Monday, January 18, 2016

Yosemite and the Big Snoozer

What a perfect confluence of circumstances for blogging: a trip to Yosemite with Sister and her Friend, beautiful snowy weather, me taking pictures, Sister and Friend attending Chefs' Days at the Ahwahnee Hotel for cooking lectures and demonstrations, then tasting the outcome. The perfect opportunity for me, a nonfoody, to sit on a comfy Ahwahnee couch in front of the giant fireplace -- or not -- and blog. I've done this other years. I love it.

Each day I find a corner of a couch. Each day I pull my laptop out of a bag and fire it up. Each day I begin the snail-slow process of selecting photos for the blog. My Internet download speed here is 0.36 Mbps. At home it's more like 10.36 Mbps. My phone camera uploads the photo to the cloud (Dropbox). Blogger software is somewhere in the cloud (I don't ask). More details are immaterial, but I wait and wait for photos to arrive on the laptop, and while I wait, I start to snooze.

Over three -- or was it four -- afternoons and a little work in the evening, I manage to get the photos for this blog edited and loaded into Blogger, between the snoozing. There are frustrations. Long sessions of downloading and uploading are lost when I have to turn off my computer before the entire process is complete, and I must start over. I don't get a chance to write the blog until I get home.

This little snowman is outside my patio door when we arrive.
He survives our five days without being kicked over by little boys.

But back to the beginning. In typical fashion, I rush at the last moment to finish packing. Jean-Luc gives me his "Don't leave, Mommy" reproachful look. He refuses to make eye contact.

It has rained overnight, with snow in the mountains. We will be crossing a pass at 6,200 feet elevation. So far, the road conditions require chains, or 4-wheel drive with snow tires plus carrying chains. There is a sign on the outskirts of Our Little Town noting the requirements will be in effect in eight miles. Our entire trip is about fifty miles. I'm good with the 4WD and snow tires, but at Christmas we were turned back to take a lower (and way longer) elevation route home under the same conditions when we declined to chain up.

We pass miles of trees burnt in the Rim Fire two years ago. This stand of trees particularly stands out with black char contrasting with stark white bones of the tree skeletons.

We encounter quite a bit of snow before we get to the Park entrance at 4,000 feet. The road is basically clear, but I must watch carefully for ice patches in the road. Once we enter the Park, most cars are pulled over with the chain installers (for a fee), chaining up. We drive on by. The road is packed snow, carved out of high snow banks along the road. All the rangers, other park vehicles, and road equipment are chained up. Slow and steady is my motto.

The highway is on the sunny side during its descent from the summit into the Valley. It's icy but snow banks are lower. It's traditional to stop at the overlook from which you can first see Half-Dome. The ground is too icy for any of us to walk out of the parking area for better views. So Half Dome is that tiny inverted V in the farthest notch. That's snow in the foreground.

We stop for photos of Cascadia Fall which tumbles down from the high mountain and runs under the highway. We stop whenever we like for photos, something that's hard to do when a husband drives.

And we're in the Valley, headed to the junction that will take us to Yosemite Lodge.

We have to negotiate for our preferred rooms as we hadn't made requests with our reservations. We also had a complicated set of reservations. We'd separately made three-night reservations for two rooms at a sale price. Later, there was another sale including the night immediately following our existing reservations, so we each added one night. After our negotiations we were able to get adjacent but not adjoining rooms on the ground floor, not in our usual housing unit, but we think we like this one better. The bills come as four separate ones, two each.

Here's a closer view of the snowy top of Half Dome the next morning from the parking lot at Yosemite Lodge.

This is another view out my patio door of this tree whose root ball is many times larger than the trunk of the tree rising skyward.

We pass the swimming pool as we walk to the parking lot. Is the pool full of snow? Or covered, with just a skim of snow?

We'll have to get our ice cream elsewhere.  The poolside stand appears to be closed, of all things.

