We awakened early on the seventh day. We were nearly an hour outside of Yosemite, and we wanted to be there shortly after the park opened.
I was the first one up, ready to go quickly, and by the time the rest of the family was dressed and fed, it was only 8 am. I can’t believe we managed to do it, but somehow we did. The business men who were eating the breakfast in the hotel dining room didn’t seem to mind my loud family, and they only looked slightly askance at us when Autumn saw the pool through the window and announced, “That’s where I almost died.” Nice.
Everyone was tired on the trip out to Yosemite, so I drove in relative quiet. Robyn fell asleep, which was good. We climbed steep and winding roads with sheer cliffs on the passenger side. Every time I saw an elevation sign, I cringed for her. When we hit the 3,000 elevation mark and I caught a curve a bit faster than I meant to, I thanked God for keeping us on all four wheels and at the top of the mountain. The trip brought back many wonderful memories of my many Yosemite trips at Biola with the Chorale. I could picture the drive out, the stop at the park to enjoy lunch, and smiling at the memory of finally being one of the ones lucky enough to drive. It was great to have so many old memories to relive, and to make new memories with my family that would keep this amazing National Park part of my life forever.
We drove into the little parking lot beside the park sign and took the obligatory photos. We then got back on the van and watched a couple who couldn’t put down their cigarettes long enough take their picture as well. Smokey says, “Only you…”
The Ranger at the entrance station had on nice glasses. Robyn insisted I comment on how cool they were. She smiled at us, but I’m not sure she understood the compliment as it was intended.
The air around Yosemite smelled delicious. Piney, earthy, a bit smokey. The sky was mostly blue with only a few passing clouds–that seemed to pass like crazy overhead–and I was enjoying the curves of the road with the sights of the trees and occasional glimpses into forested valleys. I had many experiences at Yosemite beyond Biola. I remember being there when I was young, with my family, and riding the summer outdoor bus for a tour along the valley floor. I remember Yosemite Falls. But it was so great to be seeing these places with my own kids.
We drove through the big tunnel and there was the spot. We had had many Biola Chorale pictures taken there–and it’s a wonder we didn’t lose someone into the valley behind us. I remember it being so much bigger–the picture spot–but it’s clear we took up a lot of space. We had already decided to stop there on our way out for a picture, especially since we wanted a bit clearer skies, so we drove past. Down through the tunnels, along the walls of the valley, just relishing the look of the stone and timber, the sound of the rushing river below us.
There was also some great family comedy going on at this point–at least I thought it was funny–but I can’t write about it here. You’ll have to ask Robyn and I leave it to her to decide if you get to hear the story or not. Suffice to say, it was not very enjoyable for some, but highly laughable to me.
Bridleveil Falls was the first place we stopped on the valley floor. So much smaller than it was in the fall or winter, yet there it was, falling from such a great height. We hiked out to the base of the falls–it was amazing to see how well we all did, especially the littlest ones, in getting around. Autumn never complained, she was so excited about seeing everything. August just sat in the Baby Bjorn and looked happy. So it worked out okay. 🙂 From there it was a trip to Curry Village to relive the memores of Chorale Retreates gone by. The cabins were still there, and I couldn’t help but remember the night I stayed in one with Kirk Petersen and Peter Lo. Peter was an amazing bass singer studying theology at Biola, and he had a tremendous snore. It kept both Kirk and I awake–and of course, when Peter fell out of bed, that made it even harder to fall asleep. What a long couple of nights that was!
I was half-tempted to make the family do a relay like we had done around Curry Village when I was in college. Maybe something inspired by the Olympics, or The Brady Bunch or Little House on the Prairie. But I didn’t.
We went to the Visitor’s Center–a place I’d never visited during all of my years visting Yosemite in college. It was amazing! We found the appropriate pins to add to the kids’ National Park pin collections, got the stamps in their passports, and really enjoyed exploring the history behind Yosemite. I started to watch a great movie about the place but was the one currently wearing August in the front pack, and once he got restless, I had to leave. As the rest of the family watched the film, I walked around the Indian Village re-creation and was astounded by how much I had never seen or heard about a place I had been so many times. Eventually the family joined us and we rode the bus back to the Odyssey. We drove through the rest of the park, stopping as often as we could to take pictures and marvel at the smells, the sounds, the grandeur of such an amazing place. Around every corner was another spectacular sight–would it be the Three Brothers staring down on us, or the majesty of El Capitan?
We had to leave for earlier than we would have liked. We had a long drive ahead of us to Red Bluff, and we wanted to reach there before midnight. As we drove up the mountainside out of Yosemite valley, we vowed to come back. It is that kind of a place. It’s one of those places God has given us to remind us of what nature tells us–that the heavens declare the glory of God and that the earth proclaims the work of His hands.