Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Yosemite- the adventure begins!

Yosemite- as close to Eden as I have ever been. The greenest meadows teeming with wildlife . Walls of granite with pine trees perilously clinging to their edges. Other worldly waterfalls plunging over cliffs into crystal clear rivers below. Two children whining and hitting each other because they desperately want out of their jogging stroller. Well its pretty close to perfect anyways. We get to a spot where the kids can’t jump off a boardwalk and trample a meadow, plunge to their deaths over a waterfall, or be swept away by the mighty Merced River and let them do what they love to do best. For Ben it is find a stick on one side of the trail to throw over to the other side or a rock to practice his pitching technique. For Mari it is making sure she looks as cool as all the big kids by walking and following directions like a big girl or perhaps climbing on a rock and posing. Either way, the kids are in heaven and we are in heaven watching them explore and learn. Sure it can be a lot of work at times but sometimes the best things in life take a little effort.

We started out at nine in the morning (which was only one hour off our target time. Not bad eh?) and drove through the Sacramento delta while the kids “oohed” and “awed” at the windmills and cows as we zipped on by.

Paul wanted powdered donuts for breakfast and since it was Father’s Day his wish was granted. The kids saw him grubbing on donuts as he drove so they demanded a piece of the action. Mari, being the sweet tooth that she is, inhaled hers while Ben took his sweet time licking the powder and savoring every bite.

We cruised through the foothills and started our climb up the mountain. Paul and the kids dozed off while I took in the mountain scenery and rocked out to a little Bon Jovi. After about three hours we made it to the official entrance to Yosemite National Park. I was probably the most excited of us all. I couldn’t wait to see parts of the park I hadn’t seen before and share those that I had with my family.
Our first stop was Tuolumne Grove. Located at 6200 feet, the area is full of pine trees, redwoods, and the grove’s crowning glory- giant sequoias. I have wanted to see a giant sequoia tree for years and let me tell you, I was not disappointed. Only one word can describe them: MASSIVE. You haven’t seen a big tree until you have seen a sequoia.

Absolutely stunning. The trail to the grove is all downhill. Nice and fun on the way down. Its about a mile and a quarter each way. Mari walked the whole way down. She was a trooper. And a perfect angel I might add. She listened to my every instruction and kept up very well. The only EXTREMELY odd thing she did was stop at one point on the downhill portion of the trail to attempt to do a headstand and obviously bail. Paul quickly came to her aid but not before capturing this wonderful image.

Ben, on the other hand, was happy to be in Benland.

Benland is a place my dear son frequents, especially when he is outside with lots of sticks and rocks in close proximity. You can scream his name in his ear when he is in Benland but he won’t hear you. He’s too busy playing with sticks, throwing rocks, or pretending he is a bird in flight. Time stands still in Benland. He can stay in one spot for hours on end playing with each stick, pinecone, or pebble in a given square foot of land. If you are in Benland your goal is to always run in the opposite direction that you are supposed to be going. If everyone is walking downhill then you better start huffing it uphill. Your group starting the trek back up? Well then get your butt running downhill as fast as your little legs will take you. Needless to say, Ben spent a lot of time either in the jogging stroller being appeased by the ten gallons of water with a touch of juice that he consumes a day or under his parents’ arm enjoying a free ride. One of the highlights of the grove was a great example of twinning which is when two Sequoia trees use symbiosis to live and eventually grow into each other.

We also got to hang out in what we called a tree cave.

The roots are so massive that you can easily fit under them. Insane! And there was the walk through tree. The tree is dead (you would be too if someone cut a hole in you) and hollow on the inside so you see up through what’s left of the top. This must have been a highlight for many people because this was really the only place we hit a big crowd in the entire grove. For me it was just a reminder of our country’s past when ecology was not a priority like it is now. Nevertheless, it is still pretty cool.

The walk up from the grove was punishing for me and I didn’t even do the hardest pushing of the jogging stroller (PS- I love our BOB jogger) like my dear husband Paul. I forgot to bring my inhaler and the 6200 elevation, incline, and heat were not making my lungs happy. I made it up just fine nevertheless and made a mental note to take the inhaler out of my other purse and spend more time working on my cardio at the gym. For the average reasonably fit person, this hike is not difficult. Add a double stroller and a heat wave and it does get more difficult but still very doable. Just bring plenty of water and stop if you have to. There are plenty of shady spots and logs to rest on. The major highlight for all of us on this hike was that when we reached the trailhead on the way back we saw a bear!

