Off the deck and into the wild.
It has a ring to it. Mike and I are off on thirty days of National Park exploration. Neither of us have ever done this, though Mike says this is “the road most traveled” it's new for us and thus, thrilling. I'm calling this travel journal “off the deck and into the wild” because Mike and I have our own photography hashtag, #offthedeck where we catalog the fabulousness of the views of our home island, Maui.
Day One- Travel Day
It’s 12:30 pm and we are in the hopefully named two-star Good Nite Inn in Freemont, California, which has the benefit of having been “free” with credit card points. I’m in bed, and reflecting on my newest experience—having a serious health emergency on an airplane.
It started off innocently enough—high spirits and hectic, closing the house, doing last minute errands, zipping up the suitcases which were not too full, saying goodbye to the dogs which was the hardest part of leaving. (They had been anxious and needy, seeing the signs of departure, for hours.) But, away we went, and I inflated my brand new fuzzy neck pillow, inserted my ear plugs, put on my mask, and promptly fell asleep once we were airborne.
Something woke me. I found that the pillow’s air had expanded and it was tight around my neck, pinching it. I took it off, but felt hot and had trouble breathing. Spots filled my vision, (like Lei having an episode, I couldn’t help thinking) and I started to panic. “Help, I can’t see, I need air!”
All I could think of was getting into the aisle and lying down on the floor, but I was wedged against the window, gasping and blacking out. The flight attendants were amazingly fast, called “is there a doctor on board? Medical emergency!” and got me on oxygen.
Anyway, much drama later, I remembered on Caleb’s inhaler which I still carry around, and used it instead of the epi-pen they were going to hit me with, (I pictured that awful scene in Pulp Fiction and getting it in the heart, curse my overactive imagination!) and had a real doctor and two nurses checking me out, my own bottle of oxygen which I wouldn’t be parted from for the remainder of the flight. The doctor thinks I had an allergic reaction to something in the inflatable pillow which was brand-new and smelled funny. (You have been warned. Washing those things might be a good idea.)
It was quite alarming and my throat hurts even now, but I’m actually glad I didn’t have a garden variety panic attack. That would have just been embarrassing. So you heard it here folks—they really do go on the intercom and call, “is anyone a doctor?” and God bless those folks, they came. I looked all over the baggage area to thank my rescuers, but they had vanished off the plane.
So here we go, and I’m glad I have an inhaler and hope I won’t need it again.
We are finally here. And holy God, there is truly nothing on earth like the opulent, ridiculous beauty of Yosemite in early May.
I was here before, 27 years ago, but I don’t remember anything from that time but the giddy joy of being with the man I love—we were engaged, and young, just being with him, dizzy with bliss hormones, is all I remember. Pictures show us smiling, my golden-coin curls a-frizz in the mist of BridalVeil Falls, Mike’s long arm over me in casual possession and the waterfall behind us. I don’t remember anything about Yosemite itself.
So now, to be here, totally in sync with each other, each more excited than the other to spot the next view to photograph—is such joy I’ve found myself tearing up all day, just at the surfeit of beauty and the sense of coming full circle.
Getting here was challenging. We had a lovely gluttony of a breakfast with our scientist daughter in the forgettable stretch of urban sprawl that is Freemont, then shopped and got lost and shopped and got lost, and finally got on the road much later than anticipated, heading into ominous clouds.
Overdependence on the Internet proved our undoing as we lost cell service outside of Stockton and got a speeding ticket, ended up in Sonora on the verge of getting grumpy. But, I’ve been practicing my “zen”—this trip, for me, is all about allowing what will happen to happen, not getting controlling, and realizing we had to go back to reading maps and most of all, go on an unplanned social media fast was a bit of a setback. I'd planned to Instagram the whole thing in realtime! but we went back to “old school” and bought a map at a gas station and eventually pulled into Yosemite at dusk.
We took picture after picture of the tender mists wreathing waterfalls jetting and thundering off of sheer cliffs, the Merced River a flooded ribbon snaking through the lush valley. Dogwoods bloomed everywhere, floating like stars in the gloaming and green of new leaves. Epic, glorious, and beyond all our expectations, it was already worth everything it cost to be here.
Firstly: it's COLD.
I'm wearing a headlamp in the dark in one of the “Housekeeping” tents on the Merced River (I mean spitting distance, and right in front of Yosemite Falls) and it's cold. Damply, unfamiliarly cold. I'm from Hawaii, and I packed all my warm clothes, and now I'm wearing them-two pairs of pants, three pairs of socks, three shirts and a fleece jacket with a hood.
Secondly: there are bears here.
It's all about the bears. We have to lock up everything from deodorant to cooler in an alarmingly strong metal lockbox provided by the management, and signs dot the encampment: “WHERE IS YOUR FOOD THIS MINUTE?” and, we sleep in a flapping canvas perma-tent that ties shut symbolically. My crime writer imagination is not helping me as I try to settle down for bed, starting me awake at every rustle and twig. But, 3 days in we haven't yet seen a bear, thank God.
Thirdly: we are out of shape. Also, good at getting lost. Amazing hikes, only shorter than we thought we could do; between Mike's heavy pack of camera equipment and my bum hip acting up, we are highly challenged to do all we want to. Also, we keep getting lost. And our GPS isn't working, our apps are caput, and we are both in the throes of Facebook withdrawal. So we were a little grumpy as we took a wrong turn YET AGAIN and hiked way longer than we needed to to find Mirror Lake, which is no longer a lake but now a fat bend in the river with reeds encroaching and somehow, us on the wrong side for the mandatory “reflection shot.” So yes, we rolled up our pants, picked up our boots, and waded the river. Did you know water can be so cold it actually burns? I've been in Hawaii too long. I forgot.
Well, we got the shot. And hiked back the two miles to aspirin and bed. After a nap, my back was good enough to hunt down the one spot in the entire park with internet access and do this post.
Join us on the journey for the next thirty days and I'll post when I can.