Well, it’s been a quiet week in Yosemite Valley. Frost has arrived, turning the cow parsnip flower bracts sublime. I met up with a coworker at breakfast by chance. What are you doing for Thanksgiving, I asked. “Just hanging out.” Would you like to head over Tioga Pass? I want to get over to Mono Lake. “Sure”, he said.
We ate, he translated for some guests from Shanghai, his Mandarin being much better than mine, and then we headed up 120. My impromptu travel companion is an immigrant from Taiwan, a recently naturalized citizen, and his English far outstrips my command of Mandarin. He is teaching me to listen with a Mandarin accent, though, with great patience. The one word he says without any accent at all is “yes”. We stopped at a small tarn on the road, me to smoke and he to touch snow. “I’ve touched enough snow in my life”, says I, and I grabbed my camera instead. We wander and wonder, me at the ice on the water, the sun on the ice. He steps into my frame, hunkers on the edge of the tarn and slips his fingers over the ice, feeling it. The first time ever saw snow was when he came to America when he was 15, he’d told me. I remember my first snowfall, when I was in the Navy in Washington state.
“I want to touch the snow so that I can remember it”, he said as we got back in the car. “I remember what it feels like, and I remember I don’t want to touch it because it is too cold”, said I.
Over Tioga Pass, down Lee Vining Canyon, and then a quick decision to head back up the bottom of the canyon on Poole Powerhouse Road to the head. Lee Vining Creek tumbles from Ellery Lake and down to the hydroelectric plant; a campground is nestled downstream in one of the loveliest stands of aspen trees I’ve yet seen. The campground, now closed for the winter, is aptly named “Aspen Campground”.
On we went to Mono Lake. The Mobile Station at Lee Vining is closed, but the pumps still work with a credit/debit card. Down 395 to the South Shore Tufa, and I point out the youngest mountain range in North America, the 600 year old Mono Craters. Their eruptions and formations must have been a disaster of biblical proportions for the Mono Paiute people. Now they seem so placid, pacific.
We spent an hour or so wandering and wondering among the petrified springs, the otherworldly tufa. I wonder how they will look when the congressionally mandated water level is reached. I may need to learn kayaking some day.
On the road again, but not for long. “Tumpatumpatumpa”. “I don’t like the sound of that”, I said. Sure enough, my right-rear tire was flat. Sidewall damage, but thankfully the mini-tire was good, and my companion learned how to change a tire by the side of the road. Am I the only person who carries a full campsite of gear in my trunk? Two tents, two sleeping bags, camp cookware, tent poles out the wazoo, and an old beat-up shearling jacket that must be 10 years old by now. One of the lug nuts must have been cross threaded, and the stud broke. Note to all mechanics: Start the damn nut by HAND, then tighten it down with the impact wrench. Your laziness is going to cost me money, and I will bad-mouth your shop on the world-wide-web*.
A nearly full moon rose over Tuolumne Meadows, was still rising over Cathedral Peak by Pywiak Dome, and over Tressidor Peak above Tenaya Lake. A golden haze settled over Half Dome at Olmstead Point. I captured them all, and we arrived in Yosemite Valley in time for the free Thanksgiving Dinner at Curry Village.
And that’s the news from Yosemite Valley, where all of the men want to be climbers, all the really good climbers are women, and all of the international workers speak better English than I speak any other language.
*Or I would if I could remember the name of it. It was in Attleborro, MA, in the plaza with the BJ’s warehouse store, the Petco store, I think a Staples store as well, north of Emerald Mall on RT 1. Town Faire Tires? I could be wrong about that name.
Crossposted to LittleRedTent.net