For eons the receding ice age of rivers and glaciers carved 3,000 feet into solid granite and created majestic Yosemite Valley. When Dad was transferred to Vallejo in 1946, our cousins visited us and Dad took us all to Yosemite National Park for camping. Gigantic redwoods, a pine forest, golden poppies, and blue lupine spread along the hillsides and highway. The Merced River ran through the floor of the valley and waterfalls cascaded from perches in the spiked mountains. The wind sprayed the icy liquid down over the mountainsides of ancient rock, majestic half-dome loomed, its rugged face crusted with years of nature’s strongest forces.
Just before dark we arrived at Curry Village, where every night the rangers performed the spectacular “Yosemite Fire Fall.” They created a bon-fire on a mountain top, and dropped the embers into a cavern at eight o’clock. We watched the yellow, red-orange glowing fire “waterfall” descend to the Yosemite floor sending showers of sparks and chunks of burning wood streaking continuously for ten minutes in a visual echo of water columns.
Cousin Lew asked to sleep in the only hammock tent we had so Dad and Uncle Lewis hung it between two rugged pines in our campsite for him. After we all went to sleep a hungry black bear came lumbering into camp. He walked below Lew and scared him so much he told us, “I couldn’t speak. If he heard me he might have attacked.”
Chip said, “What did he look like?”
“He had a light brown nose and shiny black fur, with a white chest patch and smelled awful.” He weighed over three hundred pounds. After he looked around he trudged away.
Dad said, “If the bear had stood up he could easily have reached the hammock.”
“Yeah, that’s what I thought. You all slept through the danger!”I had a hard time falling asleep thinking he’d return.”
Dad took us on hikes around Yosemite where the Merced River swiftly flowed over rocks and fallen trees, created a reflected image of the surrounding forest, mountains, and boulders, and carried trout. It was so enchanting I wanted to stay near the river and throw rocks and pebbles into the rushing water.
“Are you sure you know the way back to the campsite?
”Yeah, I’m sure.”
“Okay, Danny. Don’t miss dinner.”
I walked to the river and wandered down the path looking at the swirling mass of water with many colored rocks of different size and shape deposited there over the years. I could skip the flat ones out in the center of the flow and then drop big ones to make a splash by walking out on the larger rocks along the shore. The sycamores, tall pines, and redwoods provided shade and their leaves rustled with the breeze. The reflection of the trees on the river distorted their shapes making them quiver. Sandpipers and swallows enjoyed the river landscape, followed by blue jays that swooped down, cawed, dipped briefly into the river, and flew away chattering.
Before long, streaks of sunset filtered through the towering trees. My hike took me past tall brush where I heard voices. I walked into an open space and met a couple who smiled as they enjoyed each other’s company at the end of a peaceful day in nature. They seemed so happy together, laughing, and even singing. She had a wide infectious smile, was jovial, laughed, and hugged the muscular man with curly blond hair. He returned her advances with a peck on the cheek, swung her around like she was a ballerina in a purple and white stripped swim suit, and they fell happily into the stream with a splash. In his Khaki trunks and a green sports shirt dripping with water, he retrieved her straw hat cackling like a hyena. They held a long embrace and then he carried her to the shore and carefully set her down. Mesmerized, but not wanting to disturb them in their rapture, my lips were sealed until they moved to the river bank to rest when I finally said, “I’m lost. Can you help me find Curry Village?”
“Yes, our tent is there,” said the happy woman with dark hair and freckles.
“You can come with us when we leave in a little while,” said the tall man with mustache. They swished their hands in the water, pointed out birds and deer along the river’s bank, laughed, frolicked, and amused each other and me. When they started to get out of the water the lady jumped into his arms near the edge of the river and they embraced. They turned towards me smiling and escorted me back to camp.
Reunited with my family after a three hour absence, I wondered how different life would have been if my parents loved each other as they did. Dad walked to me with pursed lips, narrowed eyes, and rage on his face, “You said you knew the way to our camp. Where have you been?”
“I couldn’t find the path back. This man and woman brought me here.” Twirling around to thank them I realized they had left happy to retreat from my angry Dad in nature.