Vicki and I spent three lovely days at Yosemite National Park over the Martin Luther King Birthday weekend. We took the San Joaquin train from Martinez to Merced, then took a bus to the Ahwahnee Lodge inside the park. Since I hate driving (especially driving in ice and snow, or even when ice and snow is threatened), this mode of getting there was a substantial relief, even if it did take a while longer than driving. We were right on time for quick, clean, comfortable transportation.
We were lucky enough to get into our room early (check-in is at 4), and were also fortunate, finally, to get the vaunted room 444, which has a perfect view of the falls and its own semi-private deck (shared with one other room on the fourth floor). It was expensive but worth it--or would have been worth it if not for the nearly incessant rain. I was out on the deck every moment it was daylight and not raining--which wasn't very often.
Vicki had an unerring sixth sense about when it was best to hike, and we managed to do almost all of our hiking without rain, except on Monday, the last day.
The room was lovely, the staff was attentive, the meal in the Ahwahnee dining room was spectacular. Since I had a coat and tie, I easily met the dress code for dinner: "Dinner dress code in The Ahwahnee Dining Room is 'Resort Casual'. Gentlemen are asked to wear collared shirts and long pants. Ladies are asked to wear dresses, skirts or slacks and blouses." It's in the brochures, and they remind you when you make dinner reservations, and still people show up for dinner in shorts, flip flops and tee-shirts. Go figure. Welcome to California. I admit it; I had the prime rib. They really did it right, and served me enough that I could have it for dinner the next night as well.
The park was spectacular, as it is always, at any time of day, any time of year. Beauty sublime and spectacular, and the perfect person to share it with, my wife Vicki.
We did our usual hikes, to the falls on the back trail (the unpaved one), then to Mirror Lake (also on the unpaved trail), plus a few rounds of the valley floor. Checkout Monday was noon, but our bus didn't leave until 3:40. We whiled away three hours in the lobby. The bus was late, and the bus "shelter" was cold amid the whipping wind and rain. The bus poked along, and included a 20-minute stop to remove its chains once we were nearly out of the park, which had experienced a mix of rain and snow that morning. As the YARTS bus poked along, making all the stops where no one got on or off, we noticed that it was going to be touch and go to catch our train at 6:30. We arrived at the Merced train station at 6:29.
We needn't have worried. Our train was three hours late. The torrential downpour that day in Southern California (whence the northbound San Joaquin originates) was apparently the equivalent of "leaves on the track" in Britain, in terms of its effect on train transportation. Fortunately, the Merced station is comfortable and heated, so we whiled away the time reading. Fortunately, we had food and water along as well. Alas, we ended up at Martinez at 11:30 instead of 8:30. It made the next day in school seem extra long. I consoled myself with the fact that I've been on planes that were that late.