When I was a youngster, the very first book I remember reading, and then immediately re-reading many times, was James Hilton’s Lost Horizon. I couldn’t bear to leave Shangri-La. There were passages I read every night for a year. Then, somehow, I got involved with Margaret Mitchell and spent my time exploring the pain and suffering of the southerners in the Civil War. I read any number of books on The War Between The States, as they call it. Southern Gothic fiction presented a very different point-of-view, culture, and setting from my world. It took a while for me to work my way through enough of it to be satisfied.
As any average, depressed adolescent can tell you, misery loves company. I fell hard for the Bronte sisters, and veered off for a while into other British misery and historical novels. The escape that books offered from my actual life, in my parent’s home was irresistible. James A. Michener took me to Hawaii, Alaska, Texas, Mexico, and The South Pacific. Many times, Pearl S. Buck took me to China, Willa Cather introduced me to the Nebraska Plains. There was no travel in the cards for my family, beyond the rare camping trip, so I traveled via the books I read.
As a young wife and mother, I remember reading, and re-reading Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, lots of Ursula Le Guin, The Dune series, and all of J.R.R. Tolkien, (over, and over, and over). Yes, I was reading for entertainment, and escape, but also to travel—to learn about worlds beyond the one I inhabited. I loved books with a richly drawn setting. The historical time period or genre didn’t much matter, but the time I spent in that other locale was an absolute gift!
Today, I worry when I want to binge-watch some series on Netflix, but truly, I am a binge-reader from way-back. Escapism in its purest form, yes, but it was always about traveling, which was only occasionally included on the menu, for the first fifty years of my life.
Richard and Ed began traveling to, and working in Yosemite National Park in the mid- nineties. The photos, and stories Ed shared about their time here, just drew me in. Some years, they took a family member or a friend along on the journey out to California with them for a couple weeks to work on installing the Christmas decorations, but I was never able to get away from my job for that long a stretch, at that time of year. My longing to be in this place was building for nearly twenty years.
I enjoyed a brief stay here a few years ago, during a trip my pal Barbara and I planned. Unfortunately, her mom became ill and passed away on our first day out, and Barbara had to fly to Florida to be with her family. So, I ended up traveling around California alone. Little did I know, that this circumstance opened a window in my brain to accept the idea of solo travel, and enjoy it! That it was a thing I would come to love. But on that earlier trip, we had only booked a few days in Yosemite, since she had been here before, and wanted to go to Monterey and Sonoma. But for me, I had finally arrived in my Shangri-La, and was totally awed, but very frustrated. I couldn’t change my arrangements to stay longer, since it was high season, and there were no rooms to be had, but I made a promise to myself, and to the trees and the rocks that I’d be back.
Fast-forward to my retirement, and my plans for this solo-RV trip. I had two non-negotiable locations: Nova Scotia/Cape Breton, and Yosemite. And, I planned to stay in these places until I’d had my fill. That’s the beauty of solo travel—you do the things that interest you, and your schedule is your own. Often, people ask me about becoming lonely, but with camping, I find that there are always other people to talk to: about the beauty of the falls, (and of course we all took photos of one another with the falls in the background), about teaching, about New York or their home state, the weather, or activities in the park, about other campgrounds, other places we’ve been that shouldn’t be missed, and always about our rigs. There's plenty of comparing equipment in this lifestyle, and size does matter! ;-)
Since I’ve landed in the park this week, I have gone hiking and walking. I take the shuttle buses around, it's so easy, and the bus drivers are really nice, funny and interesting folks. I've explored the Native American museum,and had a lovely chat wth Ben, one of the curators. I've been in the the Ansel Adams Gallery, the bookstore, and visitor center. I have taken tons of photos, which are being edited to post on the blog, so I can get caught-up when I have wifi again. Ha ha. Caught up. I'm taking waaay too many photos, and videos of the Merced River, and the many waterfalls. But that's ok. I may not pass this way again.