“There’s always going to be the circumstances you can’t plan for. There’s always the unexpected relevance and the serendipity.”
The majestic beauty of Yosemite was calling out to me. My intention was to take on the wilderness and be one with these famous woods. I had planned on roughing it and for the first time in my life I was going to spend the night in a tent. But perhaps the powers that be had a different plan indeed!
I am usually a well-organized traveler, always making sure to pack the essentials, tentative itinerary in hand, clothes carefully chosen, and of course, a special place chosen for the all-important curling iron and hair dryer… but, not on this trip! No, this trip was about going with flow, bending in the breeze and following someone else’s chosen path of lessons and experiences. The trip I had planned never did occur… No, something so much better did!
Friday was my departure for the 3-hour drive to Yosemite National Park located in California. My bags were packed and my work was left at home. The iPhone was fully charged, my body was energized with excitement and my mind was running over my packing list about 1,000 times. I had never stayed at a campsite or slept in a tent before and I wanted to make sure I had everything!
Alas, I packed the car and off on a weekend adventure I went. Siri was the guide and as the road took me south it was hard not to notice the muted gray skies that covered the valley. I remembered that a wild-fire had erupted in Yosemite about a week or two before but didn’t think it would affect my trip. The further South I made my way, the heavier the grey became. I tried to ignore the concerning views and when I arrived at the base of the mountains that went up to Yosemite, it was time to stop and refuel. As I stepped out of the car and took my first breath, it felt as if I were suffocating trying to find clean air to inhale. I started to cough in an effort to clear my throat of the smell of wood smoke that permeated the air. I sighed deeply trying to avoid choking and my brow began to furrow with disappointment and concern. I sat back in the car and just thought, “If this is the way it is supposed to be, then I will take up this challenge and try to find every good thing about this trip I can and not seeing the true beauty that Yosemite has to offer will give me a good reason to return in the future.”
With a diet Dr. Pepper in the cup holder and some fantastic music, it was time to head up to Yosemite for a wild camping experience, or so I thought! As I began the drive up I noticed the constant caution “Rock falling” signs… yes, even a dedicated rock remover sat at the side of the road! There was a high mountain with loose rock on the mountain face to my right and a cliff without a guard rail to my left. It was a harrowing ride, but the views were sensational, even with the smoke in the sky! I remember thinking, “However did they make this road and what a gift to have such a beautiful national park”, and I hadn’t even arrived yet! And so the winding and twisting road continued for many miles, but my mind became trapped in watching the beautiful scenery pass by as if pages of a book were being turned. The climb went higher and higher but I began to notice that the smoke was getting thicker and the concern started to rise like the smoke from fire.
My goal was to stay at Tuolumne meadows, which is a base camp at 9,000ft where I would then hike the next couple days to above 11,000 ft. That was the plan before I had arrived at the campsite. As I drove in I could see what looked like grey dust about an inch thick in the parking lot and the specks of ash drifted in the breeze like lint that speckled the sky. Heavy sigh…. I parked and stepped out and realized very quickly why the parking lot was so empty. I could hardly breathe as the smoke felt as if it were burning my throat. “I had driven 3 hours and now what?”, I thought. Reservations for anywhere in the National Park usually need to be made well in advance of a trip and I have been told by some that they secure their reservations a year in advance. I was lucky enough to get this reservation through a friend, so the likelihood of changing reservations or finding someplace else to stay, looked bleak. I was either going to have to head home or find a plan B. And I am not the type to pack up and go home when faced with a challenge. A phone call was made to reservations and they were able to move the reservation down to a cabin in the meadows which was beyond the fire line and the air was clearer down there. The only problem was that they only had one cabin for one night, which meant I would have to find alternative plans for the following night or return home a day early. Nothing with this trip has gone according to plan so far, so I let fate lead the way and accepted the cabin for the one night and had to believe that whatever is to be, is to be…
I felt a little sad that I didn’t have the experience of truly “roughing” it, but I had the feeling there was more to this trip than sleeping on a cot in a tent. And it was with that thought tucked safely in my pocket and an exciting adventure ahead that I called on Siri to lead the way and I was off on an unexpected and unplanned adventure. I passed several lakes that made me stop in my tracks and break out the camera.
