Monday, July 3, 2006

The California Diaries - Day 3: Take A Walk

Dusty morning light cuts through the Mariposa Grove trees as we start our second day at Yosemite. We aren’t a tenth of a mile into the trail when nature comes out to greet us.

Deer me! A mule deer and a doe cross in front of us, coming out for some breakfast.

“I think I would want to live in a National Park,” Mom says. “People take pictures of you instead of pot shots.”

But out of earshot, in the woods…

“Are those people gone yet, Jane?”


“Crimony, can’t we go anywhere without being watched?”

“We’re on retainer here.”

“Yeah, but I would like to get a decent meal without looking over my tail and seeing yet another fat tourist with a Sony CyberShot.”

“Just do what I do, Sal, put your butt to the camera. They don’t take butt shots.”

The walk up the Mariposa Grove trails to the top measures at least five miles, with winding muddy paths. We make our way from tree to tree.

Our destination is the museum up the hill. It’s closed. But at least we find the restrooms and a drinking fountain. Mom, Dad, and I wait for a tram to take us back down. When it doesn’t come, we start the long walk back down.

The return trip is more treacherous: a steep grade, dropoffs, narrow shoulders on the trail and way too many muddy patches. A log bridges a hairpin turn, something out of a Roadrunner cartoon, where you can walk slowly on the path or try the log and risk plunging into the depths.

“Go out there and I’ll take your picture,” Mom eggs me on.

“If I slip, I’ll rack myself,” I point out.

“Well, Dad can go out there.”

“He’ll break the log.”

Mom and I successfully dodge mud patches using logs and branches somebody has laid over them. Balance is everything. Mom credits Girl Scouts. For me, it's the poise of a few 18th Century dance moves.

I can’t understand why, but Mom says I’m kicking up too much dust, more dust than Pig-Pen. My shoes don’t have much tread left on them. I figure they’ve gone at least 40,000 miles.

Dad is going to make his 10,000 step goal early. He hits it before we get back to the parking lot.

The wait for the shuttle bus after lunch takes 20 minutes.

Boarding time takes three minutes more, with sucking it in and moving to the back of this rolling sardine can on the day before Independence Day.

And not two minutes into the trip to our next destination – Curry Village – we have an unscheduled stop.

Our bus driver has just clipped the mirror on a car. You can’t blame her. People are parked sloppily in parallel all over the shoulders of this park, with the lots, like the campgrounds, full.

Another minute or two of waiting and the doors swing open again. We’re back on our feet, as is everybody else while traffic clogs up behind this bus. We’ll be lucky if we can catch another one anytime soon.

Five minutes later, we’re on another bus, still packed like fish. Mom and Dad are standing in the aisles. I’m crouched up on some sort of plastic riser over the wheel well. I don’t know what it’s for, but it’s sure not a seat. I pull my legs up so other people can get on and off, so I end up riding in something resembling a fetal position. Majestic sights do bring out your inner child.

We finally make it to Curry Village, where the game plan is to rent one of those rafts Mom talked about yesterday. We see them stacked up and waiting. And we see a line. It doesn’t take us long to find out that all the raft trips have been sold out for the day.

Now Dad’s frustrated. All that walking, all that messing around with the busses, all that waiting and all for nothing. And it’s only 3:30. I guess we get back to the sights on foot. Time to get back on the bus again.

We do some shopping at the Visitors’ Center, get some refreshments and decide to check out Bridalveil Fall from a closer perspective.

I can’t resist the mist.

Maybe we can’t float down the river, but this will work. No paddle needed. Just put your face into that spray and absorb the awesome power of nature and evaporative cooling.

And maybe we've relearned that lesson about visiting a popular tourist attraction on the day before the Fourth Of July. Don't. That was the message when we were jammed packed into Walt Disney World in July 1986. But we're optimists, aren't we?

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