We returned from four days at Paradise Campground, a favorite camping spot in old growth forest on the McKenzie River here in Oregon last week. It was our first visit since a devastating wildfire swept the area in the summer of 2020. This was one of our favorite camping and kayaking spots. We were devastated when it burned. The fire destroyed thousands of acres of forest taking a multitude of homes and businesses with it. Thankfully, the upper McKenzie where we would be camping was spared.Continue reading “Resilience”
(The following is a memoir piece I’ve been working on off and on for several years about my family’s annual camping trips to Yosemite in the late 1950s and 1960s)
In August, my middle class family packed up our ’56 Chevy Bel Air red and white station wagon and left our suburban L.A. home to camp among the cool pines of the Yosemite Valley. We left in the wee hours of the morning to avoid driving in the oppressive Central Valley heat. My older brother, Steve, and I would occupy the “way back,” converted into a bed with layers of soft quilts. This functioned as our sleeping and play area. Seat belts were not even thought of back then. There was no digital world in the late 1950s and early 1960s so upon awakening we would occupy ourselves by reading our stash of comic books and Mad Magazines. We would play endless card games of War. When we were tired of that we would sing folk songs in lively two-part harmony, our parents joining in on “I’ve been working on the Railroad, Suwanee River, Clementine, or our favorite, “the Titanic ”.Continue reading “Yosemite’s Child”
Coming Home to Yosemite
“As long as I live, I’ll hear waterfalls and winds and birds sing. I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens and get as near the heart of the world as I can.”
I think everyone has a special place in their memory that shaped their lives. Yosemite was mine. Every year from the time I was four years old until I was eleven, my family packed up our ‘56 red and white Chevy station wagon and went camping in Yosemite National Park. For two glorious weeks, we lived among the pines and I ran free scampering over granite rocks, playing in the creek and swimming in the Merced River. We slept under the stars and woke to the “shhhhh” of the Coleman stove where my mother was making hot cocoa and cooking Spam and eggs for breakfast. My older brother and I would walk to the Curry Village store to buy Charms suckers so huge, they would last for hours. To top off the day, every evening at 9:30 we watched the “Firefall” (no longer in existence). It began with a park ranger shouting from above “Let the fire fall!” followed by a cascade of bright red coals pushed over the top of Glacier Point 3000 feet up. We would “oooh” and “ahhh” never tiring of this spectacle.
My father took us on bike rides, hikes and mule rides. Then one year Dad hiked the Chilnualna Falls trail from Wawona with my older brother and me. I was maybe eight years old and my brother twelve. It was a challenging hike-4 ½ miles, pretty much up 2000 ft. Though the actual main waterfall cascaded unseen into a ravine below, the top rewarded us with a fabulous view and a wonderland of small cascades over granite in what I called “moon pools”. These were pools rounded from thousands of years of swirling water. I remember exploring these looking for bugs and tiny fish.
My father passed away on May 5, 2017. He requested that his ashes be scattered on top of Chilnualna Falls and so this last week we honored that request. I traveled from Oregon with my son and daughter-in-law and rendezvoused with my younger brother and my older brother and his wife in Yosemite. Over 50 years later we retraced our steps, climbing to the top of Chilnualna Falls where my father will have now have a forever view.
It was bittersweet to revisit Yosemite after so many years have passed. My childhood paradise is suffering from climate change and too many people, but there is still such beautiful magic among the granite cliffs and spires. I am forever grateful to my father for giving such happy family memories in this special place.
R.I.P. Bruce Pass
On The Way
It was the late 1950s and America was on the road. My family was one of them. Some of my fondest memories were from these times and our many camping trips to Yosemite National Park & beyond. This one’s for you, Dad…..
“Are we almost there yet?”
I whined to my parents as we motored down seemingly endless highways
punctuated with Burma-Shave signs,
Jumbo Orange stands and other odd roadside attractions.
We traveled to the pace of a ’56 Chevy Station wagon
two-toned Red & White
unbuckled with my older brother in the way back
windows rolled down
stifling heat & wind flapping about our ears
while we sang songs in harmony
& read piles of comic books
rejoicing in those stops
with dripping ice cream cones
& Jackalope postcards
on the way to that perfect camp spot under shady pine trees.
We slept under the stars on army cots
tucked in thick sleeping bags lined with red flannel plaid
waking to the “shhhhhh” sound of the Coleman stove.
We waded in creeks turning over rocks exposing odd bugs
& released crude sailboats made of wood scraps & white rag sails
into the current past our tin can waterwheels.
It was a wild wonderland
for a young girl with legs as spindly as a colt’s.
Now looking back to those years from the arc of adulthood
“Are we almost there yet?”
We were there
We were there all the time.