A year after we visited the Grand Canyon, the same group of five (Aunt Judy, Uncle Tom, Jenny, Amy, and me) spent a weekend at Yosemite National Park. This time, happily, we were joined by my cousin, Andrew, and our Grandma.
There she is, riding in the front passenger seat, her place of honor. I assume the lidless Wendy’s cup in the lower right holds her Frosty.
This was July 1993. In October, for a sophomore honors English assignment, I would write about our trip. I still have a copy of the paper, which opens:
“I never thought I’d see anything like that in my lifetime.”
That simple statement said by my grandmother sums up what I had just experienced with my family. We were driving back to Aunt Judy’s home outside of Los Angeles from Yosemite National Park…
The paper continues as a narrative of the trip.
Memory is a strange thing. Rereading the paper over seventeen years later, it’s clear that the memories of the trip that I’ve retained are directly tied to the photos collected in a dedicated album. For instance, back in 1993 I wrote, “Next morning we went on a scenic train ride through Sierra National Forest which is just outside the park’s boundaries.” I don’t remember this at all. There are no photos of it. If I really think back, search back, I have an impression, a flicker of waiting in a queue. Otherwise, nothing. I also don’t remember going to Mass in Yosemite Valley, but apparently we did that too.
But as for what I do remember, much is tied to the photos.
This blurry one opens the set:
Andrew and Jenny are in the back of the Williams’ Chevy Suburban. Over Andrew’s shoulder is the wheelchair Aunt Judy rented for Grandma while we were in California that summer. The rectangular papers hanging above the rear window are drawings that Andrew and I created on Microsoft Paint of some of the major sites we wanted to see. The only one I can make out is Yosemite Falls on the right. Further to the right, the little colored coat made out of construction paper represented Joseph’s coat of many colors. Each one had one of the traveler’s names on it, and they continued all the way around the interior of the Suburban.
I took this photo on Friday, July 16, 1993, at dusk, along the road from the park’s southern entrance to Wawona, where we had rented a cabin.
Growing up, spending each summer at Grandma’s cottage on Lake Huron, one my family’s favorite activities was “deer looking.” After dinner, at dusk, we’d pile into cars and drive down the back roads, the dirt roads, and look for deer. In meadows, in fields, with binoculars, without. In Aunt Karen’s van, in my mother’s Honda, in the back of Uncle John’s pickup truck. Whichever. We’d go deer looking, trying to count more than the previous evening, then we’d more often than not go to the Dairy Queen in Lexington before heading back to the cottage and build a bonfire.
Driving through the southern end of Yosemite National Park with Grandma was world class deer looking.
But she wanted to see a bear.
That’s Grandma and Aunt Judy.
We stayed for the weekend at a rented cabin in Wawona. Unfortunately, I took no photos of it. It’s funny how back in the era of film, you would conserve your photos, only attempting to record, with a single snapshot, the most dramatic or memorable moments. (Now in the age of digital photography, it’s entirely different. On a 10-day trip to Spain last fall, Sean and I took 3,000+ photos. Digitally.)
At any rate, I have no photos of the cabin, but I remember it being a split-level deal, spacious. Andrew and I shared a room on the bottom level.
Next morning we [took a train ride in Sierra National Forest, again don’t remember this at all, and then] drove to Yosemite Valley.
My 1993 description of the drive:
The road to the valley twists and turns for miles through evergreen forests while clinging to the side of a steep mountain. Grandma and I were both a little queasy by the time we reached Wawona Tunnel.
[This queasiness, unfortunately, is a recurring theme. I do have something of a fear of heights, particularly vertigo in moving vehicles. For instance, I am curious, thrilled, and abjectly terrified by the prospect of Glacier’s Going-to-the-Sun Road. This will be a challenge throughout my project.]
Regardless, we made it to Yosemite Valley.
That’s me, at fourteen, wearing my endangered species t-shirt, smiling through braces in front of one of the loveliest of vistas.
Off we went to Bridalveil Falls.
Looking back, reading back, I’m slightly embarrassed by my 14-year-old’s description of Bridalveil:
Plunging from Cathedral Rocks to the valley floor are Bridalveil Falls. This is where we aimed our course. When we reached Bridalveil’s parking area Andrew led us to the falls by walking along the river. I insisted that it would be easier to use the visitor path, but Aunt Judy said that it was more adventurous on the river route. Amy and I were the only ones that came out unscathed.
Well damn, Past Brandon, live a little.
The rest of the day we spent exploring Yosemite Valley.
Sunday morning we climbed around on the rocks below Yosemite Falls.
In the afternoon we drove up to Glacier Point, overlooking the north end of Yosemite Valley, and the Sierra Nevada beyond.
I’ll turn it over to fourteen-year-old me to describe Monday morning:
The following morning we left the park after getting a tour of the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. These trees are the largest living things to exist on this earth. Our tour guide, a crusty, impatient old man, was very fond of saying, “Thee Greezly Giant is the LARRgest tree in MAR-i-POS-a grove.”
On the way home memories of the splendor we had experienced are what prompted Grandma to say, “I never thought I’d see anything like that in my life.”