About a week ago I managed to walk, barefoot, into the leg of a wooden chair, severely stubbing my toe. At the time I was more concerned with the level of pain and the fact that the piggy that had no roast beef was lazily pointing out at an unusual angle than any repercussions it might have on my recreational activities.
It was only after the initial shock started to wear off that I realized that the upcoming weekend was the much awaited annual hiking trip with my mom…in Yosemite. It was to be a belated birthday celebration for me, one that would include hiking, bonding and some spa-ing. I’d been looking forward to it for some time. It should therefore come as no surprise that I would manage to do something stupid right before the weekend. I knew that I couldn’t (ok, wouldn’t) cancel the trip, but the level of limping possible was a concern. With much ice, swearing, vitamin I, swearing and red wine, the toe felt less painful after about 36 hours, so I let my mom know that I would not be relegated to the tram tours through the park.
Our intended rendezvous point was Oakhurst, which accesses the south entrance to Yosemite. While I’d not been there before, mom was familiar with it, and as this was her trip to organize, I told her I was fine with whatever she arranged. And she quickly proved her mettle as travel agent/chief logistical officer and chauffeur.
I wasn’t the only one not 100%, as my mom was having hamstring issues. We both realized that the intended ‘big’ hike, the one to the waterfalls with 2600 feet of climbing, probably wasn’t a good call for either of us. So we opted for a much more civilized day, exploring the Wawona area’s gentler trails and then making the trip north to the Yosemite Valley, a place I’d not seen up close and personal since I was in 5th grade. Given the enormous snowfall this year, we knew the waterfalls would be going off. And they were. Bridalveil, Vernal, Nevada, and a host of others that might not have official names, were all proof of the winter of 2010/11. But the most impressive was certainly Yosemite Falls. At least to me and my mom (and the 500 or so other tourists we shared the footpath with).
While hobbling around concrete footpaths gazing up at waterfalls and granite peaks was almost as much fun as the people watching, we didn’t have much time to spend there. You see, we had some spa appointments to catch at the Tenaya Lodge, a hotel/spa located a mile or so outside Yosemite’s south entrance. And frankly, the promise of pampering trumped the natural beauty of a national park, especially since I wasn’t able to experience it quite the way I’m accustomed to. The Ascent Spa, which only opened last year, did not disappoint. It was all a spa should be, not that I’m an expert, boasting great massage/aesthetician staff, plush robes, fancy bath products and a confusing digital locker system. I came away very, very relaxed.
What could be better than a massage and a facial after a day exploring Yosemite, you ask? Well, how about champagne on the terrace, followed by a five course gourmet dinner at a Relais & Chateau restaurant? Clearly my mother went overboard on my 40th birthday celebration, but who am I to complain? Erna’s Elderberry House is a lovely, if slightly incongruous, restaurant with a high end hotel (Chateau du Sureau) and spa (Spa du Sureau, naturellement) in Oakhurst. Given the town’s propensity for national franchises and bright signage, Erna’s is truly an escape. The food was excellent, the service impeccable, and the little touches – a personalized menu, that yes, I took home with me, servers insisting on refolding our napkins when we left the table, and the fact that they served water without ice (so un-American!) – helped ensure it would be one of those memories we’ll talk about later. Not that I’ll ever rub this one in when I see my brothers next…
With a final stop on Sunday morning to walk around the giant Sequoias of Mariposa Grove, we felt like we had maximized my mother’s Golden Eagle pass, and that we could both make our respective 4 hour drives home without feeling antsy.
I realize that the primary reason behind why I’ve not made it to Yosemite the past 10 years is because I have a dog, one who accompanies me and N on most of our travels. But I’ll readily leave her behind next year when I meet up with my mom for Yosemite, redux. Because there are some waterfall hikes that we still need to do.