If you can avoid rockfall on the road and drivers in the grip of Chain Control Panic, Yosemite is a great place to spend your winter holidays. You can ski at Badger Pass, ice skate at Curry Village and snowshoe around the Valley before drinking hot toddies at the Ahwahnee bar or playing board games around the fireplace at the Mountain Room Lounge. We invited some family to spend their holiday with us in Yosemite and successfully crammed 9 people for a Christmas Eve dinner into our tiny cabin where our Charlie Brown tree awaited the festivities.
Our Charlie Brown tree suited the tiny cabin perfectly. A live potted Golden Cypress purchased from the Yosemite Lions Club as a fundraiser for community projects, we hope to keep the tree alive in our climate. We also hoped to prevent our regular raccoon visitor from making off with any Christmas treats. Raccoons live under our home in the winter and come into the house through the dog door every night around 3 AM. We only have a single visitor, and mostly he eats any leftover cat food and then leaves, but lately I noticed that he is also washing his food in the dog's water bowl. Raccoons do wash their food in water, though this has more to do with identifying the food then any sense of cleanliness on their part. We don't close the dog door at night just in case the old dog has to go outside, so we try to coexist peacefully with our raccoon neighbors.
Preparation for the family visit included smoking some Sierra trout for Tyler Florence's Creamy Smoked Trout with Apple, Celery and Crisp Brown Bread in Eat This Book: Cooking with Global Fresh Flavors. Ted caught quite a bit of trout this year and we wanted to share this taste of Yosemite. Christmas Eve dinner also included a classic Ahwahnee Hotel dessert, Pine Nut Pie, and we attended Christmas Day brunch at the hotel to round out the dining experience in Yosemite.
In order to make room for 9 diners in our cabin, we moved the furniture onto the porch which then became the cocktail lounge. Our friend Joe joined the Hansen/Karner/Whitaker holiday at his own peril which also caused us to have 3 dogs at our Christmas feast: Kaiser the Swiss mountain dog who belongs to the other Hansens, Cody the yellow lab who belongs to Joe and of course Fleabag. Whitezilla the cat was traumatized by so many dogs and spent his holiday reclining on (and under) our bed with the bedroom door shut tight.
Late on Christmas morning, Kathy, Wenche, Mort, Martina, Bjorn, Ingrid, Ted and I walked to the Ahwahnee for brunch in the dining room. Brunch includes standard breakfast items but also prime rib, oysters, and sushi, along with pastries and chocolate confections. Brunch on this day was $49 per person, though I can't say whether this was a special holiday brunch since we haven't dined here since before I left for Utah in 2008. Ted particularly received his money's worth with 3 helpings, and the seafood I consumed was easily well worth the cost. The Ahwahnee dining room is also a delightful place to share a meal with visitors - the architecture is spectacular and the atmosphere lends itself to dining in splendor.
Christmas night we received a brief but beautiful snow fall that glittered under the sun the next day. A long winter walk was in order, so we left the Lodge to cross Swinging Bridge, past the Yosemite Chapel and across Cook's Meadow to Yosemite Village and back. Wenche was inspired by the snowy landscape to make a snow angel that might impress family back in Norway with the sheer volume of California snow. Later that evening, we noticed that the snow piled on top of the twinkle lights lining our fence was making a light show spectacle.
By Thursday before New Year's Eve all of our family had departed, just in time to avoid the road closure of CA SR 140 at the east entrance to the park due to rockfall. I wasn't lucky enough to get back into the park via 140 after taking Mom to the Fresno airport before the rock fell, so had to do some extensive backtracking on CA SR 41, a road I like to refer to as the Worst Winter Road in America. After successfully dodging all the lowlanders who stop in the middle of the snowy mountain road to adjust their tire chains all the way past Chiquapin, I had to turn the car into a snowbank to avoid plowing into the oncoming traffic that was blocking BOTH lanes. After exhausting my complete supply of cuss words, I was grateful to receive assistance from many Good Samaritans in releasing my car from the snowbank (though they would be infinitely more Good if they would just not block both lanes). Despite all the assistance, Park Ranger Heidi had to tow my car out, for which I am grateful and wish Heidi the happiest of new years. The rest of the drive was uneventful. On Friday, we spent a quiet evening at home toasting the New Year with prosecco and beer, watching hilarious 80s videos on YouTube and celebrating Fleabag's 14th birthday.
Happy New Year! May 2011 bring you everything you need to live long and prosper.