Yes, the light on the water and the blue of the waves being protected by the green of the tall pines was impressive. Logs found their resting place on the shore. I was truly grateful to see such a natural site. And as the sun began to lower in the western sky, I knew I still had an hour drive and I had better get going and so off I went again.
As I drove down into the valley, it was hard not to see the area where the wildfire was burning and the last report had it only contained at 68%. The smoke rose from the dense forest like it was on a mission to rise as high as it could, but the lower my drive took me, the clearer the air became.
I rounded the bend to the road that would take me to my cabin and there was an amazing meadow with wildflowers that created a perfect footer for this amazing picture of majestic towering granite that owned the skyline. I stopped to take a couple of pictures and an unpredicted breeze picked up. It was hand delivered from something more powerful than the wind. The clouds and smoke started to clear and there in front of me was a sight that could only be described as “Amazing!” I looked in all directions and there stood granite peaks and domes that reached the heavens and stood with a sense of authority and protection.
“Why have I taken so long to visit?”, I thought… It reminded me of all the hidden gems in the world that need to yet be discovered and my spirit smiled with excitement at the mere thought of future exploration. I was beginning to crave the knowledge of how this landscape came to be and the stories that surround this magical wonder.
I had to reluctantly leave this site and return to my car to find the campground. As I continued to drive, it was hard not to want to stop every 500 ft. and snap pics, but I resisted and before I knew it, I had arrived! I had no idea what to expect from this cabin, except it meant sleeping in a bed with my own indoor bathroom… really, what more could a girl want?!?!?!
While waiting in a long line, a campground volunteer began to educate us all about the bears in the park and proper storage of food to keep the bears and other wildlife away. “Fear” was the overall message and all I had to say, was “Message received!!!” I then checked in and made my way to my cabin and I have to say, I stopped at the door and just shook my head for a minute. The number to the cabin was “2B”…. I smiled and thought, “Of course, it is to be!!!”
It was time to turn the key to the lock and find out what was on the other side of the door. As I hesitantly peered into the doorway, it was as cute as could be! Two beds in a country-style rustic setting and all the creature comforts of home minus air conditioning, but that didn’t matter as the night was predicted to be cool. I opened up the window and laid on the soft bed. For just a moment, I took in the feel of a comfy position with the breeze blowing in, knowing that I was supposed to be on this great adventure. “Why?” I wasn’t sure yet, as my original plans blew out the window with the breeze, but I knew all would be revealed in good time. I sat up and decided that I had earned a simple pleasure with the drive and circumstances that surrounded my trip thus far. I knew I would not be driving for the remainder of the evening so I made the executive decision to indulge in the stillness of the forest. I poured a small glass of wine with some cheese I had packed and just watched as the chipmunks danced around. “Life is good!”, I thought.
My next challenge after doing a little unpacking was where to eat dinner, as all I had eaten was a couple of pieces of cheese until that moment. I was feeling ravenous; working up an appetite only a bear would envy. I had heard that there was a grill at the Ahwahnee Hotel which was just a walk in the woods away, or so I was told. So, I freshened up a bit, wore some casual clothes, wrapped my grey sweater around my shoulders, and grabbed my flashlight for the walk back. I wasn’t exactly sure where I was heading, but the goal was to follow the Merced River and I would get there eventually. As I began my walk, I came upon a beautiful meadow and in the distance was the most stunning granite dome whose presence towered in stature. I stopped to capture this site on my camera, and as I took the pic, I saw what appeared to be a face in the rock itself. I was pleasantly surprised and yet curious about what this was. I would soon come to discover the amazing story according to: http://yosemite.untraveledroad.com/Mariposa/Yosemite/Valley/138ESign.htm
An Ahwahneechee Tale of Half Dome
“Long ago, two travelers, Tissiak and her husband, Tokoyee, fought with each other. He became so angry that he began to beat her; enraged, she hurled her basket of acorns at him. As they stood facing each other, they were turned to stone for their wickedness. The acorn basket (Basket Dome) lies upturned beside Tokoyee (North Dome) and the rock face of Tissiak (Half Dome) is stained with her tears.
