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Yosemite with Alex, Brendan & Russ

A week or two before Memorial Day, Russ somehow found a tent cabin in Camp Curry available for that weekend. Off we went to camp in the amazing Yosemite Valley!

The boys on one of the bunk beds in our tent cabin at Camp Curry. Needless to say, they slept on the top bunks.  We may have been in the middle of something close to paradise, but music on the iPod remained indispensable.

If only life was so simple! This was politically sensitive, of course, as are so many things when parents are recently separated. It was not scheduled to be my weekend with the boys, but with encouraging cooperation we got around that fairly easily. Way to go, Marie-Hélène! Also, neither Alex nor Charlie wanted to miss any school (in search of the perfect attendance record), but Brendan had the Friday off or was okay with missing a day. So Russ and he arrived Friday afternoon.

Then Charlie hurt his foot on a trampoline the day before we left, and so could not accompany Alex and me after all. But he and I did make it, finally, late on the Friday evening. Russ and Brendan were there when we arrived in the Valley, already installed in the tent cabin.

Spring in Yosemite brings streams swollen by the melting Sierra Nevada snow. In summer, the Merced River here is a placid creek where you can swim, or at least bathe, in the rock pools. While taking a break from their efforts on the Mist Trail (which was going remorselessly up), Alex and Brendan wisely kept their distance from the roaring water.

Yosemite is for those of us who worship in the natural cathedrals that bless California. So most of this post will consist of the photos of our hike on the Saturday. We started with a walk up the Mist Trail, so named because at the right time of year, if you follow it you feel the mist. A pair of snakes fell on to the tarmac at the lower end of the trail as we walked by, from a granite wall overlooking the river’s little canyon. That was a first! Passers by who ambled past the snakes a little too close were shocked when one of them lunged and spat. This is not a zoo, people! It’s the real world.

The Mist Trail to Vernal Falls is particularly appealing to boys in the spring, because the falls are cascading the Sierra Nevada’s spring snow melt, and the spray is everywhere. This mist soaks you through!

The Mist Trail is a meaty hike in the mountains, even if it is short as mountain trails go. Unless you are very fit, fully grown and reasonably young, you catch your breath constantly on the way up. The path turns into hundreds of stone steps, some of them up to a foot high, as you approach the falls themselves. They seem to go on and on and on.

Here are Russ and Brendan on the same part of the hike. The mist is already in the air, tingly and refreshing, and there are rainbows forming across the canyon. It’s an easy place to feel good.

Most of these stone steps were soaking wet as we made our way up. What with the spray soaking our faces and clothes, the slippery rocks underfoot, and the interminable staircase in front of the falls, arriving at the top was more than a relief.

Next, decision time.

I wanted to continue climbing to the top of Nevada Falls, the next waterfall on the Merced River above Vernal Falls. From the Valley floor to the top of Nevada Falls and back is a long hike for 12 year-olds, but I thought it was doable. The boys did express some concern, they were tired, it had already been along hike, that sort of thing.

At the top of Vernal Falls, looking down to their base. (Oops: the photographer’s finger is visible top left!) Every year, someone manages to slide over the falls, normally while bathing in the pool behind the boys. It does look inviting, BUT! Sometimes the body is never found.

But they are still young enough to accept a little pressure, and we all decided to press on for a while and see how we felt. Russ and I would not require the boys to make it to the top of Nevada Falls, we told them, but we climbed on, convinced that making an effort to do so would bring its own kind of rewards. Well, actually, we said that we would not require them to complete the climb, but this was perhaps a small case of parental hypocrisy, because when they started again asking to turn back we did push them to keep going. “It’s not far now (which was true, there was just one last push to make it up), and it’s so beautiful at the top,” you know the sort of thing.

And it is beautiful at the top of Nevada Falls. And on the loop back down on the John Muir Trail. This is a gallery of that part of the hike.

Back in Yosemite Valley after what had been a long and tiring hike, the boys immediately ran off. Fatigue was forgotten, and they threw a frisbee on the banks of the Merced River, maybe 100 yards away across Camp Curry, while we cooked. Let me rephrase that, “while Russ cooked.” Russ is a gifted cook, where as my gifts are more in the area of washing the dishes.

Here’s Russ, complete with mohawk! No, in fact it’s been years since he had a mohawk. Wrong again: he’s never had a mohawk. But he almost did this time, thanks to sleeping in a cold tent cabin with a makeshift pillow. Let’s hear it for camping!

So that’s what I did, wash the dishes after the meal. The boys disappeared off, back to the river bank I think, and I took the plastic bowl full of dirty dishes to the sink on the outside of the bathrooms where they were to be washed. I brought the hot water from our stove, because needless to say there was no hot water in the bathrooms, and after waiting for the previous dishwasher to complete her task, scrubbed away in the half light. There was a moon, and the light shone out of the bathroom windows, but we were a long way from daylight. Russ didn’t say anything – he’s a very kind person – but my guess is that back at home he threw all the dishes into the dishwasher!

Russ and I in front of Yosemite Falls, our more modest pre-departure Sunday morning stroll. The path is paved all the way, and maybe half a mile long. Having pushed the boys to make it up to the top of Nevada Falls on Saturday, my left knee hurt. Neither of the boys had any problem: I limped for about two weeks. Aging is unfair!

That night, the boys made me very happy because, rather than sleep in our tent cabin, they wanted to sleep in Cookie, my neat European motor home that was almost never used by the family. The bench seat opened up into a double bed, and they made that bed their own little den. Giving my boys a big toy to make camping more fun was one of the key reasons for buying Cookie, which being European was not cheap. And this was the only time in Cookie’s year with us that either of the younger children actually slept in it. I slept better in the tent cabin knowing that the boys were sleeping in Cookie for once.

We left Sunday, with both Brendan and Alex electing to ride back to Santa Cruz in Cookie, because the RV had a great sound system. I of course felt very flattered, and the drive home was a breeze for the three of us. Alex and I dropped Brendan at his mum and dad’s.

Thanks Russell, for the invite: great trip!!