Monday, September 22, 2008

Home again

No, this is not our home, but it is a cabin just up the road a bit from where we live at a place called Mosquito Lake.

Camp Connell, CA -- We arrived home just after dark on Sunday night after a four hour drive from Yosemite.
Everything in the van smells like a campfire, a nice reminder of our five weeks living in a campground. It will take a while to get the smoky smell out of our clothing.
We were not aware that we missed anything while we were away, we had such a great time, but here are a few things we appreciated when we got back here on home ground:
-- Friendly folks at the Camp Connell General Store, who watched out for our place while we were away. We had a local beer on our first afternoon home, visited, watched a card game, and just enjoyed the feeling of being back;
-- A warm bathroom. I'm not overly sensitive, but a seat that isn't icy and a spigot that puts out warm water are luxuries I missed;
-- The smells and sounds of the forest around our home has a welcome-home feel to me. Yosemite certainly smells good too, but this place smells like home, with a mix of cedar and oak and pine, and the bird calls are familiar and comfortable;
-- A warm house. We had learned what it was like to go to bed cold, and wake up to much colder. Here it was a balmy 40 degrees this morning, and I did not have to wear fleece to dash for the facilities;
-- And, of course, family. It is always such a joy to see children and grandchildren, and re-engage in their lives. Even when we are watching from a distance it is a joy to hear about school, basketball games, Cub scout meetings, and archery classes.
We still appreciate the opportunity to have been in such a beautiful place.
I miss seeing coyote chasing ground squirrels as I hike across a meadow to work. Or the sight of a Harrier hawk soaring low to the ground, looking for lunch. I miss the great hikes in the high Sierra, and the sound of animals unseen but nearby. I miss the new friends we made and worked with, and the very interesting people from all over the world we met almost every day.
I even miss the sound of someone banging pots and pans to chase a bear away from the garbage they accidentally left outside.
But it is very nice to be warm, to be comfortable, to be close to family and neighbors. To be home.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Living in Yosemite - in photos

This is where and how we live in Yosemite National Park. We are very comfortable, thanks to Ruth and Brian and family who loaned us their very nice pop-top camper. We have comfortable beds, lots of covers, and a great front yard. We cook outside (bear avoidance) and the deer walk through our neighborhood every day.

This fellow was about 100 feet from our front door. A mother and two fawns come by daily, and on one walk we saw a 12 point buck along with several other younger bucks. They don't bother us, and we don't bother them.

We stay up late reading, sometimes to 8 or 9 o'clock!

Breakfast of champions: granola bars and vitamins...

This view is just across the road from where we live.

The neighborhood is not too crowded, and the view is real nice....

Volunteering in Yosemite

On a day off, we hiked to May Lake and then just hung around...

Olmstead Point is one of the places we work every week

This is the view we have during our commute to work at Parson's Lodge.
Adrienne, Pat, Leslie and Kent, and Brad -- The team

Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park, CA -- I confess: life is not hard working here in Yosemite National Park as a volunteer.
After years of thinking about it, Pat and I are currently serving a five-week stint as volunteers for the Yosemite Association, a non-profit organization we have supported and belonged to for more than 25 years.
This year we decided to put our bodies to work, and we signed up for five weeks living and working in the Tuolumne Meadows region of the park.
This is one of the most beautiful places on earth, certainly one of the top ten scenic areas in America, so the setting is pretty darned nice.
We live in the campground, 8,600 feet above sea level, in among the lodge pole pine trees, in a section reserved primarily for volunteers like us.
There are five of us who work together, helping and supplementing the work done by YA employees and park service rangers and volunteers. We are all retired or semi-retired, though everyone is (and acts) younger than I am.
We work at four different sites: at the visitor center providing directions to travelers or suggestions for hikes or helping them find a place to stay; at Olmstead Point,one of the great vista points in the park, where we take a lot of pictures of families and couples; Parsons Lodges, the original Sierra Club high Sierra lodge, where we make people welcome, offer shelter if the weather gets bad, and chat with hikers; and we help people who sign up for the Association's field trips (hikes, photo trips, glacier measuring) get settled in. Oh and we do what we call "bear patrol." We do NOT chase bears we try to educate people how to store food and avoid having bear problems. A fed bear is a dead bear, and we want to keep them around.
Our work weeks are shorter than those when we made a living, so we have lots of time to hike to beautiful places.
Basically, we try to be hosts to visitors, help them find their way around, and when we have a chance we encourage them to consider membership in the Association.
Nobody does a hard sell, as Yosemite sells itself and we get lots of support.
The park service rangers and employees have all treated up like welcomed partners, and we have met some wonderful and fascinating people.
You get the idea.
We like it a lot.
The first four weeks have flown by, and we are into the final seven days. It's gonna be hard to leave.

