Tuesday, August 4, 2020
Have you ever found yourself alone in Yosemite Valley? This morning we came close. We drove up the 140 and through the gate at 6:30 AM. I had my day pass ready, but nobody was there to ask for it. We passed an antlered buck quietly grazing in a meadow. We saw a waterfall high up a sheer wall of rock. We parked in the empty lot at the visitors’ center and followed the signs to Yosemite Falls.
It would have been easy for me to print a map of Yosemite at home, but I figured they’d give us one at the gate. Nope. So we did the next best thing and followed the signs. There were a few other people walking to the Falls, but most of the time we had the trail to ourselves. It is August so not surprisingly, the falls were dry except for a small trickle about 30 feet up.
Next stop was breakfast at Degnan’s Kitchen. All the inside seating was blocked off, but you could walk in masked and buy breakfast. I had a large and a big cinnamon roll while John went for a mocha and a breakfast sandwich. Outside tables were separated and most were empty at this point. They have WiFi so we happily checked our messages and talked over our plan for the day.
We decided to see things that we could remember from times gone by. Next goal was Mirror Lake. The distance was hard to tell because the signs were inconsistent, but maybe two miles each way from Curry Village. The trail is shady and fairly level until near the end. There were more people on the trail, usually in small family groups, with a few retirees hiking along either in couples or alone. Most people wore masks during the hike or pulled on their masks when approaching others. Altogether we found masking was observed throughout the park.
One dad hiking with his family offered to take a picture of John and me together, so I took him up on it and handed him my phone. This was the only time anyone had offered. After he handed me the phone, he motioned to be quiet and look to the right where a large bobcat was trotting along parallel to the trail. A beautiful sight and we all got pictures. Next we heard a tapping sound and saw a large red- headed woodpecker tapping on a log right next to the trail. The family went on ahead after that, but we loved those shared moments, so rare these days.
It’s August, you know that. So no water in the lake.
The walk back was hard for me as the day grew warmer, but altitude is not a problem in the Yosemite Valley. It’s about 4,000 feet compared to our hike at 6,500 feet in Sequoia.
We stopped at Degnan’s again to share a sandwich and get spruced up to go to the Ahwahnee Hotel. Tried to drop in the gift shop, but there was a socially distanced line in front and it wasn’t worth waiting in the heat. As it turned out, the hotel had a fine gift shop for the few presents I wanted to get. The Ahwahnee Hotel, built in 1927, was elegant as always. The dining room was take out only, like everywhere else, but there were tables outside and even a few inside in the conservatory where people were eating lunch. Meals were served at certain hours and the menu was limited.
Which brings me to a few tips if you should travel here anytime soon. First, it is very hot here in the summer and there is no place to rest and cool off inside. You can only go inside to buy food or shop and then you have to go outside to eat. Second, menus are simple — usually hamburgers or chicken sandwiches with fries for hot meals and ham and cheese sandwiches plus a salad or two in the refrigerator case. Best to bring your own food if you have any special requirements. Third, all museums, visitors centers, and most restaurants are closed. Next time I would opt to stay in the park so that I would have a place to rest and cool off during the day.
By mid afternoon the temperature was in the high nineties and we decided to return to Cedar Lodge. The ranger just waved us through the gate. “Have a nice evening!” she called after us. Tonight we got the burger.
Tomorrow we’ll head for home.
Headlines: None today either. It’s a vacation, after all.
Why am I doing this?
The coronavirus pandemic will be indelibly written on our memories just as the Great Depression or the Battle of Britain left their mark on past generations. It is my intention to journal the events of these days from three perspectives: as a retired medical technologist, a historian (Ph.D., 2014), and an ordinary person living through an extraordinary crisis.
You are on History’s Edge.