Day 223 - The Tioga Pass Road to Yosemite
21 Oct 2010
|My forum buddy, Bryan, sent a message to me noting I had saved the best for last…meaning I had chosen Colorado for my 48th state where he had grown up. Well, he was half right…I did save the best for last. Today is my last day for exploring and I spent it returning to Yosemite National Park. The ‘valley’ as the locals refer to it. That’s my park. Lifelong memories lie there. My grandkids’ great great grandfather’s stomping ground and source of inspiration was in that valley on the Merced River. I could have easily skipped it but including Yosemite on this grand tour was very important to me. I am just a lucky kid that it happens to be on my last leg home…and the weather held.
A few years after college I applied and much to my joy got the teacher/principal job at Buck Meadows Elementary School in Hardin Flat, California. It was a one room school right on the Tuolumne River. I had a black lab that sat next to my desk. Eight of the twelve students (I had K-7 filled, but no graduating 8th grader) were Yosemite Park ranger kids. We developed a comic strip that we called Ranger Brats.
I wanted that teaching job because I had dreamed about it from childhood. My family enjoyed every summer at a camp just a mile from that little school. When I was in college, I worked at the camp during the summer months. It was just 20 miles from Yosemite and we went there often.
My one room schoolhouse was torn down by a developer a month before school was out and we finished the year in apartments at Hodgdon Meadows, a residency area for park rangers. The school was then consolidated with Tenaya School in Groveland, 17 miles to the south. I married and continued to live on that highway and watch my kids grow for another eleven years. My wisdom teeth were pulled in the dentist's chair in Yosemite! (You have a view of Yosemite Falls from there!)
My grandfather, George Noon Lowe, owned a cigar store on University Avenue in Berkeley. He was a poet and most of each day was spent in the cigar store, smoking I presume, with the poets of the day. He never became famous as did so many of his colleagues but he did have one book published: Sprays of Western Pine. The curator of Yosemite found that book in the chained off rare and valuable section in the Yosemite Museum/Library many years ago. I presume it’s still there. My grandfather would take a train to Chinese Camp and catch rides or hike to the valley. There, he wrote his poetry.
My favorite poem, and I think his shortest is called simply El Capitan.
When wearied with the sins of man
God rests on old El Capitan.
And gazing on the cliffs He made -
The cataracts - the sylvan glade -
The glories of each ribboned glen -
Forgiveness falls from Him again.
Each time I see El Capitan I think of this man I never knew. He died in 1924 when my mother was twelve.
And to quote him once more on this special day in my home state on my favorite highway, this is his dedication in that little book.
“This little volume is lovingly dedicated to Memories.
Memories of redwood and manzanita; memories of the dawn on far-flung summits; memories of the mountains of magic robed in the silver splendor of a summer moon.
Of Californian hillsides resplendent with the poppy’s cloth of gold.
Of mountain meadows, exulting rivers, and chanting waterfalls.
Of kindly faces that were brightened by the campfire’s ruddy glow.
Of loving hearts that were – of loving hearts that are – in the cities by the Golden Gate.
I think I would have liked that man.