Sunday, January 8, 2023

Back at Yosemite with Zoe



Last year at around this time, we took Zoe to Yosemite for the first time.  She was only 11 months old, just a compact, wide-eyed bundle that we could carry around everywhere.  We took her to the edge of Mirror Lake, up to Badger Pass, and down to the Yosemite Valley.  We even had her lie in the snow to make a snow angel.  She was not exactly predictable at the time, but she wasn't hard to handle either.  Nine times out of ten, any fussing was resolved by unzipping my jacket and unhooking my nursing bra.  Other times, Wes would snuggle her while continuing to hike, or she might cry angrily for a few minutes and then knock out in the carrier on his back for a nap.  None of that was exactly easy, but it was more straightforward than it was this year.

Zoe is now just a few weeks shy of turning two years old, and with that maturity comes with preferences, more complicated needs, desires, and dislikes.  Let's put it this way, we had to pack 7 stuffed animals on this trip (fox, monkey, brown dog, acorn, deer, otter, hamster) and about 8 types of snacks.  Options are her best friend.  Unfortunately though, sometimes she just doesn't have a choice, and those times required a lot of patience and flexibility on our parts.  Refusing to wear the mittens in 30-degree weather required us to reason with her as best as we could, and in the end, she had to learn it the hard way by letting her hands get cold before crying, "Mittens!"  We also had to relax our expectations a lot, because one minute she'd be happily sitting in the sled or walking in the snow and then out of nowhere, she'd be anxiously asking to be picked up and refusing to be put back down.  We had imagined that she'd enjoy the fluffy and pretty snow, but she turned out to have somewhat of a love-hate relationship with the stuff.  Throughout the trip, she surprised us over and over with both what she was willing to do and what she was unwilling to do.  We have learned that there is always a way around her finickiness as long as we approach her at her level and get creative with negotiations, and that it's necessary to temporarily let go of our own hopes for an experience and find ways to enjoy things the way they are.  Honestly, as long as she's happy and comfortable, we are.  And it continues to be so cool to see how her world opens up at her will, in her time, on her own accord.  Our job is just to expose her, and then it's her choice how far she wants to take it.

We set out on New Year's Day and even after a full day of packing the day before, we still got off to a late start.  I guess we can blame the rain though - that sure did make packing the car a drag!  We stopped for lunch at Black Bear Diner, where she said, "Happy New Year!" to everyone and impressed the waitress with her etiquette (she should see her at home though!).  She also offered and then quickly refused to share her sweet potato fries with Mommy and Daddy.  We ended the day in Oakhurst and did a big grocery run at Raley's, where Zoe exclaimed, "Fuck!" to some of the nice strangers, who didn't understand that she was just trying to say, "Fox!"  Then we checked into the Holiday Inn.  Zoe really liked the magical automatic doors that opened up to the lobby, and excitedly examined the Christmas tree and freaked out in the elevator.  She had never been to a hotel before, so she wasn't sure what to think of long hallways and rooms at first, but then she got comfortable quickly.  She loved flopping on the big beds, pushing the pillows over the side, closing the doors, climbing the luggage cart, and stepping into the walk-in shower.  She got to watch cartoons on a large screen TV for the first time ever the next morning while eating a selection of foods from the lobby breakfast buffet.  Her favorite was the biscuit, which she finished.  Her least favorite was of course the eggs, and she turned her nose up at the flimsy piece of bacon unlike the thick-cut ones that Daddy serves her at home.  

We went from the hotel straight into Yosemite National Park.  We were able to get some nice walking in under the beautiful trees on a closed road leading up to the Mariposa Grove.  We were hoping to tow the wagon up to the trailhead (it's just 2 miles up a fire road, why not?), where we could enter the grove for a little bit and hopefully see some snow.  We made it about half a mile and then Zoe wanted to come out and walk by herself.  Of course, we let her out and then it was tricky getting her back in, so we did not make it very far.  Even as other people blazed past us on the flat closed road and towards the grove, I was content to be right where we were.  We were here, walking under big, beautiful trees with snow lining the sides of the road and breathing in crisp, mountain air.  Zoe was happily taking her time, walking on her two small feet in that adorable toddler shuffle, movements exaggerated by the lumpy winter clothes and clunky snow boots.  She will grow out of both the outfit and the gait pattern by next season.  The goal is no longer to reach a certain point and see a certain sight, it's just to experience joy in the moments.  Then, she signaled to us (quite dramatically) that she was very much done with this activity.  We were far from the beginning of the road, but after a freezing cold diaper change on a picnic table, we lured her back into the wagon with snacks and she fell asleep (with much screaming) as we pulled her back down to the parking lot.  

After Wes walked around in circles with the wagon for an hour down at the parking lot, Zoe woke up and we drove to our AirBNB in Yosemite West.  There was not much snow on the way up there until we got to the very end.  Yosemite West was covered in a thick blanket of snow!  We, the parents, were super excited.  Zoe, however, was very suspicious of the white stuff.  She wanted nothing to do with walking in it.  She was interested in touching it, but uninterested in wearing mittens.  Not to worry though, it was only day one.  She has plenty of time to "warm" up to it.  We filled her portable bathtub with snow and brought it inside of the AirBNB, set it on the floor, and let her go to town with her beach toys and some kitchen measuring cups.  She was very happy with that.  So happy that she was eating the snow with her plastic shovel.  She was so focused that we were able to smoothly unpack and get dinner on the table with little interruption! 

The next day, we woke up to see that yet another blanket of fluffy snow had fallen while we were sleeping.  There was still snow quietly drifting down from the sky.  We went outside to experience it.  Again, Zoe was a little bit unsure, and insisted on being held in our arms most of the time.  She must have been pretty confused.  We tried enticing her with the bright red sled that we brought.  She saw some other kids riding in a green sled across the street, so she agreed to give it a try.  She didn't seem to mind getting pulled up and down the unplowed road by Daddy, but it definitely seemed exhausting for Daddy!  We felt really lucky that we had all of this snow just outside of our front door.  It was nice to be able to pop in and out for small doses of snow play.  The plan was to drive down into the Yosemite Valley today, to see the monuments in the winter.  

Luckily, a snow plow came by and plowed the roads outside of our AirBNB before we left.  The whole drive down was beautiful and pristine.  And the views above and within the valley were just gorgeous.  It was not too crowded either.  We felt so fortunate that we got to see this sight!  We pointed out the huge waterfalls and the iconic Half Dome to Zoe and she still sometimes says, "Half dome in Yosemite!" even weeks after coming back from this trip.  Wes attached skis to the wagon wheels and we dragged it in the snow under the snowy tree branches until it got stuck.  We watched other people throw snowballs and made some little ones of our own.  We sat by a creek and Zoe liked going over the rocks there.  Then, she took some steps in the snow and didn't seem to mind!  The sun came out and it was not too cold, so she didn't need to wear those dreaded mittens.  She was able to pick up the snow the way she wanted and also had the dexterity to manipulate her cheese cracker snacks and chicken nuggets--very important.

We came back to our AirBNB for Zoe's nap and then went back outside for more snow play.  She was more willing to be in it, even sitting down while Wes patiently made penguin after penguin using this penguin mold that he bought on a whim in the Target dollar section right before our trip.  We had a whole army of little snow penguins!  Then, we brought the red sled back out and took turns sledding down the little hill by the AirBNB with Zoe in between our legs.  She did enjoy this and kept asking for more.  Then, it got cold and we went inside for dinner, good times with the harmonica, bathtime, and then bedtime for Zoe while Mommy and Daddy watched Indian Matchmaking.  We were both hooked on that show, which (I am embarrassed to share that) we decided to start because we had ordered Indian food in Oakhurst.

Snow fell again that night, and we decided to spend the morning with first a few rounds of sledding, and then snowshoeing in Yosemite West.  There was a trail that Wes knew of just steps away from our AirBNB, so we followed it all the way up to a 1930's watchtower at the top of a ridge.  It was insane that it still exists and is accessible to people!  Wes climbed up to the top with Zoe on his back and I followed.  It was kind of creepy, with the wind howling all around us while we looked out these 360-degree windows, the only people for miles.  It was also nice to be indoors for a little while though.  Zoe got to come out of the pack and eat her snack without freezing her hands off.  Then, we hiked back down out of the high winds and back to the AirBNB.  Zoe was definitely ready for her nap by then!  

Snowshoeing felt so nice, not only because the snow was so fresh and powdery, but also because it took me back, mentally, to our pre-parenting days.  We used to spontaneously decide to do things like this--get in the car and get fresh tracks after a storm, follow a trail to discover a new and unexpected overlook, hike places where there aren't any other people.  Since we've had Zoe, we have not been able to do any of that.  This time, she actually didn't mind staying in the carrier the whole time, so we went at our pace.  The trail was close by so we didn't have to bring too much.  It was just challenging enough for our out-of-shape legs and the scenery was unbeatable.  Last year, we did snowshoe in Yosemite through beautiful untouched snow, but I was still breastfeeding, so that was a burden that I no longer had to bear this time.  I felt like we had reached a physical and mental place today that I couldn't have imagined just months before.  It was very special.  It was not a long hike, but it felt pretty adventurous and it finally felt like we were doing something just for ourselves (aside from watching Indian Matchmaking after Zoe went down) on this trip.  I'm glad that it worked out for us to be able to fit this in.  

On the morning that we were leaving, it was snowing softly.  We tried to enjoy one last round of sledding, but Zoe was not having it with the snowflakes drifting into her face.  It was beautiful though, and we felt so lucky to have been able to experience so much of a winter wonderland this trip.  It was hard to believe that our time was already over, but also I was definitely ready to stop dressing Zoe in eight layers every time we had to leave the house, and let's not forget diaper changes with all of that!  I would say that my favorite part of the trip wasn't seeing the beautiful sights or even snowshoeing.  It was just getting to spend so much uninterrupted time together as a family.  No house chores, no work-related demands, no errands.  Of course, Zoe still has her needs and can be rigid in a lot of ways.  But she learned a lot too, and in these few days she has been through so many new things and conquered insecurities that I'm sure will help grow her mindset and enrich her worldly experiences.  It's crazy to think that she still has seen so little of what the world has to offer, and that all she knows is still framed by all that we expose her to.  I am excited to continue to create these core memories for her for as long as she is with us, before she goes off on her own out there.

No comments:

Post a Comment