Well, we’re back from what turned out to be a fantastic trip. I’ve been backpacking in Yosemite with my colleagues the past 5 years or so, and wanted to help my kids understand the wilderness (and why Daddy keeps going back). Last summer I took them camping to Yosemite and we took a day to see the Valley, and they really seemed to notice the beauty of the place. This year I wanted something more.
We got them backpacks and arranged an easy trip where we hiked in a mile to a high-mountain lake, and camped there (with prepared meals). We spent the night in Tuolomne Meadows the night before, then hiked in in the morning. The backpack belts were too big, particularly for my daughter (just 7), so it was a strain, but we made it up there and they were thrilled when the camp was set up. We spent that day practicing casting (ostensibly fishing, but for naught).
The next day we hiked up Mt Hoffman to above timberline to get great views, and then back down and around the lake, the latter of which had some pretty adventurous moments (navigating a giant rock fall). We saw grouse and marmots, in addition to chipmunks and squirrels. We woke them up in the middle of the night after the moon had set to really see the stars. Yesterday we hiked back out.
The great thing was that the planning to make it a good experience, with elements of effort and adventure but also great natural beauty, paid off. My daughter asked if we could go again next year. They’ve seen me model how much I value the experience, and now they’ve had a taste that was positive. The people at May Lake High Sierra Camp were just great, both patrons and staff. Now we’ve got to do something next year that’s just the right amount more!
I hear that visitation is actually dropping at Yosemite, and while I’d personally appreciate less crowds, I realize that in the bigger picture we need people to understand the need to preserve wilderness. And one way is to get people out there to experience just how it’s different, and what it does for you.