Tag Archive | National Park

My Wawona

Yosemite National Park

October 1, 2019

El Capitan
El Capitan

October 1, 1890 marked the official inclusion of this region into the newly formed National Park System. Long before that, however, the Yosemite Valley had inspired the natives who resided in the area as well as the early white settlers.

It was, contrary to popular belief, James Mason Hutchings and artist Thomas Ayres who were the first Americans to tour the area in 1855.

From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“Hutchings and Ayres were responsible for much of the earliest publicity about Yosemite, writing articles and special magazine issues about the Valley. Ayres’ style in art was highly detailed with exaggerated angularity. His works and written accounts were distributed nationally, and an art exhibition of his drawings was held in New York City. Hutchings’ publicity efforts between 1855 and 1860 led to an increase in tourism to Yosemite.”

Although the greater Yosemite area had been set aside by Congress in 1864, the Valley and Mariposa Grove were ceded to California to manage as a state park. The two areas had seen an influx of homesteaders and were being rapidly commercialized as well as being used for the grazing of sheep and cattle; the old growth sequoias were being logged.

Most people associate the founding of Yosemite with early environmentalist John Muir. Rightly, he is credited with not only pushing for park expansion but also  lobbied for the federal government to take back the iconic valley and grove.

Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“It was because of Muir that many National Parks were left untouched, such as Yosemite Vally National Park. One of the most significant camping trips Muir took was in 1903 with then president Theodore Roosevelt. This trip persuaded Roosevelt to return ‘Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove to federal protection as part of Yosemite National Park.'”

The years long efforts paid off when, in 1906, Roosevelt signed a bill which stripped the two areas still managed by California from the state and they were returned to the federal government which finally created a unified Yosemite National Park.

half dome.jpg
Half Dome

One trip to Yosemite is all it takes for a person to understand the granduer and how special a place it is. From towering El Capitan, to the massive Half Dome, or the fascinating Tuolome Meadows, Yosemite is a visual feast.

And the hubby and I wondered, when we visited in September 2015, how come it had taken us so long to get there. We arrived on the day after Labor Day which was a good thing as the summer crowds were gone. Reservations are generally required months – if not a year – in advance for the various hotels. I figured we were out of luck but checked anyway as we drove south a few days before our planned stay. What a surprise! There were rooms available at the Wawona Hotel or space in ‘dry’ tents. We opted for the hotel.

It was only after we arrived at the park that it dawned on me that the Wawona Hotel was nowhere near the Yosemite Valley. That day had turned into a driving ordeal. My hubby suffers from vertigo. Being close to any ledge can trigger a sensation of spinning as well as nausea. Knowing this, it was my duty to do the driving so that he could close his eyes as needed when navigating cliff-side roads.

Up, up, up we traveled from the eastern side of the park to the 9,943 foot high Tioga Pass – the highest mountain pass in California. Come to find out, THAT was the easiest road. From there we wound our way through Yosemite’s high country. Then we had to go down. From Tuolome Meadows – elevation 8,619 feet – to the Valley floor was a 4,619 foot descent. And all of it seemed to be a series of endless switchbacks and curvy roads carved in to the sides of mountains.

It was with a sense of relief we reached the bottom when it hit me… Wawona was another 30 miles which we had to add to the 230 we’d already traveled that day. No rest for the driver as the road climbed back up the other side through yet another series of switchbacks,cliffs, and amazing vistas.

Now close to sunset, we found the hotel and were charmed at the thought of staying in a 1870’s structure.

Adirondack chairs on the veranda

Our room was in the more recently added section… built at the turn of the last century. Located at the far western end of the first floor, the room opened out on to a wide veranda adorned with honeysuckle.

But that’s where the charm ended. The room itself featured a double bed and a twin bed. There was a sink attached to the wall next to the twin bed with a door in the wall next to it. The door, however, was locked.

The room was completed with a small square closet, small dresser and a table and chair. No TV and no phone. But we were up for the adventure and the price – less than $70 a night – was a steal even with having to use the bathroom down the stairs.

As we went to bed that night we could hear, through the thin walls, talking in the room next door; two men were conversing in German. We laughingly dubbed them Hans and Fritz and, although the hubby had taken German in high school, were unable to decipher their conversation.

Our feast…

The next day, after breakfast in the hotel dining room, we headed out for a full day of touring. That evening we bought deli meats, fruits, crackers, and a bottle of wine which we ate and drank while sitting in the Adirondack chairs outside our room on the veranda. A pink and purple sunset was the perfect icing on a wonderful day.

Despite the older beds and somewhat rustic accommodations we slept well… that was until about 7:30 the next morning when our German neighbors’ talking awoke us. It was then we discovered where the locked door next to the sink led. When the hotel was built, the rooms all shared Jack and Jill bathrooms. To accommodate a more modern customer the bathrooms had been designated as a private bath for one of the rooms only, and the door to the adjacent room was locked.

We had the room without a private bath. Our German neighbors, Hans and Fritz, had the bathroom. Did I mention that the walls were paper-thin and not insulated?

Soon, some rather unfortunate sounds penetrated into our hearing range. We dressed as quickly as we could and headed to breakfast… and decided that the Germans would hereafter be known as Fritz… and a scatological term which rhymes with Fritz.

