September 28 – October 3, 2016
Yosemite National Park, California

El Capitan

It seems that the best option for us to hit major attractions like National Parks is to camp outside of the park itself & make exploring the park a day trip rather than camp in the park itself. This allows us to more easily access the small towns outside of the parks for everyday life requirements like wifi for work, grocery stores, etc. Plus with the kiddos in tow, one full day of exploring each park seems to be presenting itself as the sustainable routine.  By cutting the national park roads out of our itinerary we also remove some of the most stressful places to tow our large trailer, but sometimes even getting into the surrounding areas can be challenging! This surprise was waiting for us en route to Groveland. The more direct road in gray was closed to vehicles towing trailers due to its extreme grade, so we got to enjoy that blue line. I didn’t clock it, but would venture to guess it took us longer than 9 minutes!

We are learning the hard way that when your route looks like this, there may be some stress involved…

We stayed at a place called Yosemite Pines which was fitting, but also tragic, because more than half of the pines trees in the area are completely dead and brown. The combination of the recent drought and pine beetles has decimated the pine forests. Even the pines right around our campsite were dead and brittle. As we’ve driven through the state we’ve seen so many lakes and rivers clearly below their ordinary boundaries, or even completely dry. It’s no wonder that fires in California have made national headlines in the last couple of years – the entire place looked like it could go up like a tender box if you held up a magnifying glass. In each Yosemite Pines campground shower was a large sticker that read “Every drop counts. Can we count on you?”  This sobering reminder of the extreme drought conditions made the place seem even more apocalyptic, like scenes from the area could be the start of a movie about how all of the humans eventually became extinct.

But on a more positive note…

our campground had a small petting farm!
the girls named this one Cupcake
grumpy alpaca named Rusty…or maybe this one was Dusty?

I don’t mean to leave the wrong impression…this campground was pretty great. Lots of space, lots of amenities, friendly staff, a playground, pool, store, laundromat, nature trail with work-out stations, and nice neighbors. Two different older ladies gave the kids money just for being cute & sweet. Making a living on the road may end up being easier than I expected!

We spent a full day exploring Yosemite National Park.

our little photographers got to learn about Ansel Adams this week
good thing sunny got a great picture of what’s behind us here since you can’t tell!
another park, another squirrel photo opportunity
reality check – so much of our days exploring are filled with “Put your shoes on” “Put your jacket on” “Where are your sunglasses?” “Do you have your Jr Ranger book?” “Why aren’t you wearing shoes again?”
learning about bears from Ranger Cindy
Admiring Ranger Cindy’s extensive Jr. Ranger badge collection. #goals #lovetheserolemodels
the girls said their favorite part of Yosemite was riding the free shuttle
Yosemite Valley, searching for answers to Jr. Ranger challenges
El Capitan…see the tiny climbers?
Half Dome
another Jr Ranger swearing in ceremony

But by far the most memorable moment for our family in Yosemite National Park won’t be the beautiful rock formations, the trail run, the junior ranger activities, or the wildlife. No, I’m pretty confident that the main family memory will be that Sunny became violently ill in the truck on the way home from what we thought at the time was horrible motion sickness. Oh, the trauma. “Well, we’ll never forget Yosemite!” We joked as I sat in the back seat with her, holding a trash can while Brad did his best to drive the windy mountains roads gently.

Sunny spent the entire next day like this
Coral & I spent the afternoon together to give Sunny time to recover in a quiet trailer
Mud Pies!
laundry helper as usual

On our last night at Yosemite pines I stayed up late to make snacks for our car ride the next day. I finally got brace enough to fire up the oven (literally!!) I found a “healthy cookie” recipe made with oat flour, coconut oil, dark chocolate, etc…you know the drill…to make for snacking on the car. I was pretty proud of myself. In the car the next day as we all enjoyed them on our trip,  I told the girls they were made with ground oatmeal instead of regular wheat flour. “Oh, is that why they don’t taste like real cookies?” Coral asked sweetly.

tiny oven success! (debatably)

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