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Year in Yosemite: A Walk on the Wild Side - Explore

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Year in Yosemite: A Walk on the Wild Side


My daughter Karis is nine, which means that, when her father is away and there is no one to watch her, wherever I go she has to go too. This past weekend, with her dad in Los Angeles and Yosemite's winter weather mild and warm, I wanted to go for a walk. Not Karis. The mere mention of a stroll had her begging to stay home, which, of course, was not to be. It took some coaxing, but eventually she slipped on her jacket and her snow boots and the two of us headed out the door.

First stop? Puddles. Big, enormous puddles sitting in big, enormous potholes that are loosely connected by bits of mud and make up our sorry excuse for a street. Walking down this mumbly-tumbly road, Karis did the only thing that made sense and jumped into the ankle-high water—again and again and again.

Chilnualna Falls.

Then we went down toward the one-lane bridge that crosses the south fork of the Merced River. At this time of year the water is pounding over the humongous boulders that cascade down the mountain and line the river bottom. Karis suggested a game of Pooh Sticks, but then, just as quickly, she decided the sticks would be pulverized in the whirlpools. So instead, she leaned against me while we stood watching the sun hit the water and discussed which waterfalls we liked best. Turns out, she liked the one to the left on the north side of the stream, where two jets of water flow side by side to become a double waterfall. Funny thing, but that is my favorite too.

Next we headed for the line of logs that mark off the parking lot for the Chilnualna Falls hike. Karis tried jumping from log to log even though they are too far apart to do in a single leap. She said that didn't matter because it was fun anyway—until one of them moved. Oops. So we moved to the boulders that separate the meadow from the road and I joined in as she jumped on those too. I kept falling off, but at least she gave me credit for trying. 

Further along, Karis discovered a culvert where the snowmelt runs under the road. It's clear and cold and felt fresh on our hands and soon every creek and culvert all the way down to the library had to be checked out and walked through. And, although creeks are fun, according to Karis, nothing, but nothing compares to the seasonal pond that sits next to the library.

Library Pond. All photos by Jon Jay.

It's full of frogs and toads, algae, rocks, logs and sticks that we picked up while we tried to find frogspawn. That’s when the toads and frogs that had been bellowing like cattle suddenly fell silent. We took seats on a rock to see what would happen if we didn't make a sound. Would the animals think we had disappeared and take up their song again? We never found out because the library beckoned with its books and magazines and kid-size tables that are just right for reading.

When the library closed, we walked toward the playground down by the school, but we never make it that far. Just one street away three of Karis’s friends were stirring mud with long sticks and jumping in it. They came running when they saw her and asked her to play which she did while the moms gabbed.

Then, suddenly, the sun was setting and it was time to head back home. So we turned back—back up the road, back along the culverts and the creeks, back past the meadows, the waterfalls and the potholes. And just before we made the final turn down the dirt road to our house, Karis gave me a hug and said, "The next time you want to go for a walk, don’t call it a walk. Call it an explore. Walks aren’t fun, but explores I could do all day."

-- Jamie Simons

In May 2009, while hiking in Yosemite National Park, long-time Los Angeles resident Jamie Simons turned to her husband and said, "I want to live here." Today she and her family have made the move to live for one year in Wawona, where her daughter attends the one-room schoolhouse, Jamie writes, and her husband longs for noise, fast food, people, and the city.(Though he's learning to appreciate mountain life.)


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