September 18, 2020

Yosemite & Tahoe

My fingers ache as I type this.  The good kind of ache: where my back is cramping up and my quads shake when I stand up.  I’ve torn off two deep blisters, both on my ring finger on each hand. I’m taped up like a gymnast, except I’m too tall and too old to be one.

adventure pain
I thought it was a callous, but it was just a deep blister.

I’m staring out the window of a hotel room in Reno, a parking garage in the foreground, the Sierras in the background, and weather is moving in fast and hard.  Slush rained on us this morning as we returned from a lunch buffet in the Silver Legacy casino.  (We’d already climbed for two hours before the buffet, and I did some yoga where I focused on a balancing pose that opens up the back. By the time I got to attempting the slackline, my quads were shaking. Buffet was totally warranted for the protein. And the unlimited tiny pies.)

But let’s get down to the Adventure, man.  We flew into Reno, drove to the Bay Area and then the Central Valley of California, and then hit up Yosemite. Both me and Andy were popping out of our seats as we drove into the Yosemite Valley.

Yosemite adventure
Sigh. Entrance to Yosemite. El Capitan on the left, Half Dome in the distance.

So let me tell you a sad story: no, not as sad as I often seem to write (like about my darling Yuba, or even my most recent non-fiction publication), but a lighter sort of sad.

Yosemite Adventure
Hiking past Sentinel Dome

I grew up two hours from the entrance of Yosemite.  I went a few times, and the one I remember the best was when I was in high school. I went with my Dad.  In the early 1970s, he and my mom would go to Yosemite with picnics and hang out in the Valley, find a pretty boulder by the Merced River and nap in the sun like lizards. So on one of his California visits, he decided he wanted to go again.



We stayed at a bed and breakfast not far from the entrance, a big place we had to ourselves, and I can’t remember the name.  The woman who ran it left a huge bowl of fresh strawberries from the garden in the refrigerator, so my Dad made strawberries and cream.

Yosemite Adventure
Bridal Veil Falls with Andy

We ate it in the evenings as we played Gin Rummy. During the day, we walked along the Valley floor, meandering next to the Merced River, watching the faint trickle from Yosemite Falls. We squinted up at El Capitan, looking for climbers, tiny dots of color against the massive swath of granite. Dad took pictures. I wasn’t old enough to drive. It was beautiful.
That was the last time I went.

There was this incredible, nothing-like-it-on-Earth place 120 miles from where I went to high school, and I went ONCE during those years.

Because I hadn’t traveled that much yet.  Because I didn’t know how rare that place was. Because it was close to home, it was easy to take for granted.  And I did, I took it for granted.  Why go there, when I wanted to go to Europe? Or Asia?

Yosemite Adventure
I missed you, Giant Redwoods!

So I did–I went to Japan twice–once in high school, and once in college.  I went to Europe a few times. I moved to Alaska.

Yosemite Adventure
Can’t get lost with this guy.

I traveled in Central and South America. I’ve seen some of the wonders of the modern world, now. But you know what?  Yosemite is up there on that list we keep in our heads. It isn’t as inaccessible as the moai on Easter Island, or as strange as the animals on the Galapagos.

img_3550But Half-Dome? Where on earth are you going to see a formation that crazy?  Or the massive El Capitan?  That’s 3,000 feet of granite, straight up.

Yosemite Adventures
The fissures

So a few days ago, Andy and me got into Yosemite early, before the crowds. We drove up to Glacier Point, the high road above the Valley.  Before the turn-off, we checked out Bridal Veil, and all of the falls were flowing hard–much more water than when I came twenty years prior. At Glacier Point, we had a great view of Yosemite Falls and Half Dome, and then linked some hikes together to reach Sentinel Dome and the Fissures and Taft Point.

Yosemite Adventure
Andy glissades down the side of Sentinel Dome. Yosemite Falls in the background.

