Savoring Yosemite in the spring

Carl Sharsmith had been a ranger at Yosemite National Park for over fifty years when a middle-aged tourist, looking quite harried, approached him. “Sir,” the man said,

“I have only about half a day to spend in Yosemite, could you suggest which sights I could see in my limited time?” Sharsmith, who even after exploring the park for half a century, had yet to see the entire park, eyeballed the eager tourist for a moment. Then he answered, “Sir, do you see that large flat rock over there? Well, if you really have only a few hours to see this magnificent park, I'd suggest you just sit down on that rock and have yourself a good cry.”

Anyone who has experienced the grandeur of Yosemite will appreciate Sharsmith's remark. Nobody “sees”Yosemite in a half day. Not with its over 1100 square mile area, 800 miles of hiking trails and 263 miles of roads. It's too big, too massive. You could spend hours just standing at Yosemite Falls, the highest waterfall in all of North America or watching the rock climbers scampering up the granite face of Half Dome or gazing in awe at the giant sequoias, the largest living things on our planet.

My wife and I have hiked and camped at Yosemite many times but, this time, because of her medical condition, we decided to go easy on ourselves. We found lodging at an upscale motel resort just two miles outside the Arch Rock entrance to the park on Rt. 140.

Our room overlooked the Merced River, which at this time of year, made a thunderously loud passage by the motel. It was quite exhilarating.

From our lodge we could take a shuttle to all the major points of interest in the park, without worrying about finding a place to park our car. Very convenient and cheap (only $7.50 round trip, $6.00 for seniors.) We rented bikes near the Yosemite Lodge or rather I rented a bike and Kathleen rented a little electric scooter and we had a blast riding around the park at our own pace (slow) and drinking in the scenery. There was not a lot of traffic on the bike paths and we were far enough away from the road to give us the illusion that we were out in the wilderness. It was deliciously quiet, just us and the birds and the sound of water rushing by. The bike path was level too so we were able to check out Yosemite Falls, Mirror Lake and Happy Isles on our bikes without hardly breaking a sweat.

At Happy Isles, while Kathleen rested and caught up on her reading, I decided to work off some of the calories I'd been accumulating and hike up to Vernal Falls. The sign indicated it was only a mile and a half hike up to the falls but the important word is “UP.” I made it about half way where a wooden bridge crosses a gorge, then wimped out. Later, I meet a mom and her little 4 year old girl who had had made it all the way to the top, (the little show-off) On my way down, I stopped to talk with an 86 year old guy who was on his way up the trail. When I admitted to the old guy that I had only made it halfway, he had the nerve to reach out, pat my belly and say “Ha! Maybe too much beer? “

My wife and I are both nutsy for waterfalls so we found our Shangri-la in Yosemite this year. As the warm spring sun did its thing, it seemed as though the whole Sierra snowcap had let loose at once. There were waterfalls emerging that neither of us had ever seen before. The combination of meadows strewn with a profusion of wild flowers, the cascading waterfalls and the clear Sierra air made us feel like NYC kids on our first foray into the country.

Our Yosemite trip ended as it always has, at the legendary Ahwahnee Hotel, the king of all the National Park Lodges. It's a bit pricey at the Ahwahnee so we can't afford to stay there overnight but we always make it a point to have breakfast or lunch in their massive 130 ft. long, 34 ft. high dining hall. The food is superb, the service excellent and the view from the sky-high windows looking out over the Sierras is something you will never forget. Even if you don't dine at the Ahwahnee, at least stroll through its Great Room, the immense gallery and lounge of the hotel. With its rustic pine log ceilings, floor to ceiling stained glass windows and monstrous fireplace, you'll think you're in a medieval castle.

We spent 2 1/2 days at Yosemite. That was considerably more time than the tourist who had only half a day to spare but we both knew it was not nearly enough. I suspect even Carl Sharsmith's fifty years was too little time to appreciate the Yosemite experience. No regrets. Even our brief visit made us richer.

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