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Learning to Relax (Yosemite NP)

Updated: Sep 22, 2022

Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset. — Saint Francis de Sales

Tuesday, 2 August 2022

I lingered this morning. After a shower followed by breakfast in the dining room, I lounged on the veranda outside my room. I didn't need Internet to enter notes into my laptop, so I caught up on the last few days. A few people wandered the grounds of the hotel, enjoying the cool, morning peace of Wawona.

By 10:00, I'd given up on hearing from the Yosemite Conservancy about an art class today. I've had more missed opportunities on this journey than on my first four trips combined: no boat tours on Crater Lake; the burned-down fire tower in Lassen Volcanic (and part of the park closed from the burn); no art classes here; and the golf course closed for the season. And looking ahead, I discovered that Crystal Cave in Sequoia has stayed closed all year for maintenance.

The leisurely morning allowed me to get organized heading into my last several days, and to research options for today. The park pamphlet showed a seasonal 'Visitor Center' open next to the hotel. Surprise! The 'Center' was no more than a folding table beneath an awning - a setup such as you'd find at a local fair.

"Is this the smallest Visitor Center in the park system?" I asked the ranger.

He smiled. "Actually, the station by the Oak Flat entrance is smaller."

I asked about moderate hikes around the village. "Many people like the 4-mile hike (each way) to upper Chilnualna Falls. It takes about five hours roundtrip, and is a bit steep." How about something easier? "You could take that trail a half-mile to see the lower falls. I don't know how much water is still flowing - we evacuated this area for a couple weeks, and when it re-opened a week ago, I had several days off, so I haven't been up there." [That reminded me of a clueless Yelp reviewer, who dinged the park and wrote, "BTW, the park service turns off some of the falls after mid-summer."]

The lower falls - followed by a short, flat hike to Swinging Bridge from the same trailhead - appealed to me. I drove to the road's end, parked, and set out. The short trail did have steps, but they quickly took me to views of the falls.

I could only imagine what it would look like with spring runoff. Instead, it trickled through the rocks into the small pool below.

Hard to believe that a 5-hour trip to the upper falls would provide a big payoff with this little water.

Back at the trailhead, I turned the other direction toward Swinging Bridge. This trail stayed flat, leading through sparsely-wooded terrain. Next to one tree, someone left a little rock art:

I ambled along the path, enjoying the cooler morning temperatures. Soon I heard voices, though brush along the stream kept the water hidden from me. When I drew close enough to see, the tableaux unfolded before me: more than a dozen people playing in the stream, picnicking on the shores, swinging on the bridge.

Being in no hurry, I found a few perches that let me gaze on the parties and the scenery of the spot, setting up several photos.

Before heading back, I had to cross the bridge myself,

and check the scenery on the other side. I quickly noticed an area touched by fire, with charred logs scattered about. I hope the crew cutting down the danger trees keep uncontrolled fires from happening here.

On the short drive back to the hotel and 'visitor center', I stopped at the Pioneer Market to augment my PBJ lunch with a banana, apple juice, and Haagen Dazs bar. Across the street, I noticed the Pioneer History Museum, an open-air museum filled with structures from the days of Yosemite yore. With no real plans for the day, I wandered over to look around. (Ever seen a two-story log cabin? I have now.)

Few buildings were open - most of them you could only look through the windows.

The Acting Superintendent's Office doors swung open as I tried it.

Inside, they had displays of working here during the early days of the park. Workers (the cavalry) had to fill out patrol reports when they finished their shifts, documenting the goings-on in the area. An extra pad of blank report forms sat on a counter, next to a sign encouraging modern patrollers to report on what they'd seen. My offering: "Swung by Swinging Bridge. Noticed more than a dozen scraggly-looking tourists frolicking in the creek. They look harmless, though..."

Interesting historical note: Back in the early days of the park - before people knew better than to do things like introduce non-native species - the cavalry (who patrolled Yosemite) would stock the alpine lakes for fishing. These are lakes that did just fine with no fish species! The soldiers would pack live fish and cold water into metal milk cans, strap them to horses or mules, and head to the high country. To keep the fish from overheating, they had to swap out the cold water after several hours. Fringe benefit: whoever stocked a lake got to give it a name!

I found myself reluctant to leave the area. My stress had diminished, having decided on tentative 'unique experiences' for both Sequoia and Kings Canyon. Next to the hotel, I wandered into Thomas Hill's Studio. This prolific painter, who specialized in Yosemite scenes, had this studio built in 1884. Today, after several re-purposings through the years, the studio features several of his paintings and a mockup of his working space.

I strolled back to the ranger's table outside the studio to show him pics of the lower falls. When I asked him for a spot where I could take a picture of the golf course, he suggested I take the Wawona Meadow loop trail. I'd hoped to keep my hiking for the day well under five miles, and that would put me over by a mile, but he called it an easy walk - and I had no desire to rush to my airBNB in Fresno with its temperatures of 105° or above.

I crossed Wawona Road, walked past hole 1, and followed the trail into the trees.

Parts of this loop followed the old auto road, though much of the asphalt had disappeared over the years. Even though the day had hit 90°, the shaded trail felt cooler than that. The path had a mild - almost negligible - slope, perfect for ambling.

I need more days like this. I know I tended to pack my days, rushing park to park, but slowing down has its rewards. Nice to let life glide by without forcing it, enjoying what it sends my way. I noticed it with the Cadence of the Dakotas - and I could extend that to the Cuyahoga Cadence, the Rhythm of the Redwoods, the Fundy Feeling. To that list, add Yosemite Smooth.

At several spots, views opened across the meadow to the surrounding mountains. A beautiful vista presented itself down the length of the meadow as the trail turned back toward the village.

Clouds scudding across the sky enhanced the scene.

Before re-crossing the highway, I noticed the flag flying over the 9th hole of the golf course, waiting vainly for putters to return.

As the trail approached the hotel, highway cones blocked the way - the crew was busy hacking away at danger trees here. I detoured across the wooded land, finally ready to move on from this paradise. Yosemite will stay in my thoughts as I move on to more parks.

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