At Taft Point, there is a most majestic view of El Capitan.  It is also high enough that when we laid down and looked over the edge, I thought I might throw up.  I am not normally thrown by heights, but man–I don’t have an explicative, family-friendly or otherwise, to describe that feeling. I can’t recommend the experience enough.

Yosemite Adventure
That is some crazy height.

Once we hiked back to the car, we drove back down into the Valley, smelly and not and yet tired. We spied some climbers on El Capitan, little yellow dots, almost to the top. We stood in that famous meadow, amongst a few other tourists with binoculars, and squinted. Just like when I’d stared up at them with my Dad, twenty years ago.

Auburn Adventure
Andy hears the song of his people

The next day we headed up to Auburn State Park, where we stopped and talked to the rangers to get the best idea for a hike. I swear to you that it was Jon and Ponch from CHiPs, just the uniform had the wrong letters on them.  Jon seemed really excited about the park and Auburn itself, but Ponch seemed like he had stuff to do.

Auburn State Park Adventure
The spray felt good on such a hot day

They recommended hiking out to the dam, and it was completely worth the stop.  The temperature was in the mid-90s, (but a dry heat), so the cool spray off the dam was incredible.

In the evening, not yet punished enough, we headed to an indoor climbing gym in Sacramento, called Pipeworks.

Auburn Adventure
Climbing after bouldering is hard.

We really liked the bouldering area, and also, I think some of the routes were rated higher than they actually were, otherwise I have made some significant improvements overnight.

Tahoe Adventure
Emerald Bay in the foreground, Lake Tahoe in the background, Yours Truly being fabulous in the forest-ground. Ba-doom-boom.


Tahoe Adventure
Hot Husband at Cascade Falls

Then onto Lake Tahoe, where we did the short hike at Cascade Falls.  We climbed around, getting close to the falls, another day with falling water nearby.

Tahoe Adventure
Fun river crossings

We drove the perimeter of the Lake, and then stopped in South Lake Tahoe for the night.  We had hoped to take the chairlift up to the top of Heavenly Ski Resort, but it wasn’t open yet for the summer season.

Tahoe Adventure


We took advantage of the hotel’s happy hour instead.

Tahoe Adventure
Happy hour.

The rest day did us good, because the next day we headed to Spooner Lake, prepared for a long hike, but unsure of what we would find.  The rangers stopped us, to make sure we had water (I guess there are some yahoos who hike without water…?), and warned us of snow pack.  We ended up doing a little over 13 miles of hiking up past Marlette Lake to a dam there.

Tahoe Adventure
Another dam.

It was windy like you wouldn’t believe, but a great view of Tahoe.

We climbed back down and hiked around the lake to a small isle with a causeway.

Currently it seems to be a fishing location, but it used to have a cabin on it, a few decades ago.

Tahoe Adventure
A great lunchtime view from the island

Funny story (no, it isn’t): the cabin was built in the 30’s.  The Hobart family enjoyed it for decades, coming out in the summers to fish, and let the kids run around.  They hiked out to it until the 1957, when the property changed hands and the dam was built.

Tahoe Adventure
The renovated chimney



In the 1960’s, the State of Nevada purchased the water system and decided to tear down the old caretakers cabin that was also located on the lake. They demolished the Hobart cabin instead.  Whoops.

So in 2005, they re-erected the chimney from the tiny cabin. Thank you…?

But at any rate, I would totally use that place as a writing cabin, if it had walls.  Such an incredible location.

Tahoe Adventure
Andy in his natural habitat


So that brings us to Reno. We’re staying at the Whitney Peak Hotel, which has a climbing gym instead of a casino.  Which is why I have tape on my hands, and some gnarly flaps of skin.

Reno Adventure
Battalion Chief vehicle from 1916.
Reno Adventure
Fire Engine from 1916

The slush is beginning, which is too bad for the Classic Car show they are having down on Virginia Street, right outside the hotel.

I haven’t done much writing this week, and we’ve been in locations without cell phone service or internet. But I consider that Adventure.

Next week, more on Adventure, when my hands aren’t quite as sore.



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