Miles of Yosemite Smiles by Barbara L. Steinberg©
Traveling California is incredible. Even more-so when it's your job to write about it. And lucky me, I have been traveling California for nearly 18 years and made writing about it my chosen profession. So for me, work is all about exploring, meeting new people, doing new things, and (sometimes) going to new heights; including my most recent visit to Yosemite National Park. I have visited Yosemite National Park many times. But no matter how often I descend into this most holy of places, it's always new...always exhilarating. As if seeing it for the first time.
This visit was no different. In fact, the trip included driving many miles from my Sacramento, California home to tour the communities known as the Yosemite Gateways -- Madera, Mariposa, and Tuolumne counties. Mono County on the eastern Gateway to the Park didn't figure into this road trip...but wait, I'll be there in a few days. Anyway, the road-trip racked up nearly 450 miles...and it's only 350 miles round-trip assuming you drive into the Valley, which I did not do. Well, I went into the Valley but someone else was driving. The point is, I covered some serious ground.Oakhurst, Coarsegold, The Pines Resort at Bass Lake, Bootjack, Midpines, and Mariposa. I passed through many other small towns but there simply aren't enough hours in the day to stop everywhere.
Not including Yosemite, the highlight of the trip was spending the night at Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort a hostel in Midpines, California, and a most delicious sandwich at the River Rock Inn & Deli in Mariposa, California. But those are other stories and not what I'm here to talk about today. Other fun included chatting with the owner of Mariposa Coffee, visiting Grace Note Windchimes (a company I've known about for many years) and stumbling upon Colonial Woodwright -- all within spitting distance of each other on Hwy. 49 South in Mariposa, California. So you can see, a little goes a long way and I spent hours along this one stretch of rural highway.
So, back to the real reason I'm here...or rather, there. I was in the Yosemite neighborhood to reconnect and interview John DeGrazio, owner, Y Explore Yosemite Adventures located in Sonora, California. John and I met back in June on another excursion to the region. A press trip, organized by the Tuolumne County Visitors Bureau, included a naturalist hike escorted by Y Explore...a relatively new company specializing in Yosemite guided hikes and tours. I hate to remain mysterious but I won't devulge why I wanted to interview John -- never mind the fact that he's a really nice guy and a great guide.
With John chauffering me, we left Sonora early a.m. and headed to Yosemite. I have to admit because I was so busy grilling (oops, I mean interviewing) John I wasn't paying much attention to passing scenery and quite honestly lost track of where we were heading. Before I knew it. we were climbing up Tioga Pass. John was taking me on my first high country hike. Though, as stated previously, I've visited Yosemite more than once I have never really hiked anywhere above Yosemite Valley. John was taking me on a low-key hike to May Lake. Low-key to some, but a big time for me. I spend most of my life wtih my hand on a keyboard -- similar to the way i am right now. I have a freakishly strong right mouse-arm, but otherwise I don't get nearly as much exercise as I should. And I have my share of maledies that prohibited high-elevation hikes in the past, inlcuding asthma. But that was then and this is now.
The 1.2-mile hike has very few heavy changes in elevation and I really only had to stop a couple of times to catch my breath. The whole time, John was providing the most wonderful interpretive historical and naturalist presentation. Stopping at all the most important vista points and allowing me to hike at my own pace. The hike delivered! Beautiful May Lake and lunch overlooking a granite valley down to Tenaya Lake. I'm not quite sure of the elevation -- above 9,000 feet -- and I can't remember the names of the many granite peaks John so carefully pointed out. For once, I put away the pen and paper and just allowed myself to enjoy the moment.
And I'm glad I did. I would have missed so much.