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Year in Yosemite: Come On Down - Explore

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Year in Yosemite: Come On Down

Photo credit: Jon Jay

In the summer, hordes of people visit Yosemite National Park. The campgrounds are full (many require reservations a full year in advance), the restaurants are crowded, the Valley floor is a virtual parking lot as people crawl along in traffic. I have just two words to say to all these people….come now. Come when the weather is Goldilocks-perfect — not too hot, not too cold, but just right.

Come now when the waterfalls are at their most spectacular, crashing and careening down the steep granite walls, raising dazzling showers of water droplets that turn to rainbows in the sun — because they'll be mere drips by late summer. Come now when it's possible to drive without feeling like you're sitting on a freeway and the park is coming alive after hibernating from a winter of snow and ice. Come now when the foothills surrounding the park are emerald green with new grasses and masses of wildflowers cover the hills and valleys, showing off their sweet, gentle freshness like a debutante at a coming out ball.

If I sound exuberant, I can't help myself. I'm one of those people who love to decorate my home for my guests. Imagine how I must feel living in a place where Mother Nature was the decorator and she got everything right. No need to move even a rock to make it picture perfect. But apparently she doesn't agree with me as whole hillsides regularly come tumbling down, rearranging her design. As someone who rearranges furniture in the middle of the night, I understand her urge for change.

We've been visiting family for the past week, my daughter's spring vacation coinciding with my dad's 86th birthday. When we drove back into Yosemite last night, I found myself taking in deep breaths of fresh air. I was so happy to be home that I walked the dirt road into the village even though reports of mountain lions in our part of Wawona give me the willies when I'm walking alone.

Photo credit: Charles Phillips

I still marvel that in a year and a half there hasn't been a single time that I've driven the final curve into Wawona to see the golf course and its meadows lying out below me that I haven't thanked the heavens that I live here. Now that tourist season is gearing up, I want to stop each car on its way to the Valley and say, "You're so lucky. You can't believe the beauty that awaits you." Unlike many who live year round in the park, I never tire of the tourists. There's too much of the hostess in me. If I could, I'd stop each car and tell them all of my "must-sees."

Photo credit: Charles Phillips

Since I can't, and since most people won't be coming now, I can only offer this.

If you can't make it here until summer, hit the trails in Yosemite Valley after 4 pm -- they are usually pretty empty by then. Drive around the park at night. Tunnel View by moonlight is a view you’re likely to have to yourself. Think Glacier Point Road. Many of its hikes — Taft Point, Sentinel Dome and Dewey Point in particular — offer breathtaking views of the park without the crowds. And Wawona fan that I am, don’t miss the locals favorite Saturday night hangout—the barbeque dinner on the lawn of the Wawona Hotel, followed by the barn dance in the Gray Barn or Tom Bopp playing the piano inside the hotel (humor, local history and talent all in one man). We'll be there. But my main advice for enjoying Yosemite? Come now.

-- 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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