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Mamalala

Yosemite Family Camping Trip!

Every year, we go on a camping trip to Yosemite National Park. It’s a tradition for my family, as my kids are now 4th Generation Yosemite campers. My Grandpa still tells stories about taking the kids in the 1960’s, and I have the best memories of my parents taking us kids in the 80’s and 90’s.

Apparently, back in the 1960’s, you could just drive up to Yosemite and pitch a tent wherever and whenever. Back in my childhood, we would drive up there with no reservations and wait in a line at the campground very early in the morning.  There wasn’t a single worry of not getting a spot.

These days, it’s not so easy. The morning the reservations open up for the Valley Floor- 5 months in advance- is actually one of the most stressful mornings of the year for me and I can’t sleep the night before.  Maybe I’m a little over dramatic, but it’s true. Basically everybody you know needs to log onto a computer and be ready to fight against the world for a camp spot at 7am on the dot and the whole summer is sold out in 30 seconds. When I tell my Grandma and Grandpa this stuff they just shake their heads in a what-is-the-world-coming-to sort of way.

This is how we roll

We were lucky enough to get 6 nights in Lower Pines, which is a beautiful campground on the Valley Floor right next to the Merced river. From this campground, we have easy access by bike to all of the sites there are to see in Yosemite Valley. The biggest issue we had this year is that those 6 nights were not all consecutive nights on one site, so we had to move our camp setup every few days.  Moving your entire camp is exhausting and you’re left with little energy to do anything too strenuous, so we would hang by the river on the 3 days that we changed camp. I feel like we wasted so much time and energy doing this, and I’m really hoping that next year we will get one camp site for at least 4 days in a row so we can enjoy our time without worrying about dragging all of our gear across the campground every few days.

There is always a chance that we won’t be successful in getting a camp site, so sometimes we reserve cabins at Camp Curry as backup just in case. I prefer camping over staying in a cabin, mostly because we can cook our own food, sit around a fire, and the kids can ride their bikes around the campground, but beggars can’t be choosers. Cabins have their benefits (can you say shower and real bed?), but you can’t make your own food and can’t have a fire which are deal breakers for me.  There are places to eat in The Village, but eating at the restaurants is more expensive, crowded, and they don’t really have any vegan options for our family to eat so it’s pretty limited.

The kids with their cousins on the porch of our Camp Curry cabin in 2012 (Monte was on tour)

We’ve actually already booked cabins for next year because they book up a year in advance, and might hold onto them even if we get a camp site so we can have the best of both worlds, (or if Monte happens to go on tour then I can manage the kids in a cabin with my family sans Monte, which I’ve done once before). I’ve heard that the Housekeeping tents in Yosemite are great, but I’ve never had the pleasure of staying at that campground. Apparently you have electricity, actual beds, you can set up your kitchen and make meals, and you can also have a camp fire. That seems to be the best of both worlds, maybe we will try it some day.

So, our first campsite was… not great. It was small, full sun, and right next to the bathrooms. Being right next to the bathrooms has it’s upsides, especially with kids, but mostly there are downsides. Like listening to people take their morning dumps, for one.

Our first campsite
We were right next to the bathroom.  Monte says it looks like we’re having a garage sale here.

Another downside of being right next to the bathrooms is that in the middle of the night, if you are not awoken by the toilets flushing, you may be by the slap of somebody’s flip flops as they walk straight through your camp to get there. On the other hand, one of the upsides of being right next to the bathrooms is that when you have to take your kids to go potty in the middle of the night you lower your chances of encountering a bear on your way there because you’re right next door, so I’ll admit I missed the bathrooms once we moved. I’ve had a middle-of-the-night bear experience in Yosemite and it’s nothing short of terrifying. I will pee in a bucket in my tent before I venture outside across a dark campground in the middle of the night again.

On our first day, we hiked up to Happy Isles, which is a nice easy hike for kids. If you want to do something but you don’t have the energy levels for Vernel Falls or the like, you will enjoy this peaceful trail and feel like you did something very Yosemite. Well, what I assume would be peaceful if you don’t have 6 kids with you like we did. It has charming little wooden bridges that cross the river onto the islands, and a visitor center where you can learn about Yosemite and your kids can beg you for more souvenirs you don’t need.

