer, having prepared for it. Hmph.

We had the best table in the place, near a huge window in the back of the dining room. The walk from the entrance to the back is amazing. It’s a cavernous place, yet it has a lot of warmth to it due to the lighting. The dining room is beautiful, sumptious, and again, warm.

Here’s Frommer’s review:

Even if you are a dyed-in-the-wool, sleep-under-the-stars backpacker, the Ahwahnee Dining Room will not fail to make an impression. This is where the great outdoors meets four-star cuisine, and it’s a wonderful place to celebrate a special occasion. The cavernous room, its candelabra chandeliers hanging from the 34-foot-high beamed ceiling, seems intimate once you’re seated at a table. Don’t be fooled — it actually seats 350. The menu changes frequently and offers a good variety of creative yet recognizable dishes, such as mustard-crusted sea bass, butter-braised rabbit, and filet mignon with a blue-cheese gratinée. The dinner menu includes suggested wines (from an extensive wine list) for each entree. Breakfast includes a variety of egg dishes, hotcakes, and the like, plus specialties such as a thick apple crepe filled with spiced apples and raspberry purée. Lunch choices include a grilled turkey quesadilla and grilled portobello mushrooms on a sun-dried tomato roll; and a variety of plates and salads. The dress code requires men to wear a coat and long pants in the evening; no shorts or jeans anytime.

It was truly magnificent. The service was the best I’ve ever experienced anywhere and the food… oh, the food!!! I have never put such heavenly morsels in my mouth before or since. B, our friend, guide, and wine expert, brought three or four bottles of wine to have with our dinner. They allow you to do that for a small (heh) corkage fee. We dropped the wine off earlier so they could chill what needed to be chilled. The wine was brought out with the meal as he had arranged it (with appetizers, salads, entrees, and dessert). They were very good wines some of which I’d venture to guess B had been saving for a special occasion.

After dinner, as mentioned yesterday, we took a spur of the moment tour of the park, hiking to the waterfalls to enjoy the spectacular sight of the water in the moonlight. I’m not sure what time we finally went to bed. It was in the wee hours, that’s for sure. I had a difficult time getting to sleep after such a magical night.

The next day we took a couple of short hikes and then one longer hike to Mirror Lake where, I’m told, one can see Half Dome. We never saw Half Dome. It remained wrapped in fog the entire time we were there. Even when we had a brief hour or so of blue skies, it never cleared over or around Half Dome. We missed Glacier Point too, due to road closures. Those are just two good reasons to go back someday.

On our way back to the parking lot after hiking out to Mirror Lake, we saw an avalanche coming down the side of one of the mountains. I think we heard it before we saw all that snow tumbling down the side of the rock.

In spite of the weather, or maybe even because of it, it was a good trip. If I never get the opportunity to go back to Yosemite, I can be satisfied with and grateful for having seen as much as I did.

The most famous and accessible of these cañon valleys, and also the one that presents their most striking and sublime features on the grandest scale, is the Yosemite, situated on the upper waters of the Merced at an elevation of 4000 feet above the level of the sea. It is about seven miles long, half a mile to a mile wide, and nearly a mile deep, and is carved in the solid granite flank of the range. The walls of the valley are made up of rocks, mountains in size, partly separated from each other by side cañons and gorges; and they are so sheer in front, and so compactly and harmoniously built together on a level floor, that the place, comprehensively seen, looks like some immense hall or temple lighted from above. But no temple made with hands can compare with Yosemite. Every rock in its walls seems to glow with life. Some lean back in majestic repose; others, absolutely sheer or nearly so for thousands of feet, advance beyond their companions in thoughtful attitudes giving welcome to storms and calms alike, seemingly conscious, yet heedless of everything going on about them. Awful in stern, immovable majesty, how softly these mountain rocks are adorned and how fine and reassuring the company they keep—their feet set in groves and gay emerald meadows, their brows in the thin blue sky, a thousand flowers leaning confidingly against their adamantine bosses, bathed in floods of booming water, floods of light, while snow, clouds, winds, avalanches, shine and sing and wreathe about them as the years go by! Birds, bees, butterflies, and myriads of nameless wings stir the air into music and give glad animation. Down through the midst flows the crystal Merced—river of mercy—peacefully gliding, reflecting lilies and trees and the onlooking rocks, things frail and fleeting and types of endurance meeting here and blending in countless forms, as if into this one mountain mansion Nature had gathered her choicest treasures, whether great or small to draw her lovers into close and confiding communion with her.

— John Muir (writing about the canyons of the Sierras)

Flashback Friday (Part I)

(Yosemite. April 2006)

THE Yosemite Valley, in the heart of the Sierra Nevada, is a noble mark for the traveler, whether tourist, botanist, geologist, or lover of wilderness pure and simple. But those who are free may find the journey a long one; not because of the miles, for they are not so many,—only about two hundred and fifty from San Francisco, and passed over by rail and carriage roads in a day or two,—but the way is so beautiful that one is beguiled at every step, and the great golden days and weeks and months go by uncounted. How vividly my own first journey to Yosemite comes to mind, though made more than a score of years ago. I set out afoot from Oakland, on the bay of San Francisco, in April. It was the bloom-time of the year over all the lowlands and ranges of the coast; the landscape was fairly drenched with sunshine, the larks were singing, and the hills were so covered with flowers that they seemed to be painted. Slow indeed was my progress through these glorious gardens, the first of the California flora I had seen. Cattle and cultivation were making few scars as yet, and I wandered enchanted in long, wavering curves, aware now and then that Yosemite lay to the eastward, and that some time, I should find it. — John Muir

That quote is almost still true. The ride out to Yosemite was beautiful once we were past the suburbs of Oakland and San Francisco.

Yesterday’s Art Attack post got me thinking about our brief but wonderful (and wonder-filled) trip to Yosemite.

I had a little trouble picking out three (out of 100+) photos to post. I wonder if that means I’m lacking in a sense of discrimination. My husband has it. He can look at three photos of the same thing and in very little time pick out the best of the lot. When I look at three photos of the same thing I’m likely to find something different I like about each one, thereby making it difficult to make a choice. I even have trouble deleting blurry photos. Sometimes the play of light and color in a blurry photo just… enchants me.

At any rate, I finally decided on the above three. It’s not that they’re the best of the best. They are, instead, the most representative of the time and place. Spring was a little late in coming to Yosemite. Add to that the record rainfalls that California was getting at the time and it made for some very messy weather. On second thought, perhaps these are some of the best photos from that trip. I frequently had raindrops on the camera lens and it shows in the photographs.

I hope to go back to Yosemite someday. The rain, fog and snow only allowed us glimpses of the beauty that lies in those mountains and that valley.

We tacked the trip to Yosemite onto our trip to San Francisco. It was a 4 hour drive from the San Fran area. We left early enough, but not too early, and had lunch at a genuine taqueria. We were the only non-hispanic people there and the only folks speaking English. To top things off, they had a mariachi ensemble playing for the lunch crowd which I thought was quite fun and enjoyable. It reminded me that I ought to brush up on my Spanish. I took two semesters of it during my brief college career and barely remember a word or two.

Getting to Yosemite was somewhat problematic. Even though it was the month of April when spring is usually arriving, it was still snowing quite heavily in the upper areas of Yosemite. The highway that runs to the north was closed because of the snow. And the highway to the south had snow chain warnings issued which meant that we might be required to use snow chains so we’d best have them in the car. Our friend and guide didn’t own chains so we bought some for him as part of the payback for the trip. We later found out that we could’ve rented snow chains at one of those last-stop places before entering the mountains, but that’s neither here nor there. Just letting you know in case you find yourself out that way and don’t want to actually purchase chains.

With so little time to spend at Yosemite, we’d carefully planned a few hikes that would hit the highlights of the area. Alas, like most of the best laid plans of mice and men, we had to improvise. We were unable to get to many areas of the park due to the snow (the roads were closed) so we did miss some of the best parts of Yosemite (so I’m told). We spent most of our time in the valley area, taking the easy hikes to the bottom of the waterfalls. The waterfalls and rivers were bursting with water, roaring over the top of the hills/mountains.

Slight digression: Our friend and guide, B, went back to Yosemite in the summer months to show it off to his new girlfriend. He said there wasn’t a drop of water coming over any of the waterfalls.

I will have to finish this another time. I have errands to run, laundry to do, and dishes to wash. That’s the short list.

Link for my future use:

Hikaru dorodango. Fascinating. I’d like to give this a try as I think this might make an interesting future project with my granddaughter. She’s much too young for it now.

NaBloPoMo: Day 10