The Village market always has nice displays of fruits and veggies and I take this year's pictures. The supplies are very modest this time of year, in contrast with the summer when there's an enormous variety.

Ravens keep their eyes on us, stopping to pose from time to time.

Don't tromp through the flower gardens.

I think the white tree trunks are birch, although maybe they're aspens  since one of the housing units is named Aspen.

We arrive for the day's cooking class session. Fortunately crowds are smaller in winter and it's feasible to drive among the various Valley venues and still be able to find  parking places. On a day when it was raining, we did use valet service once so we wouldn't have to walk in from the car on the wet and icy pavement.

The Ahwahnee Hotel

The area where the Ahwahnee Bar has been located, to the left of the main entrance, is closed off for remodeling. A construction fence has been erected around that end of the building and the surrounding grounds. Workmen were hard at it, despite the cold, snowy weather.

I'm looking down at the Ahwahnee Great Lounge where a cooking class will shortly be starting.

And participants are now seated.

So our days go: up for breakfast at the Food Court at Yosemite Lodge. I neglect to get one of their croissants until Thursday morning when I discover to my surprise the the croissants that look slightly burnt not only aren't burn't but also have chocolate in them. Honestly, they have the best croissants outside of France, and I learn they are made here locally. Just the right crunch when you bite into them, the lap full of pastry flakes, the melt in your mouth chocolate. Heavenly! We arrive too late for croissants on our last day.

Cooking sessions are, for the most part, at 12:30 and/or 3:00 pm. We slip lunch in somewhere between or after those sessions. We go to Degnan's Deli once, and, because it's so handy, the Ahwahnee Dining Room twice.

A couple of samples from the Ahwahnee:

Fettuccine Pesto Alfredo

And then there is this dessert. I have had it before and I'll have it again. It's a boysenberry cheesecake whose fancy Ahwahnee name I have forgotten. Just take a small forkful of the tip, swipe it through the tart berry sauce on the plate, and you'll think you've gone to heaven. It does not do to be in a hurry, because you want to savor every bite to the fullest. (I'm not a foody, but . . . )

Several large meadows have become gathering places for snowmen. This is the meadow just east of Yosemite Lodge. There are more snowmen than I could catch in one shot, but you see a few here. They last our entire stay. I guess the little boys haven't gotten out here.

I first observed the phenomenon of little boys and snow when I had my grandson with me in Yosemite Valley. He darted back and forth across the pathway, kicking every lump or pile of snow along the way. This alerted me and I've watched little and big boys over the years kicking lumps, even kicking over snowmen. Girls may feel the compulsion, but stifle it somehow.  I am reminded of this all when we stop at the mountain shop in Camp Curry and a little boy bursts forth from inside, races up the pile of snow on the deck, and begins kicking snow off of it. I ask his Grandma if he does that all the time. Yes, indeed.

So, we are surprised that these guys last all week. Come to think of it, maybe most schools are still in session this week and there aren't that many little boys around. Yeah, yeah, a gender stereotype, but I am going by observation.

Facing the opposite direction, Yosemite Falls. There is a really professional looking photographer (tripod, big camera, giant lens -- not a phone camera) out in the snowman field who has turned to the falls for pictures. The Valley darkens early, especially in the winter when the southern angle of the sun barely brings sunlight to the Valley. I turn to the falls, too, and take this picture. Although it's dark, I like the almost russet tones in the rocks that usually look so black and white.

A portrait of an Ahwahnee window

Here's one more shot of Yosemite Falls. This reminds me of a painting I've seen, one of those done in the early days. I don't know whether it's a painting done by someone in my family, or one I've seen in a book. Of course, this view has been there forever. It will have been painted and photographed many times.



  1. Hi Lee, I imagine the white barked trees you mentioned are indeed aspens. Birches are not native to Yosemite and most likely would not have been planted at the Lodge.

    1. Thank you, Maureen. Nice to have an expert to keep us on the right track.

  2. Replies
    1. Yes, indeed. I've been snoozing today, too, but did manage to get this finished.