Of course the thing one most recalls about any trip are the occurrences which are out of the ordinary. Our stay at the Wawona turned out to be the most memorable part. And we wouldn’t change a thing.

Wawona hotel barb
The author and traveling companion Alvin the Chipmunk (in his National Park Ranger gear) in front of the ‘old’ section of the Wawona Hotel

A couple of websites to visit:
For those who want to see the Wawona Hotel’s claim to fame, be sure to check out the movie 36 Hours.

Alvin – our traveling companion

Beware Hitchhikers!

February 26, 2019

When one thinks of the most spectacular places in the world, this location is always near the top of the list.  The nearly 5 million visitors a year who trek to its rim, no doubt, help to confirm this impression.  Tomorrow, February 26, 2019, marks a century since it was designated as the 17th National Park in the United States.  Happy 100th birthday to the Grand Canyon!Grand Canyon retro poster

Its statistics and early history, from the Infallible Wikipedia, are as follows:

“The Grand Canyon  is a steep-sided canyon carved by the Colorado River in Arizona, United States. The Grand Canyon is 277 miles (446 km) long, up to 18 miles (29 km) wide and attains a depth of over a mile (6,093 feet or 1,857 meters).(snip)

… Nearly two billion years of Earth’s geological history have been exposed as the Colorado River and its tributaries cut their channels through layer after layer of rock while the Colorado Plateau was uplifted. While some aspects about the history of incision of the canyon are debated by geologists, several recent studies support the hypothesis that the Colorado River established its course through the area about 5 to 6 million years ago. Since that time, the Colorado River has driven the down-cutting of the tributaries and retreat of the cliffs, simultaneously deepening and widening the canyon.

For thousands of years, the area has been continuously inhabited by Native Americans, who built settlements within the canyon and its many caves. The Pueblo people considered the Grand Canyon a holy site, and made pilgrimages to it. The first European known to have viewed the Grand Canyon was García López de Cárdenas from Spain, who arrived in 1540.”

It’s one thing to read about a place in an article or even to see a program on TV or in a theatre. Only when experienced first hand, however, does the grandeur of The Grand Canyon hit you and inspire you to marvel that such a place could exist.grand canyon sunset

In the one time I visited, I learned a valuable lesson. Do not pick up hitchhikers.

When the Hubby and I visited the Grand Canyon in July 1982 we did just that although we didn’t know it at the time. Our road trip – which took us on an over 3000 mile two week adventure – led us to the north rim of the Grand Canyon. Because we were in the National Forest they allowed you, at that time, to camp outside of developed campgrounds. We found a lovely spot not too far from the Canyon rim, pitched our tent and ‘roughed’ it for the night. There was no picnic table or shelter. It was just us, our Honda Civic wagon, and our tent.

The next morning we were up early with the intention of driving to the South rim to visit the National Park. By this point in our trip, however, we were tired of sleeping on the ground and it was time to head home. So we drove the 215 miles to the visitor center, looked down into the gaping hole that is the Grand Canyon and called it good. Then we drove across Arizona, over the Hoover Dam, and up through Nevada to Las Vegas.

It was close to 8 p.m. and we’d been up since 6 a.m. I lobbied to stay the night in Sin City but the Hubby made a really valid point. It was, literally, still 108 degrees outside and he did NOT want to be driving across the Nevada desert during the heat of the day. So we continued north. The sun set and we switched drivers. I was now at the wheel, speeding across Nevada in the dark. And I was feeling a bit sleepy. Because we were young and foolish we kept driving despite our fatigue. We had the windows rolled down so the relatively cooler air would cool us and keep us awake. This seemed to work pretty well until around 11 p.m. or so when I noticed something was moving on the dashboard. At first I thought it was the rag that the Hubby kept there to wipe the dust and film from the insides of the window. Then, when the ‘rag’ moved again, I screamed and proceeded to stop the car in the middle of US Highway 95. By this time the Hubby, of course, suggested in a rather firm way that perhaps I should pull over to the side of the road. Which I somehow managed to do, despite my fear there was a snake or a giant spider in the car.

Doors flew open. Overhead lights illuminated. There we were, unloading the car in the middle of the night in the Nevada desert. Out came the cooler and the bags of food and clothes. We were about to start on everything stored in back when our hitchhiker revealed his (her?) identity: a deer mouse.deermouse

Around the interior of the car our guest scurried and, we were sure, was more frightened of us beating on the backs of seats, than we were of it. I guess it decided that we were no longer the friendly hosts we had been since he got in while we camped on the north rim of the Grand Canyon some 700 miles earlier. The mouse leaped from the car and scurried across the highway into the night.

The adrenaline rush provided me with an alertness which lasted another hour or so before I needed to sleep. The Hubby took over the wheel once again and he made it until about two a.m. when he parked on the side of the road and we both slept in the seats of the car until sometime after sunrise. Later that day we discovered that our guest had chewed through a sleeve of saltine crackers, gnawing off the corner of every single one. I hope he enjoyed his meal because we threw out the rest. And did I mention we were young and foolish? We did what young and foolish people do – we drove all the way back to Seattle that day. It was an epic road trip.

As always, a couple of links: