My family spent many summers camping in the Sonora Pass country of the central Sierra Nevada. As a small kid, we spent 1-2 weeks camping on the Clarks Fork of the Stanislaus. As I grew older, we started camping further up the hill - at Dardenelles or near Kennedy Meadows. As an adult, my Dad and I spent a weekend each autumn on the west fork of the Walker River - on the east side of Sonora Pass. I was lucky enough.
I grew up in Sonora - about 90 minutes from Yosemite Valley when the weather was good. Despite our proximity to one of the wonders of the world, we only went there a few times when I was growing up. The mountains, to my folks - and later to me - meant solitude, which is generally in short supply in Yosemite Valley. My fondest childhood memory of Yosemite as a kid was the trip my family took to the valley one winter - I was probably around 12 or 13. Winter in Yosemite is a less crowded time - you can almost feel the valley catching its breath.
Our own daughters have spent a fair amount of time in the mountains. We still camp each summer in the Sonora Pass country, and we try to spend time in the northern Sierra (closer to our current home in Auburn). Lara, who is 15, was in Yosemite before she was 2 - but not since. Emma, 9, had never been in Yosemite - until New Year's Day 2013. For Christmas this year, we gave our girls the gift of a winter trip to Yosemite. My sister and brother-in-law, along with their youngest daughter Hanna and her boyfriend, joined us for the day.
The icy roads and cold weather help keep the crowds thinned out during the winter in Yosemite. You have to work a bit to get there! We had a wonderful day - took an icy hike to lower Yosemite Falls, wandered through the Awahnee Hotel, made snow angels under the shadow of Half Dome, and ice skated (at least Emma did) at Curry Village. I realized again how lucky we are to live in such close proximity to one of the natural wonders of the world.
I think people are either ocean people or mountain people. I love the ocean, but I couldn't live without being close to or in the mountains. I wonder sometimes if humans have a genetically imprinted connection for the land of their ancestors. While I'm not sure where all of my ancestors originated, I suspect that I inherited my preference for the mountains. Our wintertime trip to Yosemite reminded me of how lucky I am to live in the Sierra Nevada!