Millions of years ago the granite block of Half Dome was larger, but there never was a matching half. Undercut by glaciers near the base, slabs of rock fell away from a broad vertical crack in the granite, leaving a sheer face. Remnants of the missing rock still project from Half Dome’s rim.
There are more granite domes here than in any other place in the world. Massive granite domes form when large curved layers of rock “exfoliate” or slab off.”
I stood in awe for what seemed like 20 minutes but was probably more like 5. The sun began to set on the rock face and it was as if the universe was determined to have me witness this magnificent sight! I could feel the pain of this woman as I could see the emotion etched into her face like the glaciers that forced their way to form these giant domes. There was no mistaking that this land is rich in history both natural and man-made. I wondered if that face had not appeared on the granite, would it hold the same appreciation? With that thought, I began to walk as my tummy began to grumble.
The walk through the forest had me taking in the views of an old rock bridge with water running through it. The wildflowers along the bank of the river stood happily as I stopped to take their pic. I dipped my toes in the water because I could and then began to walk on. As I emerged through the forest there in front of me was a truly grand hotel! The lawn that rested in front was a deep forest green and deer could be seen in various places feeding near the hotel. I stopped to fully grasp what stood in front of me. I had not known about this hotel and it was strange to find it along a trail that led through the forest. I walked in and found the grill, they immediately sat me outdoors. The moon was hanging on the horizon and the stars twinkled as if to sing its praises. I sat and rested my spirit thinking of how this trip has happened so far. What was the message I was supposed to take away? I wasn’t entirely sure but it was starting to get a little clearer.
I ordered dinner, had a drink and just sat and was. When I was done with dinner and ready to leave, I walked through the spectacular hotel lobby and checked to see if by chance there might be one room available for the following night as I needed a place to stay. On a complete fluke, they had a room available! I didn’t hesitate for a second as I just had the feeling it was supposed to be. The hotel was a far cry from a tent, and quite an upgrade from the cabin I stayed at, but following whatever was leading the way, the decision was made… I was to stay at the Ahwahnee, the next night.
I turned on my flashlight and began my dark walk back through the woods to my cabin. As I started the trek back, I suddenly remembered those ominous warnings by the camp volunteer about the wildlife that lived in the wilderness. I tempered my breathing as I knew the walk back would lead me into the deep forest. There was not another flashlight to be seen. And…did I mention that cell service was almost non-existent! The darkness was thick, even with the light I could produce from my small flashlight. I could hear the sound of the river to my right and I took each step slowly, trying to feel my way back. I must admit there was a little fear that started to settle like the smoke from the fire as it rolled through every now and again. I walked gingerly, eager to see the lights of the street I knew would lead to the cabin. The thoughts that came ever so quickly now, were “bears” “mountain lions” “crazy people”… “Wait!” maybe I was the crazy one for walking in the woods that late? Before the next thought came to mind, I had found my way… The sense of relief was instantaneous and powerful. What an experience… I had to rely on every sense except good vision to get back through the forest. From looking up to the moon and seeing the light, to listening for the river, to feeling the soft pine needles below my sandals that confirmed I was on the trail. My heart rate began to regulate and I could hear that sound… the one of my bed calling my name! As I turned the key, it felt like “Home Sweet Home”… for tonight…
After getting ready for bed I laid and recounted the day’s events. I started a trip with plans to “rough it” in the wilderness. The universe made it so the wildfire prevented me from that plan, took me down a road through Yosemite, a stunning National Park, to a cabin room with the number: “2b”! I saw the face of a sad princess on the cliff face of Half Dome that made me want to know more about this long-lost soul. With her spirit as my guide, I found the beauty of a river with a path that ran alongside that led me to a grand hotel in the middle of a deep lush forest. I had to use all my senses to find my way back in the darkness and have faith I would survive the unseen eyes of the animals that may have lurked behind trees and bushes…. To finish my day in a comfy cozy cabin with my own bed, and like the hand of a lover, the breeze caressed my back into a gentle sleep in Yosemite National Park. Nothing that happened today went as planned, no it went better than planned, it was meant to be (2B)…
As I fell into a soft slumber my mind drifted away to wonder what tomorrow would bring…