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Year in Yosemite: In the Flow

Yosemite after the 2010 storm. Photo by Charles Phillips.

During high school, my sister was an exchange student in Japan. Naturally she returned home with gifts for all of us. Decades later, I don’t remember what she gave me, but I do remember this. One of the most precious things she brought back was this Japanese saying: No expectations. No letdowns. Lately I think of those words almost daily. That’s because, try hard as I might, living without expectations is not a concept I’ve ever mastered. Experience tells me expectations do more harm than good, but, boy, I find them hard to let go of. Maybe that’s why I was so impressed by Diane Reklis.

Unlike her last name, Diane is not reckless at all. In fact, she’s a master planner. I met her by happenstance one Saturday at Badger Pass, Yosemite National Park’s ski area. I was there so my daughter could ski with friends. Since I’m highly adverse to cold, snow and ski slopes, my usual strategy is to retreat with a book to the lodge’s upstairs room. But on this particular Saturday, the usually quiet room was bustling with activity—and girls, more than one hundred of them. Turns out 15 troops of Girl Scouts from Palo Alto were at Yosemite to alpine and cross-country ski, snowshoe and take in the views. The trip is reserved for older Scouts, those who are in grades 6 through 12. Along with their chaperon moms and resident nurse, they numbered 130.

Fifteen Girl Scout troops.

For the past 13 years, their fearless leader has been Diane. Diane claims putting together the logistics for the care and feeding of all these people is fun, her “giant Sudoku puzzle.”

She says she does it to try and encourage older girls to stick with scouting right through high school. The funny thing is her own kids are long gone from the nest. That she still invests a huge amount of time and energy introducing girls to the wonders of scouting and Yosemite, I find inspirational. But that’s not the reason why she’s my pick for the “Go-with-the-Flow-No-Expectations Queen.”

No. I’ve dubbed her that because a year ago January, three buses left Palo Alto bound for Yosemite. One hour into the trip Diane got a call. Yosemite had had a major storm. Trees were down. Electrical lines were down. All the entrances to the park were closed. Most people probably would have bagged the trip right there but Diane decided to keep going. As she says, “We were already in the buses.” That night, instead of going to Curry Village as planned, they took 32 rooms at the Best Western in Mariposa, and then walked the girls over to the Pizza Factory for dinner. The local merchants were thrilled. At a time when no tourists were making their way to Yosemite, the Girl Scouts seemed like the cavalry coming to town.

Ahwahnee Hotel. Photo by Charles Phillips.

The next day dawned bright and sunny. The park was open. They boarded the buses and continued only to get another call. Curry Village was closed. Diane decided to head for the park anyway and that’s when her no-expectations, go-with-the-flow attitude paid off. Seems with Curry Village closed, the Delaware North Companies, Yosemite’s concessionaire, had a plan for housing. That night the girls and their chaperones were put up at The Ahwanhee. Needless to say, everyone was thrilled.

When I asked Diane what it was in her personality that let her—with 130 charges in tow—change on a dime, she answered, “Stupidity.” Don’t believe her. The moment she (and the other adults) decided to put their plans and expectations aside and trust that, whatever the outcome, all would be well, they taught those girls a life lesson about the importance of letting go. Seems to me, if there isn’t a badge for that, it certainly merits one.

-- 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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