This past weekend I put my cares away and headed for a weekend at Yosemite National Park in Northern California. Thrilled with the thought of the majestic beauty of a place I’d only seen in 6th grade Science books, I helped pack the car and the kids and my husband and we headed out with friends for two spectacular days in the wilderness.
As a metastatic breast cancer figher I have learned not to sweat the small stuff. However, this weekend I confused small stuff with important details. Like what’s the weather going to be like at 6,000 feet.
Heading into the mountain we hit more snow that I ever remember encountering in the great state of Maine, where I reported news, weather, met my (local) husband and raised our two children. Unlike Maine’s storms, which practically come with a red carpet and fanfare announced via the local news media, this storm jumped us on the road. I didn’t know what “chains” were until I saw a sign that said they were mandatory, and we weren’t anywhere near a prison. My husband got out and at 5,500 feet, slipping and sliding in our formerly-New-England-based front wheel drive car, encased the front wheels in these “mandatory” cables.
From there it still took us two hours (at least twice the usual time) and one snapped chain before we reached our destination. The road was not plowed, there were no lights on the rental home, and a “where’s-the-key” later, we got into our 2-day “chalet” and prepared for our weekend fun.
And we had it–a hot tub on the deck, a fireplace with a few cuts of wood, good food, great friends, kids that got along–it was fantastic. Until Sunday morning, when I awoke to see my 4 foot daughter standing near a sliding glass door that measured snow up to her knees. Two hours later, it was at her waist. By 1 p.m the snow reached her chest. By four o’clock, and our departure now completely snowed in, the white stuff hit my child’s shoulders. By bedtime the power had gone out and we were engulfed in one of the worst storms the region had seen that year.
Monday morning, no heat, dwindling firewood and a few pancakes and sausage were what was left of our fantastic getaway weekend. Freak that I am I asked the children to write a small essay on their “Donner Party” weekend (look up the Donner Party–it’ll curl your hair) so that we could prove to their teachers that they weren’t only playing pool and running around in pajamas on a weekday morning when the rest of their classmates were at their desks learning Math. (My son’s title–”Donner Pary Reborn;” my friend’s daugher penned “Donner, Party of 8.” Home schooling never came so close to real life as this past Monday tucked in a snowbank in Yosemite.)
We finally got out–thanks to a well-timed walk and a conversation with a fellow stranded stranger who, when asked if she was stuck too, blurted out–yes, but there’s a convoy leaving at 4 p.m today. Armed with this free information (that wasn’t given on the park’s emergency phone number line) we packed up and headed out of Yosemite–along with 70 or 80 other stranded motorists and motor-home operators and the 4 wheel drive escort of the National Park Ranger service. Lining the one-lane freshly plowed and formerly closed highway out of Yosemite we looked like a funeral line minus a dead body, add 7 feet of snow and carloads of relief. We were going home. None of us could have been happier when the should-have-been-hour ride ended after 3 long ones and delivered us out of the national park boundary–to a lower elevation that turned the hazardous snow back to manageable and welcome rain.
In retrospect, this weekend was a disaster–and an adventure. Of course no one wants to pay 400 dollars a night for no heat, no electricity, no shoveling, and kids who snack on raw pasta for food. But really, now that we’re all safe and sound, this crazy, snowbound, wacko weekend will be among the highlights of my year. As I told my son, “An adventure is a disaster seen in hindsight.” Or is it “a disaster is an adventure seen in hindsight?” Either way, I didn’t make that line up, but this weekend I lived it.
And I loved it.