Happy Isles
Happy Isles

We have a little spot on the Merced that we go to every year where we lay out a blanket, and pull out the wine and snacks while the kids play in the water. The water levels are quite high this year, so our river experience was a little less relaxing than usual. It didn’t help that one day our phones blew up with a flash flood warning for the area and there was thunder, lighting, and rainclouds exploding up river from us. Suddenly it was like Amity Island where the kids stood on the riverbank refusing to go in for fear of being washed away. Eventually the winds and rain picked up, thunder rumbled in the distance, and lightning flashed overhead, so we called it a day and went back to camp for dinner, but I’ve never experienced rainy weather in Yosemite, it was actually pretty incredible.

Aurora in the Merced river

So, although we were there for 6 days, our time was cut a bit by those 3 time-consuming moves. We came up with our friends, they left on day 4, and then within an hour of their departure my family arrived ready to rock and roll. It was like a revolving door of our favorite people but all those different personalities and energy levels had me a spinning a bit.

Our second campsite

When my parents got there my mom started to whip up some food, which was pretty glorious because ours was soggy and questionable after sitting in a watery cooler for days and days. She made sandwiches with fresh bread and veggies and I think they were the best sandwiches I’ve ever had in my life. While everybody was setting up and visiting, I was able to escape for about 20 minutes under the guise that I was “organizing clothes”… but I was actually lying on my blow-up mattress staring at the ceiling of my tent. There was little to no reception on my phone so any effort to check social media was fruitless but I didn’t even care as long as I wasn’t listening to “MOM! Mom! Mommy! Mooooom!” or some other variation, I was all good. I just needed to zone out for a few minutes to recharge.

A deer near our camp

Once they were settled, we rode our bikes up to Mirror Lake, and were able to enjoy nice water levels there for the first time in years! It was beautiful, and we wanted to visit for longer than the 20 minutes we did, but alas, dogs are not allowed so we had to be quick because grandma was stuck by the entrance.

Grandma with Penelope- No dogs allowed- boo!

It was quite crowded, but we found a quiet corner, the kids had fun climbing rocks and splashing around in the water.

Queen Bea at Mirror Lake
The boys enjoying the beautiful day
The kids joined Grandma and Penelope on a boulder

That night we ate tacos for dinner (thanks again, mom!) and grandpa told scary stories around the fire. Just when it hit 10:00 pm a ranger scared the peanuts out of us when she came out of the darkness to tell us that fire hours were over.  The kids told her that their grandpa was telling them scary stories and this awesome ranger took her time to tell us a scary story of her own that scared them more than Grandpa’s had (and he had some good ones)!  She also told them that an owl had just flown at her head moments before she approached our campsite, and that there were a few bears wandering the campground. I’ve never seen the kids move so fast before! Too bad I can’t use that one at home!

The next day, my sister and her family arrived to stay at the Ahwahnee Hotel, so we we had a huge change of pace because we got showers, and drank wine poolside. It was glorious. The kids absolutely adore their cousins and they begged to spend the night in their casita, and my sister and brother-in-law kindly obliged. They got to take baths and watch TV, but I think they were most excited about having wi-fi again!

Poolside at the Ahwahnee… waiting for that wine!

We had a delicious dinner in the main dining hall of the Ahwahnee (for which I was unprepared and underdressed for- oops). They even had a vegan entree option that was delicious. This was our fifth day of camping and our last night in Yosemite, so a nice dinner was a welcomed luxury.

The next day, we spent some time by the river with the cousins and then we departed (by noon because Yosemite Valley traffic is no joke) after six magical nights in one of my favorite places on earth. Until next year!

Our van all loaded up and ready for the drive home!

 

 

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Leaving on a jetplane

I lost myself somewhere along the way, these past 12 years. I know it sounds so cliché to say such a thing but it’s true. I mean, my kids are my everything and I am theirs. That’s how it should be though, right? Maternal instinct is a real thing, yo! I’ve been the stay-at-home-mom driving the minivan, covered in spit-up, poop, or breastmilk for so long that I’m having a hard time identifying what my role in this world is now. I don’t really know who I am anymore…

Okay, maybe I sound a little dramatic (cue sad music)..

My husband travels a lot. He’s gone for weeks or months at a time and I’ll admit I get a little woe is me over that. But, hello! He gets a first-class-traveling-break and I’m here wrangling kids by myself day after day.

