Mom, Stacey and Grampa started their day by sitting on the porch at our hotel looking for deer. They spotted one and woke me up to come see it, but it was gone by the time I got there. That deer was a jerk.
After we were all dressed and ready, we zipped through the Starbucks drive-thru and headed back to Yosemite National Park. In the car on the way there, Grampa and Matthew prepped for Junior Ranger training by completing some activities in the Junior Ranger handbook. Matthew also had a card that outlined all of the animals that lived in the park: squirrels, mountain goats, deer, mountain lions, bobcats, bears… We warned him that we probably would only see squirrels, maybe some deer. Seeing some of those big animals is a rare event. It was during these activities that Matthew had his first ever bout with carsickness. That’s two cousins on the carsick list, everyone. I understand his pain.
A little while later, we reached the parking lot in Yosemite Valley. We unloaded and took the bus down to the visitor’s center. From there, we set out on our hike to the Lower Falls. It was a short little hike, not really a hike, more of a walk, which I was fine with. Matthew found a baby deer on the way to the falls and was the only one out of a big group of people that saw it. Auntie Stacey confirmed the sighting.
The waterfall was really cool to look at up close. Even cooler was the fact that we got to dip our feet in at the bottom. Matthew and I can officially say that we’ve bathed in the waters of Yosemite…and even took a drink. If we wind up with parasites, we’ll know where they came from.
We walked back up the trail to the visitor’s center and we linked back up with Memere. Instead of walking the path, she took a tour of the valley from the comfort of the shuttle bus. She did get to see the outside of the lodge, of which I am envious. We all got lunch at the grill in the village, which was much needed after our walk. I was so dehydrated I was shaking. It was pretty bad. There was some double-vision, but after some chicken fingers and some water, I was ready to get going again.
We capped off the afternoon by looking in some shops. Matthew and Grampa went to the Junior Ranger meeting with the Yosemite Park Ranger. Apparently Matthew had the most questions out of all of the other kids (and he was one of the youngest ones there!) After the meeting, Grampa and Matthew put the finishing touches on the Junior Ranger Handbook and went to the visitor’s center to turn it in. He was awarded an official Junior Yosemite Park Ranger badge, which he wore for the rest of the day. It went with his Junior Ranger hat that he had gotten at the start of the day. He’s all decked out.
After a stop at the medical center to get Matthew’s lungs nebulized (previous condition, nothing new), we were off on our scenic drive through Yosemite. The beginning roads of our route were really windy, and Matthew’s carsickness came back with a vengeance. His tummy hurt so bad he was crying. Stacey was sitting next to him with a plastic bag at the ready, in the event that he needed to throw up. I was crossing my fingers that that wasn’t going to happen. We pulled off at a gas station for some road snacks and refreshments, and we grabbed some Dramamine. Stacey was worried that Matthew wouldn’t be able to take a pill, so I helped demonstrate the process. I was feeling pretty woozy myself, so I took a Dramamine, outlining the steps for him. He was scared at first, but after I showed him, he put it on his tongue, took a sip of apple juice and swallowed like a pro. So there you go. He can thank me as his big cousin that taught him how to take drugs.
The Dramamine worked like a charm for the both of us. I was no longer feeling sick, and Matthew was happy as a clam watching a movie on the ipad. After driving about an hour, we stopped at the Toulumne Meadows to walk around and take some pictures. On the way into the parking lot, we spotted a coyote perched on a rock, like he was trying to pose for us! He ran away before we could get a picture, and before Matthew even noticed he was there. I was excited to see him though. We walked around the meadows for just a few minutes, looking up at the mountains in the distance. We could see a handful of tents set up around the stream, and we were happy that we had booked a hotel. Walking in the wilderness was enough adventure for us.
We boarded the minivan once again and started back down the road when suddenly I saw a brown blob moving through the trees on our left. “BEAR!” I shouted and pointed. “IT’S A BEAR!” And it was. A brown black bear (all the bears in the park are black bears, no matter what color its fur is) loping through the grasses and the trees slowly, without a care in the world. We pulled over to the side of the road and Grampa and I reached for our cameras. Matthew was ecstatic. We watched our new bear friend walk around, and he seemed to get closer to the road as he went. At one point he started running through the meadow, bounding along through the grass. We pulled the car up a bit further so we could keep watching him. We wanted to spend as much time with our bear friend as possible. We passed a man who was standing on the side of the road, and Grampa got out of the car to warn him that there was a bear across the street. Now of course Grampa was out of the car and everyone else in the car was shouting at him to come back. “Grampa the bear is gonna eat you and then you might get hurt!” Matthew yelled. Eventually Grampa was safe back in the car and the bear had trotted back to his home in the trees. We were all so happy we had the treat of seeing a bear in the wild, especially after all we expected to see was squirrels!
The last leg of the trip was the most treacherous. We spent a good twenty minutes hugging the edge of a cliff as we drove down the side of the mountain. Auntie Stacey was not enjoying it. Matthew offered her the package from his peanut butter crackers, just in case she needed to throw up. Meanwhile Mom and I were taking pictures and enjoying the view. It was such a pretty ride, cliff or no cliff.
We soon reached the El Mono hotel in Lee Vining, California. Have you ever driven past one of those little hole in the wall motels with like 6 rooms all in a row, a neon “No Vacancy” sign hanging out in front and wonder, “Who the heck stays there?” Apparently we do because that’s this place. The rooms are each two rooms with a bed in each and a closet-sized bathroom in the middle. The sink is in one of the bedrooms. It’s pretty retro, but charming. All part of the experience. The best part is that in these rooms, my mom and I each get our own bed and room! So in El Mono, we get to sleep el mono! I don’t know if that’s correct Spanish or not, but for the sake of my bad pun, pretend it is.
We ended the day with dinner at the Whoa Nellie Deli, a restaurant in a gas station. It’s a pretty hip joint judging by the amount of people that were there. We each got dinner and then headed outside to picnic with a view of Mono Lake as our backdrop. We capped off diner with a piece of strawberry cheesecake to share. Today I learned that Matthew may stab you for an extra bite of strawberry cheesecake.