Tuesday, May 11, 2010


This weekend we up and headed to Yosemite for a family getaway. We knew going in that the trip would be memorable, though whether it would be good-memorable (bears! waterfalls! sticks!) or bad-memorable (mosquitos! loud campers! no sleep!) was up in the air. I am ecstatic to report that it was memorable in the BEST way and we can't wait to go back.

It only took about 2 hours and 20 minutes to get to our outside-the-park accommodations. Our "Garden Cottage" was essentially a single-wide trailer on the side of Highway 120, about 45 minutes from the valley floor. It was cozy, clean, the bed was actually comfortable, the kids slept well, and we had our own kitchen and bathroom. I'll leave it at that. Nothing else memorable about the sleeping spot. But that's not why you go to Yosemite.

This is:
Dada, Sam & Maddie soaking wet after a look at Bridalveil Falls

Bridalveil Falls in all its gushing glory

Maddie bouldering in the park

One of our greatest joys and a memory that will be etched in my mind for years to come is seeing Maddie in her element. The girl is fearless. She is so adventurous, and it makes Ben and I just so incredibly proud. As soon as we stopped the car, she jumped out, ran toward the forest, and started climbing on a huge pile of fallen limbs, getting snagged, "balancing" as she walked the length of a big branch, picking out big sticks to show us. She would scramble up practically any boulder on the hiking trails, narrating her steps as she went: "Okay, I'll put my hand here, then my foot on this little spot here, and then I'll step up, and then my hands will work together right here and I'll puuulll myself up! There I go! Perfect!"

Another classic Maddie moment: we saw a mule deer grazing in a meadow beneath the falls and as Maddie stood watching, another couple approached. She pointed to the buck and said, "That's a mule deer." The woman misunderstood her and replied, "Oh, Yes? It's a REAL deer? My, my! Do you think it's BAMBI?" Maddie looked at her with the most puzzled face and squinty brow, like, "Did you not hear me? I said 'mule deer.' Who the heck is Bambi?"

Upper Yosemite Falls from the Valley Floor, Merced River in the foreground

The girls taking a walk in front of the falls. Seriously, could the scenery be any more breathtaking?

Stalking in the tall meadow grass

Yeah, that's a bear! And you can see the tail end of a black one behind the tree on the left.

We were headed out of the park on Friday night late, the kids already in pjs, Sam asleep in his seat, and we happened upon a bunch of cars slowing down or pulled over. We looked into the wet, snowy meadow to the left and saw TWO bears, a golden colored one and a darker brown one. After approaching to take pictures, a woman pointed out a third bear super high in a tree. I took some pictures but they didn't really turn out because of the low light.

The next morning we returned into the park and the same three bears were in the exact spot from the night before. We stopped and got some new pictures, as well as another great memory: the two smaller bears were close together, foraging on the meadow floor for food, the larger, golden bear closer to the road. Someone watching made a loud noise, and the bears spooked a bit. The largest bear started to charge toward the two smaller ones and they scrambled up two nearby trees. It was CRAZY. Those heavy, furry creatures charged up those vertical trees as if they were simply running along the ground. It was that fast. Awesome.

Sam being his fun little self in the car

Sam was a trooper. He was so content just to walk his way through the park, picking up sticks and stones and pinecones and rocks. He was so much fun, always game for every new adventure, whether getting soaked under waterfalls or hopping in the backpack for a hike. He loved seeing the wildlife in the park, grunting at birds, mule deer, squirrels.

Any chance Sam got, he would take off on a trail, path or road, all on his own, like he was tasting freedom for the first time. I'd look away for a second, only to see him toddling away at breakneck speed, giggling as I ran after him, and screaming when I picked him up, as if yelling out "Freedom! I've tasted freedom! And it is the open road."

Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls

Spring Buds

The girls "pose it up" in front of an OLD tree
(one of the first marked rings was circa 700 AD)

Part of the fun of bouldering is sliding down

tree detail

naptime for the boys

Because we spent all day, every day, in the park, naptimes and bedtimes were somewhat fluid. Saturday we spent most of the day on our bikes, kids in the bike trailer, riding all over the valley floor and taking small side hikes to break things up. That afternoon Maddie crashed in the bike trailer but Sam was a little more stubborn, so Ben walked around with him in the ergo until at last they both found some rest beneath a large tree.

I took the opportunity to run around with my camera and snap some photos. A fallen tree with its upturned roots just happened to frame up Half Dome in the distance. I could not get enough of this place. Just gorgeous.

Half Dome through a gnarly fallen trunk

friendly little park squirrels were happy to share Maddie's trail mix

Mirror Lake
(so named for the obvious reasons)

One of the hikes we took was a short, easy climb up to Mirror Lake. The scenery was incredible, with Half Dome rising on one side. The lake was surrounded by boulders, perfect for climbing up and sliding down. Samuel trotted along on the path, collecting treasures and making other hikers laugh with his determined little walk. We enjoyed a picnic lunch atop a flat rock and Maddie even got to use the great outdoors for her first pee-pee alfresco.

family shot at Mirror Lake

On Sunday we packed up our things and headed out on a side trip to Jamestown, an old gold mining community south of the park. There is an old Railway Museum and they were offering a special "Moms ride free" for Mother's Day. We took a 40-minute train ride pulled by an old steam engine (best known for its appearances on TV such as "Runaway Caboose" on Little House on the Prarie and movie roles such as in "Back to the Future."

An old-time folk fiddler named Huckleberry made his way up and down the aisles, playing great tunes and getting the kids excited. He played his fiddle, a mandolin and even spoons! Maddie made "Friends Forever" with a sweet little Welsh girl and her charming parents. Sam's eyes grew wide as saucers every time the train blew its horn.

Enjoying my Mother's Day with my sweet girl

In front of the engine room, where the big trains go to rest

Car Host hat on the cutest little train passenger you ever did see

We can't wait to go back! Maybe we'll even make it an annual event. Anyone out there in blogland interested in joining us for Yosemite 2011?


mel @ the larson lingo said...

Amazing pictures! Wow!
Sounds like you guys had such a great time! What a fun filled weekend! And, I am VERY tempted to join you guys next year!!! How fun would that be?!!

bonnieb said...

Are you sure those photos weren't taken by Ansel Adams??? Seriously, Yosemite is going to be calling to have those made into postcards! Then there are the ones with the most beautiful children in the world. sigh. Is Maddie really so big? WOW. Sam is adorable. Maddie, beautiful. Their parents a perfect treasure. How grateful I am for these blessings. much love.

Tegan and Tage said...

Oh my goodness that picture of your hubby with the little guy sleeping is sooo sweet!

This post makes me want to go to Yosemite! :)