Lin and Mel.

Visiting Old Friends and Yosemite Park

(August 18-19, 2010)


t's been a hot, de-energizing summer. We wanted to visit our friends Lin and Fay while we're still able. Fay's health has been steadily declining and we needed to giver her a hug and let her know how much we appreciated her and all the good times we had together over the years. We contacted them a few weeks ago and learned that she was totally invalid, and very thin. She is so feeble she can only communicate with a yes or no. She was always so dynamic that it's hard to imagine. Lin said he was looking at some of the photos, and reminiscing when all of us were in Alaska. They have a winter place in Yuma, and a summer one at Waterford near Yosemite. We used to spend time with them and others at a cabin at the Summit, camping adventures in our RVs or just visiting in our homes.

In 1996 we all flew to Alaska and rented a motor home for a little tour and to attend Fay's Anchorage class reunion. A couple of real fun times with Fay was during a visit when Lin happened to be away. At that time they lived in Oregon. We decided to treat ourselves to a Jet boat dinner excursion on the Rogue River. It was a thrill. Every now and then the operator would spin a hooker with the boat. Everyone would scream and laugh while the kids shouted for more. Of course you could get wet during the process. These boats literally skim over shallow water.

The rustic place where they served us dinner was a short walk up from the river. We watched the deer wandering about as we ate. It was wonderful. At right, we're in the fifth row from the front. Just three of us. Fay on the right, me and Mel on the left.


As if this wasn't fun enough. We decided to take Fay to Wildlife Safari. I don't know if you've ever been there, but you drive your car through the area where all the critters roam. Fay was driving as we proceeded down the dusty road on the Safari to view the wildlife while pretending we were on a real adventure in Africa. Suddenly we encountered a group of large Rhino's in the middle of the road, and one started to approach us. Fay started screaming and maneuvering out of it's way. Although a little uneasy we couldn't help but laugh like a bunch of dumb tourists.

During 2004 while we were getting ready to build our new home, Fay 'n Lin dropped in for coffee and pasties, so in 2007 we dropped in on them, and Lin's brother Jim and wife Donna in Yuma, Arizona for dinner, card tricks and lotsa laughs...while we waited for the dust storm to pass.

  These are just a few memories we reminisced during our last visit this August. Fay couldn't speak, but she faintly smiled and her eyes had tears as I hugged her and we said goodbye. Lin and her nurses take good care of all her needs, but her failing image still haunts me. It's a vital reminder that life is really short, so love and live every moment of it as best you can. Lin's eyes lit up when we told him we were going to make a quick trip to Yosemite National Park before returning home. Wish they'd been able to join us as they had on so many other adventures. It's like Alan Jackson's song...

"Remember when thirty seemed so old. Now lookn' back it's just a steppin' stone to where we are... Where we've been...Said we'd do it all again. Remember when we said when we turned gray, when the children grow up and move away. We won't be sad, we'll be glad for all the life we've had...And we'll remember when."


On The Road to Yosemite Park


We departed Waterford on Yosemite Boulevard  that took us past interesting old restored buildings like the La Grange Saloon.  We didn't realize that we were following in John Muir’s steps on  Highway 132 (known as the John Muir Highway) into Coulterville, California and to Greeley Hill, California where it continues until you reach the Tuolumne County line.

George W. Coulter started a tent store here in early 1850 to supply the hundreds of miners working the rich placers of Maxwell, Boneyard, and Black Creeks. He also built the first hotel, water for it was pumped from a well by two Newfoundland dogs. Originally called Banderita (or small flag in Spanish) from the flag flying over Coulter’s store, the settlement became Maxwell Creek when the post office was established in 1853. The name Maxwell honors George Maxwell, with whom Coulter cast lots to determine the name of the town, but the name was changed to Coulterville in 1872 to honor Coulter. The family of Francisco Bruschi, who erected the first permanent building here, provided the town’s leading merchants for over eighty years. Despite their primitive methods, and with only wood for fuel, the nearby quartz mines operated for years and produced millions of dollars worth of gold, Andrew Goss built the first stamp mill for crushing their ore.

A company town, Moccasin is entirely owned by the City and County of San Francisco. Homes are for employees who work for the city or state. There are no stores or even a gas station, the most striking feature of Moccasin is its massive water pipes. The water pipes bring water from the reservoir behind the O'Shaughnessy Dam within Yosemite National Park over and down Priest Grade and power the turbines at Moccasin. Completed in 2004, the pipeline was designed to bypass Priest Reservoir in the event of water quality concerns, such as high turbidity from hillside runoff, bank erosion or forest fires. Moccasin is part of the Hetch-Hetchy reservoir. San Francisco received congressional approval in the 1914 for the water project with Groveland as the construction headquarters. Construction on the original Moccasin Powerhouse was started in fall 1921. The facility was completed and began generating power on August 14, 1925. The original powerhouse was removed from operation February 7, 1969. The old Moccasin Powerhouse began Electrical generation in May 1918 and produced power for 44 years. The new Moccasin Powerhouse was completed and went into service in 1969.

