Year in Yosemite: Lessons on the Loop Trail
Meadow Loop Trail. Photo courtesy Jon Jay.
Here's what a day off from school looks like in a national park: No museums. No movies. No fast-food restaurants or visits to Chuck E. Cheese. Instead, you gather every child you know and head out on a trail.
That's when you find out that kids who have been raised in a national park don't necessarily like hiking. When nature is all you know, nature isn't necessarily that appealing. The kid who wants to organize a hiking club and walks for miles with nary a complaint happens to be my own. And she was raised in a city. The other kids make it about half a mile and then ask to turn back or beg to be carried or they stop every two seconds for something to eat.
Which brings me to my next important lesson. Think small. When I organized the day, I was thinking we’d drive out to Sentinel Dome, my favorite Yosemite trail. Sure, it's a long way from where we live but I thought it had all the kid essentials. It’s easy to do with a huge payoff — the views are some of the best in the park. Big news. When you are 4, 6, 8 or 9, as were the kids on our hike, hanging with your friends and throwing leaves at each other is more exciting than staring at Half Dome.
So after that half-mile on the virtually flat (but still quite gorgeous) Meadow Trail, we turned around and headed for home. The plan for the rest of the day? Arts and crafts collages made with leaves we’d found in the forest.
But wait. Not so fast. It was time for my next lesson. You see, the kids on this hike were not just any kids. For the most part, they were the children of park employees. Kids whose parents take the admonition that what you find in the park stays in the park very seriously. In the city, you might organize a hike, pick up leaves, take them home, hand out bottles of glue and glitter and pat yourself on the back for getting your kids outside at all. In a national park, you have a designated leaf picker who brings bags of them from her home outside the park. Who knew?
There are times since moving here when I feel as if I've entered a special realm — a place where Mayberry has collided with Northern Exposure with a hint of Seinfeld thrown in. Life up here is charming and funny and surprising too in ways this city mom could have never guessed. We came here for our daughter's schooling, but her mom is getting the education.
-- Jamie Simons