Oct 8, 2014

Yosemite National Park- A Heritage Vacation- Day Three

Thursday we planned for a mule ride! I was very excited about this bit of reenactment! I've ridden a mule once before, at Mammoth Lakes in 1994 but apparently it was an atypical, cooperative mule! I love Grandad's description of mule riding...
"Every day we hiked to points of interest. The falls were nice and full in July and we explored them all as far as we could go. This [the trail to Glacier Point] is the trail over which the guides take their tourists by horse- or mule-back. We kept pace with them almost all the way up the trail; sometimes we would pass them and later they would pass us sitting down to rest. A mule is a very aggravating animal, especially on the trail. The guide would be up in front, mounted on a horse, and occasionally a mule would spy a nice green sprig off to one side of the trail, and the rider couldn’t stop him from getting it—which as very uncomfortable to the rider, who would have a hard time to keep from sliding backward out of the saddle. When this occurred in the middle of the line, it caused quite a jam and the guide would have to come back and get the mule to change his mind again. We saw one old fellow in this kind of a fix and he hollered bloody murder until the guide righted his mule again."
We were set for a 4-hour trail ride that started at 8 am. We needed to arrive early to watch their safety video and get our mandatory riding helmet. There were only 5 riders this day, plus the two guides. They had the mules all lined up on one side of the hitchin'-fence and told us to wait on the other side (the safe side) until we were matches up with our mule. Imagine my surprise and delight when they said, "Joanie, this is your mule, Elsie!" I won't lie... it brought tears to my eyes. What were the chances? Just a coincidence? I THINK NOT!!

Rebekah got paired with Melvin. We were assured by our guides that none of the mules were suicidal and to trust them. I loved watching Melvin's little mincing steps as he maneuvered his way on the trail, keeping my acrophobic daughter safe... even in the face of sure death!

But it was a close thing. About three-quarters of the way up the steep mountain trail the mule right in front of me stepped on the side of the trail as it maneuvered one of the many hairpin turns, knocking loose some rocks, which, naturally started a mini rock slide. Welp! Elsie decided to take exception with that! (And if you've ever been horse or mule back riding, you know what I'm talking about!) That 16-hand-tall mule turned on a dime that would make any good cuttin' horse jealous and started tearing off down the trail away from that evil mass of rock wedging her way between Melvin and Rebekah on the inside, uphill side of the trail pushing her puny friend and rider right up to the precipice of death!! Luckily I am an experienced horsewoman (oh, but mules are a different breed!) and was able to stop her in quick time.

Rebekah mentioned that her leg and knee hurt but it wasn't until later that we saw the extent of the damage... and this is before the bruising started to bloom.

But Bek cowgirled-up and we had a lovely view from the top.

We wanted our guide to capture our likeness, just like Bill and Elsie 102 years ago, but Elsie-the mule is a big girl...

and we needed a better vantage point so we could even see Rebekah and Melvin.

The stables are right at the base of Royal Arch, where Grandad and Grandma camped those many summers ago.
When we checked in at the Ranger’s Station, we were assigned to Camp 8 which is under the Royal Arch, which is within walking distance of Camp Curry, where they had an entertainment each evening, which was climaxed by the fire-fall from Glacier Point each night. Glacier Point is about 3,000 feet above the floor of the valley and each day they make a big pile of wood which is lighted in the evening and when it burns down, the embers are pushed over the precipice—thus the fire falls. Midway down the face of the cliff is a ledge upon which the embers fall and burn themselves out. A person at the top of the cliff cannot throw a stone or stick hard enough to fall on the valley floor, for the draft will suck it in so that it falls on the ledge every time.

And it is where my mom, Elsie, was conceived.


No trip to Yosemite would be complete without a photo of El Capitan!

And Grandma Elsie thought so too.

We saw several climbers scaling the face. We pulled out my 70-300mm zoom lens and could see them toiling bravely weighed down with way too much stuff! And, what, may I ask does one do when they have to go potty in the middle of a climb? It take two days and they sleep in a hammock set-up over night. Just one more reason I won't be doing any rock climbing!

And that's it... our wonderful heritage vacation. We had a lovely time. It was just the right amount of time.

And it only took us 2-3 days to get over the soreness of hiking and mule riding!

If you'd like to read more of Grandad's history you can find it here. The story about their Yosemite vacation begins on page 17.

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