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Tanaya Lodge and A Bit of Yosemite

January 13-15
written January 14+

Dear Diary, Friends, and Families,
Part of our original plan for returning to America was to enjoy road trips, on an American scale. European-scale was shorter and easier, for sure.  We ordered a big car for comfortable travel.  We planned distances and destinations, but plans got interrupted with other life realities.  Moving took time and effort.  Marianne developed health complications.  Even our new car proved hard to build and deliver. 

Now, a year after moving, our long-distance goal turned out to be an hour-and-a-half away: Yosemite National Park. We treated it like any of our road trips, even named our car navigator ("Betty") and let her point the way.  For this new honor, she chose a path north we didn't normally use so it did seem a bit "foreign". We even found "Pop's", a decent lunch restaurant along the way in Oakhurst.    It may become a regular.

We had booked a room in Tanaya Lodge in Fish Camp, near the South entrance to Yosemite.  The Lodge is a large modern part of the Yosemite infrastructure and, this trip, we shared the hundreds of rooms with a few handfuls of guests.  Nice.

After check-in, we headed to the park and Mariposa Grove, the nearest of the Yosemite sequoia groves.  No snow this year, so even in January we were able to drive up to the road into the grove.  There should have been several feet of snow by now, but at least it made our hike easy.  I do hope the snows come - after we leave. There are reportedly about a thousand sequoias in the Grove, a place so special it was set aside in 1864 by President Lincoln, the start of Yosemite Park.  (The National Park Service started a half-century later, again beginning with Yosemite.)

Back at the lodge we made use of the sitting lobby, the bar, and one of several restaurants.  A nice re-introduction to the traveling life.

On Wednesday morning, we started on our normal travel schedule: linger over breakfast for a couple of hours first, before we decide what to do.  Our basic plan was just a drive into Yosemite Valley, a few stops, and a nice lunch.  The drive was twisty, as it always is, and the sky was bright and blue - as it often is.  In the bright light, the trees and rocks showed their best shadow patterns.


Our first stop was at Badger Pass, the first ski resort in Northern California.  Even in good years, it is a pretty humble ski experience, but in this drought year, there was dirt and rock mixed in with a thin coating of snow.  Kids still seemed to be hiving fun, even if the California glamor has moved on to other Sierra resorts.


Our target for lunch was the Ahwahnee Hotel.  The hotel was completed in 1927 and was the first of the grand hotels at US National Parks.  Rooms are humble, but the setting is magnificent and the lobby and restaurant areas are truly grand.  (We passed on staying here, since even with winter discounts, rooms start in the mid $400s, well above our budget.)  Our lunch was elegant, and almost as leisurely as our breakfast.  We like this style!


We drove out along the North Drive, just as the sun was moving lower and pushing shadows up the surrounding rocks.
Taking pictures here is fun, even if they are not Ansel Adams quality.

But the biggest excitement came when we stopped on the side of the road to join others staring up at the side of El Capitan.  There, a half-mile directly above us, Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson were just completing their 19-day free ascent of the Dawn Wall, perhaps the hardest free ascent ever made.  Withe the help of onlookers, we could see the three tents of the base camp, 1200 feet above us.  They said the climbers had just cleared the top of the rock!  Later, I looked at my pictures of the top ridge and saw a splotch of yellow, the color of one climber's down jacket. When we made it home, we watched news stories on CNN and other networks with a we-were-there excitement.   (National Geographic has nice news coverage.)

Thursday morning we were up and out early.  We needed to pick up our Jeep, which has now spent more time in the dealer's garage than ours.  We hope this isn't a sign, because I think we are re-acquiring our travel legs and we will need our comfortable car for some longer trips.  Death Valley?  Seattle?  San Diego? Montana even!

Stay tuned.

John and Marianne


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