Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Majesty and power

For my son's fourth birthday yesterday, we all went up to Yosemite National Park. We are incredibly lucky to live where this amazing area is just a day trip for us. We left the house at 7 in the morning and rolled into the park about 8:30. Plenty of time for lots of fun.

My husband is a hydrologist who studies the river water in the park. It's the subject of what will eventually be his Ph.D. dissertation. Poor man, poor man! A great advantage for us, though. We get in free on his sampling permit, he takes some pictures and fills up some little bottles with water, and we play for the day. And we have a built-in guide who doesn't just know the park, he's thought in advance about what will be workable with a 4-year-old and an almost-6-year-old. Bonus!

As we drove in, it was obvious that the rumors were true: There is an incredible amount of water in the Sierra this year. The river (the Upper Merced) literally roared. There was more white water than green, and even the smooth water was obviously swift and strong. Low-lying banks were inundated and islands had disappeared. It was stunning and irresistible. Even the kids, who are normally not impressed by scenery and would prefer to concentrate on the new Batman toys the birthday boy received in the early morning hours, were mesmerized.

I know in Mormon folklore we have images and stories of Satan riding upon the waters. Yet the thought that occurred repeatedly to me yesterday as I regarded that river was, "This is the power of God." The overwhelming beauty, the purposefulness, the sheer force of the water making its way over, around and through any obstacle toward the distant sea -- on a grand scale, we cannot resist it, as humans. We can only stand in awe.

We took the short walk to Lower Yosemite Falls. This was easy and fun, and the falls were amazing. We paused plenty along the way to spit in the creek, climb on the boulders, check out the bronze relief map (Batman took a hike) and use nature's bathroom (a tree). My only complaint: it was still so early in the morning that the mist nearly froze us to death.

Can you believe I used to live in Alaska? I am such a California crybaby anymore!

We took the shuttle back to our car in order to give the short-legged among us a little break. For them this may have been the highlight of the day. They loved the idea of being able to stand in a moving vehicle. Heaven help us.

By this time it was 11 (kids walk slow, and I think that shuttle moves even slower) and we were hungry. We headed down to Cascade Picnic Grounds for our lunch, then climbed up the boulders as far as we could up Cascade Falls. By this time the sun had come out and the spray from the falls was refreshing rather than miserable. And my boys shall henceforth be known as the Yosemite Scramblers! They were awesome! Nearly fearless and so coordinated! I was impressed, but I shouldn't have been surprised. After all, they have had years of experience on my furniture. They especially loved one very large, flat, sloping slab of granite. Each boy slid down twice. I'm sure I will see the results in the seats of their shorts.

We then spent the afternoon in our favorite spot on the Upper Merced near Briceburg. The river was, of course, impressively full here, as well. The rocks we normally climb on were covered and our normal swimming spots were unreachable. But we did find a lovely sandy beach with some more still waters where Bear Creek enters the river and spent some time getting sandy, splashing, eating snacks and trying to catch minnows and butterflies.

All in all, an amazing day.

P.S. Another story I wrote, "Stop!" appears in the June issue of the Friend magazine. Slight editorial error -- the incident happened to my dad and his brothers, not my dad and my brothers. Also I originally called it "Dad Said Stop!" which I think was a better title. Still, my satisfaction does not diminish. It's fantastic and fun to see my work in print. I'm fame-ulous! Haha!

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