After a full day of rugby, we met back up with Rich and Lily and took off for a 3.5 hour drive east towards Yosemite National Park. I love going to National Parks and thanks to Rich’s life of service, we have lifetime memberships to go to these fabulous places. None of us had been to Yosemite and we were really looking forward to spending a couple of days there. However, there was a wildfire that broke out several days before we arrived and it was still not contained with we went there. It closed a portion of the park, but most of the park was still open. A lot of people cancelled there travel plans there because of all the smoke, but we didn’t really have a big choice. We rolled the dice and still went. We stayed in Mariposa, CA…about a 45 minute drive to Yosemite. Yosemite is pretty remote. There isn’t a whole lot of places to stay nearby. The town we stayed in was later devastated by separate wild fire that tore through the town about 2 weeks after we were there. I am not even sure the motel we stayed in is still standing. Anyhow, it was a tight squeeze with four adults in one room, but we were bone tired each night so it wasn’t a big deal.
The first day in Yosemite was Sunday, July 10th. We went to the valley in Yosemite National Park and it was pretty smokey. I was almost rethinking our plan when we arrived as the smoke was pretty thick. You will see it in the photos. It isn’t that I developed them to look moody and dramatic. That was the smoke hanging in the air. In several photos I took, I couldn’t even see anything in the sky, but when I pulled the levers in Light Room to process the photos, a mountain would pop out of the soupiness of the gray sky. We did two hikes each day. The first day we went to the valley and hiked the loop. We also hiked to the lower falls. The main road in Yosemite is closed all year for much need reconstruction. That will make it nice for future travelers, but made it a little inconvenient for us. Many sites we could have driven to were relegated to 13-15 MILE hikes in steep terrain. It was triple digits already and the air quality wasn’t great. That was a hard pass for us. We went to the eastern part of Yosemite the second day. The smoke was better because we were further from the wild fire. We were also a much higher elevation. Our second hike of the day was to Elizabeth Lake, a beautiful alpine lake that we saw a total of 3 people on the trail. That hike started at 8000 feet and went to 9200…in the first mile. The second mile or so was flat…just in thinner air. I have to admit, I thought I might die on that hike. It was labelled a moderate hike but I think that is all 4.5 miles averaged together. That first mile just about did me in. I participate in a cardio class at the YMCA maybe 5-6 times a week. Zumba did not prepare me for this elevation. I was breathing but it was like there was no oxygen in the air for my lungs to latch onto. I felt like a fish flopping on a dock, stunned and trying to breathe. I had to gently remind myself that I am not a spring chicken. I am on lots of meds. I have stage IV cancer, to include spots in my lungs. I was going to make it to that lake if it killed me (and it almost did). I also envisioned that if I had a heart attack or a stroke and was unable to walk down, that none of my family could carry me. I could just see Rich with one of my legs, Tim with the other, pulling my body down the mountain trail with my head bouncing on the rocks as they try to get me to safety. That would be awful for all involved. So I took a breathing break every 100-200 yards. It made it slow going up, but I was still upright and conscious. That was my goal at the end of that first mile. Going done? Piece of cake! I could feel the oxygen flooding my lungs with every step down. It took about 1/3 of the time to go down compared to going up. I ended the day with 27,000 and change steps. Long day, great views, even better company. I love watching my kids interact now that they are adults. Lily was only in the 3rd grade when her youngest brother left the nest and made her an only child at home. So it is fun to watch them banter back and forth because she was pretty little when Tim left home and he is shocked at her being a senior now. Joe’s name was mentioned a lot because of course we felt a piece of our family was missing. It was good to talk about him…to tell stories of random ridiculous things he did as a kid (or better yet, as an adult).