After a hard day's work, this is the drive we make to get a cheeseburger at the Whoa Nellie Deli in Lee Vining.

Super Camper!

Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park, CA -- Our campground neighbor and co-volunteer Adrienne is THE role-model for experienced campers here in Yosemite.
She’s been camping for years, loves it, and has learned how to stay comfortable even in a semi-harsh environment. It IS beautiful here, but is also can be cold, hot, dusty, wet or dry, or all of the above in a matter of hours.
Her home is normally in Seal Beach, in Southern California, and she is a former surfer chick and photo studio manager exec and artists with lots of talent and a love for Yosemite.
Her husband isn’t too hot on camping for himself, but indulges and supports her passion for doing it in comfort and style. He buys her little items she spotted in catalogs and elsewhere over the years and they make living in the woods more comfortable.
She maintains her status as a camper, environmentalist and lover of the outdoors, but sees no need to be uncomfortable when living and working in the park for five week stints.
Yosemite’s campgrounds provide minimal facilities -- toilets and cold water are about the limit -- but Adrienne has found ways to make it seem home-like.
Her base camp is a large red two-room tent, big enough to stand in. Nice carpets on the floor. The front room is her sitting room, and has a small folding table if she needs to eat inside or entertain guests. The bedroom has an inflatable single bed that that is up off he ground, and uses a down comforter to stay warm. She also has a cold weather sleeping bag if it really gets chilly. (So far, it has only gotten down to 29 degrees.) She also has a propane tent heater for really cold nights.

For shade on warm days she uses an attractive green patio umbrella. She keeps fresh flowers and a potted plant, all of which adds a certain cache to the campground. She also has crafted unique bags and boxes to contain her small stuff. She has an artistic touch and everything is well done.
She brings along a kitchen unit she designed, and her dad helped her build. It has a camoflauge cover so it blends in, and it sits next to the bear-proof metal storage box, which she uses for extra counter space.

Her kitchen includes a stove, with piped in propane; a hot water on-demand heater, also piped to the water supply (a low-tech jug) which pumps upward into her sink; storage for utensils; a basin/sink; a propane-fired Teflon grill. She uses a rechargeable battery pack to run the necessary pumps, and to run her photo printer from her digital camera, and to keep her cell phone working (yes, we have reception here 8,700 feet up in the mountains) .
She makes very small fires for warmth, has a comfortable chair and a hammock.
She also has a device which she declined to encourage photographs of, which is used to avoid long cold walks to the bathroom at night.
She uses her bicycle for transportation, eats well, entertains from her temporary home with exotic teas, hot coffee and warm hospitality, and is the envy of her neighbors (us).

All of this stuff fits neatly into her van, and her self-imposed rule is that if she has too much stuff and it rises above the van windows, something gets left behind.
Oh yes: she also has bear bells hung around her kitchen area on a trip wire in case a bear becomes too interested in her home. One night when she did have a large brown guest she simply stepped outside the tent, said, “Shoo bear!” and the bear -- recognizing her territorial claims, shooed quietly into the night.
A neighbor who spent the night, visiting from Southern California, calls her the Martha Stewart of Camping.
Last night she cooked dinner for everyone.
Just the kind of neighbor everyone needs!