East of town, State Route 120 will take you up the hill to Yosemite. The section of Highway 120 just beyond Moccasin, or "New Priest Grade," climbs from about 910 feet to 2,450 feet over a distance of six miles. Old Priest Grade, the original route, is a narrower road and covers the same change in elevation over about 2.7 miles. It is common to see vehicles with smoking brakes descending the old grade.

We're about to take that steep, winding road to the top of the mountain...

At the top of the mountain is the Priest Station Cafe where we stop to have lunch. Priest Station on the Big Oak Flat Road to Yosemite long held an enviable reputation for warm hospitality and an excellent table. Situated as it was at the end of an arduous climb up a hill that rose over 1,500 feet in two miles, the hotel offered respite from the rigors of the journey. I enjoyed a delicious BLT sandwich, while Mel chose turkey with home made potato chips.

This is cute little Stevie, who doesn't mind wearing dark glasses while riding in his mom's convertible. While we were there I took photos of old photos of what the road was like in the old days when people traveled in stage coaches and on horse back.

Priest’s Station was a famous and favorite stopping place for all who traveled the Big Oak Flat Road. Teamsters and stage drivers changed horses here or stopped to rest their teams. Motor cars, when their day came, filled steaming radiators from the water pump in front of the hotel. Can you imagine what it was like to climb 1,500 feet  in two miles?

In 1855 Alexander Kirkwood bought the "Rattlesnake Store" on this site before making a trip to his native Scotland to marry his sweetheart, Margaret Dick, and returning to Big Oak Flat. Together the Kirkwoods ran the little store that offered mining supplies to any who passed their way. They added rooms to accommodate travelers too weary to journey further without rest, exhausted by the strenuous climb—and the fledgling hostelry was begun. Kirkwood died in 1870; Margaret married William C. Priest, and the hotel became known as the Priest Station. In its heyday, the stage stop included 22 buildings including a deluxe cottage, an annex, barns, stables, and sheds. After Margaret’s death in 1905, the proprietorship was assumed by Margaret’s niece, Jessie, and her husband Dan Corcoran. The Corcorans had only one child, Margaret, who later became Margaret Corcoran Anker.

I had to throw in this 1901 photo of real horseless carriages called locomobiles, and area history site concerning Big Oak Flat Road.

We noticed that there have been many recent forest fires in Yosemite.

The mountains and scenery are more beautiful than photos can capture, but I'll try to share a smidgeon with you. Yosemite National Park, one of the first wilderness parks in the United States, is best known for its waterfalls, but within its nearly 1,200 square miles, you can find deep valleys, grand meadows, ancient giant sequoias, and a vast wilderness area.

The Ahwahneechee tribe believed that Bridalveil Fall was home to a vengeful spirit named Pohono which guarded the entrance to the valley, and that those leaving the valley must not look directly into the waterfall lest they be cursed. They also believed that inhaling the mist of Bridalveil Fall would improve one's chances of marriage.

Don't let me distract you from El Capitan, the 3,000-foot vertical rock formation behind me. It's located on the north side of Yosemite Valley, near its western end. The granite monolith is one of the world's favorite challenges for those addicted to climbing rocks. It got the name "El Capitan" from the Mariposa Battalion that explored the valley in 1851. El Capitan (the captain, or chief) was taken to be a loose Spanish translation of the local Native American name for the cliff, transcribed as "To-to-kon oo-lah" or "To-tock-ah-noo-lah." It may have referred to a specific Tribal chief, or simply meant rock chief. Today, some people call it El Cap. If you have the rock climbing addiction, the top of El Cap can be reached by hiking out of Yosemite Valley on the trail next to Yosemite Falls, then proceeding west. The challenge is to climb up the sheer granite face; there are dozens of named climbing routes, all of them long and difficult.

This is where you can do some horseback riding. The nearby campground is filled with people.  Looks like some are even barbecuing goodies, while others are wading in the creek. This young mamma bear and her cub are attracted by the delicious odors, but seem a little confused and unsure about what to do. Whatever...Their hanging out in the camp ground will probably get them into trouble with park officials.

Where are we?

Lots of people enjoying the last week before school starts.

It's been an eventful couple of days...with sad farewells on one hand, and wonderful sights on the other. The bitter-sweet duality of life's magnificent adventure.