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Yosemite and America’s Best Idea

I’m a bit off my normal thought patterns today, waking up in a generic freeway-exit hotel in the California Central Valley, headed for Yosemite National Park with my youngest daughter. Below Half Dome

Yosemite means a lot to me. My dad took my brothers and me there many times when we were growing up in the San Francisco area. As a teenager I went backpacking into the Yosemite high country every summer. Later on, my wife and I took our kids up into the high country every summer. That first picture is me with our three oldest in 1980, on the shoulder below Half Dome.

I’m very much looking forward to the Ken Burns series on National Parks starting this month on PBS. He calls it “America’s Best Idea.” I second that. I’ve lived in Mexico and Austria as well as the U.S., and I’ve traveled to dozens of countries, but I’ve never seen anything like our own national park system. It’s a great privilege to be able to hold the polluting effects of civilization at bay in some of these great parks. Poor Mexico, my country-in-law, has tried hard but is just economically unable to hold back the tide, even though it has some natural beauties that truly deserve it. Too bad. Let’s be grateful for what we have. The website for the Ken Burns series says tell your story; and this is mine.

Little Yosemite Valley

The second picture here is our family plus pack burro  on the far side of the river campsite at Little Yosemite Valley. That was in 1988. They used to rent pack burros in Yosemite for use by families and groups going out into the high country. We’d rent a burro for $15 per day and relieve ourselves of actually packing the stuff on our backs, which made it possible for a family to make a 4-5 day trip up into the mountains. My wife made those high-country trips into great family vacations. And we were always broke, so the $15 a day lodging cost was attractive. They don’t do that at Yosemite any more, because of problems like insurance, and people not respecting the implied privilege. And that’s too bad.

I’m particularly excited today because I’ve missed Yosemite since we moved to Oregon 17 years ago.  I do get into the Oregon Cascades a lot, but I’ve missed Yosemite and I’m anxious to visit again.

This last photo, taken above Nevada Falls in 1980, is of our three oldest children, now 37, 35, and 33 years old. I can’t say that I would be looking forward to backpacking tonight (we have a hotel room reserved) but I am very glad we were able to do it when we did. And very happy to visit again, later today.
Above Nevada Falls

Photo credits: first one by my wife Evangelina Berry, second by some teenage boy who was talking up our teenage daughters at the time, third one by me.


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