So, recently while drinking margaritas with my family my brother exclaimed “Lisa! You need a break! You should go visit Aunt Kathy in Hawaii!” and I was like “Yeah! you’re right, I totally do and I totally should!” and we were all “yeah!” and that was the very well thought out way that this trip was planned.

Monte was totally supportive! He said that I deserved a trip away, and that he would have everything under control and before you knew it I was on my way to Hawaii.  I have a cousin who is a flight attendant and she was nice enough to give me a Buddy Pass to fly (so I could scratch off the guilt over the cost of a plane ticket off my list) and I was staying with family on the island so that wasn’t going to be an issue either. Boom!

I just got back from my trip a few days ago. I had the best time in the world, but… um… I was totally missing my kids while I was there.  I expected to miss them, of course, but… like… my heart was aching for those little rascals.  I wanted them there with me and said as much to Monte via text, so then he would FaceTime me and I would see them and it was all “awwww I miss you so much!” and then they would start whining and fighting and then I was like “nah, I’m good.”

My aunt and uncle were the best hosts and made this trip the most perfect experience. They took me to beautiful dinners in Waikiki, my aunt took me around to explore the island, I hiked, shopped- it was glorious.

However, I had never flown standby before, so that was a whole new experience for me. Flying there was basically a tease because the plane was so empty that I had a whole aisle to myself.  But getting back? Um… I was almost stuck in Hawaii. Which sounds awesome if you’re not at the airport, but, like… I could not get on a plane to LA. I got to the airport at 5am hoping to get on the 7am and I did not. I did not get on the 11:50am plane, the 2:52 pm plane nor did I get on the 8:45pm plane.

By noon I was ready to throw in the towel and head back to my aunt’s house, but I was informed by a flight attendant that a Seattle flight got delayed and a ton of seats opened up so I had a good chance of getting on it and then flying to LA from there! It was at 5pm, but I didn’t care. I would wait another 5 hours to get to the Mainland because I was terrified I would be stuck there for another week. It honestly would have been a very pleasant stay because, like I said, I have the most amazing auntie and uncle who had taken me in and they were willing to put up with me for however long it took to get me back to LA, but I didn’t want to over stay my welcome with them, and I really missed my babies. I suddenly felt like Kevin Mcallister’s mom in Home alone when she’s trying to get home from France and she can’t get a flight because it’s Christmas and all she wants to do is be with her son. Legit panic.

Somewhere between 5am and noon I threw out my neck, and then my slightly stuffy nose managed to turn into a raging head cold and lung infection. I was quite a sight to see with my crooked neck and red nose, I was hacking up pieces of lung and I’m sure nobody wanted to sit next to me for the 6 hour trek to Seattle, but twelve hours after arriving at the Honolulu airport, I was on an airplane to the mainland and nothing was going to stop me!  So many seats had opened up on this delayed flight, that I didn’t have to subject anybody directly next to me to my coughing fits because the seat was empty, so that worked out nicely.

I can’t sleep on planes. I don’t understand how people can sleep on planes unless you are in first class and your seats lay way back. I cannot sleep sitting up. My husband can, and I’ll never understand it. Ever. I was really tired by the time I arrived in Seattle which was just before 2am. I even tried sleeping on the floor of the quiet airport terminal right outside my gate. Or what I hoped would be my gate, I wouldn’t know until 7am when the plane would already be loaded. Sleeping on the floor did not work out. I can’t sleep in weird places, I was worried about my computer which was in my carryon bag next to me, and honestly the floor of the airport should be reason enough! I had six hours to go, and Starbucks wouldn’t open for another two hours.

Long story long, I got on the flight by the hair of my chinny chin chin. It was a freaking miracle. I have never been so happy to see my husband and children. Overall, I grew a greater appreciation for what Monte goes through when he travels away from his family. I can’t imagine being away from the kids for months at a time when I could hardly handle a week.

Monte did a great job keeping the house together, I was pleasantly surprised at the laundry and dishes being done, homework was turned in, playdates had been coordinated, after school activities were not missed (grandma was a big help there), so it was a great success!

We as parents do need a recharge every now and then, I find that I have much more patience for the kids since I’ve been back. I look forward to quality time with them like never before, and they seem to have gained some healthy independence in my absence.

Now I can’t wait to plan the next trip with the kids! I’m thinking ROADTRIP!