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