It was so awesome (yes I still use the word awesome in 2008). I have never seen a bear in the wild and it was truly a thrill for all of us. Mari started saying “bear” for the first time and Ben made more than a few efforts to pay the bear a closer visit. At one point the bear was no more than 50 feet away from us. He was obviously used to people because he saw us and continued to forage for food. Seeing a bear in its natural habitat was something very special and a great way to end our inaugural hike in Yosemite.

From the Tuolumne Grove we drove downhill and into Yosemite Valley. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to see Paul’s reaction as we came through a tunnel and got a glimpse of it all for the first time. It is like seeing a celebrity that you have had a major crush on. You have seen pictures your whole life but when you actually see everything in person it is so much more exciting. Yosemite is so much better than any celebrity if you ask me. There are many people who have traveled the world and still say Yosemite is the greatest scenery they have ever laid their eyes upon. I can’t imagine there is much out there that is as beautiful….(Sharlene slowly drifts off into a Sierra Nevada wonderland in her head for about 15 minutes) We next pulled up to the Bridalveil Falls. A short walk (no stroller needed) takes you along a creek to the falls. You know you are close because you can hear the falls roar and feel the mist.

The kids enjoyed watching the water plunge over the granite ledge high above but I think they enjoyed playing in a calm side pond along the creek even more. It was only ankle deep yet cool and refreshing. Plus it was a great place to use sticks to splash the water (see Benland above) and cool off in the heat.

The kids also enjoyed the stone bridges that were just high enjoy for them to peer over the edge at the stream below.

After the falls we made our way to Curry Village. We had reserved a cabin sans potty. Yes Curry Village is crowded and more of a city than a camping spot but I felt it was a good match for us. A hard sided container to keep our little munchkins confined at night and two double beds for us to share. Plus it is so dang convenient to all the Valley attractions which are stroller and toddler friendly. The cabin itself was small and bare bones but really who wants to hang out in a cabin other than to sleep when you have all this great stuff surrounding you? It was hot and stuffy inside so we opened the windows and jumped in the pool that happened to be directly across from our cabin. I know, I know. Why swim in a pool in Yosemite? You can do that anywhere right? Well we were hot and sweaty and the river seemed like a bad idea with the little one. Plus, like I said, it was right there! So we spent about 20 minutes cooling off and then dried off and headed to dinner. We ate at the Curry Village buffet. It wasn’t five star dining by any means but it was fast, easy, and everyone got to eat what they wanted. Little ones (I believe under 5) were free and dinner was $12 which wasn’t horrible for an all you can eat joint. Being able to feed two tired and starving toddlers immediately was worth its weight in gold. After dinner we took a walk through a meadow, watched the moon rise

and saw a deer not more than 20 feet from us munching on the green meadow grass. Not a bad place to be a deer. The kids passed out on the walk but did not sleep through the transition from stroller to bed in cabin. So what did we decide to do? Introduce them to the world of flashlights of course! They had a blast playing with their lights and winding down for the night. Finally, Mommy made the executive decision to turn off the flashlights and make those little munchkins go to bed. The nights slumber quickly fell upon everyone except myself who can never sleep the first night I get somewhere. Instead I had to endure the Backyardigans classic “Astronauts Never Give Up” which played through my head all night long. Tomorrow I will recap Day 2 of our adventure and let you know if I was attacked by a bear in the middle of the night when I had to run to the bathroom as I convinced myself I would be. Enjoy your own adventures!


debi9kids said...

Fantastic recap! As if I expected anything less!
Fabulous photos!
Can't wait to see the rest!!!!
Ok, I think Will lives in Benland too! Perhaps they are the only 2 people there....
:) Debi

Shannon said...

Hooray! Here's the update I was waiting for! I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I'm so glad you're doing the blogging thing again :)

Your loyal reader,

Terri said...

Awesome! (yes, I still use that word too) Loved the recap and as always, your picturs are amazing!! Can't wait to see more from Shar!!

Debbie Moore said...

That was great, I was totally Engrossed, LOVED it and look foward to reading more!

Christy said...

You are seriously such a great story teller! Your kids will be so lucky to hear all your stories as they grow up! I can't wait to read day two! I'm affraid our camping trip isn't going to be anything close to the adventure yours was! But you have given me inspiration to look for tons of things to do while we are there rather than just sit by the fire and be lazy! :)

Tonya Staab said...

Fabulous my dear. You have made me want to go there. I wanna see a bear, I wanna, I wanna *insert stamping of feet*.

The Romero-Schroeder said...

You really dont disspaoint!!!!!!!!! Great Recap, love all the pictuers!!!!!

New Brunswick Scientific Bioprocess Team said...

Great job monks! It made me feel like I was actually there.

Jessica Kate said...

That's my girl!
This is so up your alley. What a great trip. So when are you coming to Rocky Mountain National Park?