Monday, August 5, 2013

Dem's Bears in Those Woods Part One #yosemite #vacation

My Adventures as a Yosemite Jr. Ranger

Growing up in New Hampshire, one of my favorite day trips was to visit Bear Brook State park. Outdoors and wooded, you could fish, swim, hike, and explore. I always had a fun just being outdoors. So for me, at a young age, the "outdoors" was embedded in my bones.
Bear Brook, NH
When my husband told me we were going to Yosemite this year, my inner girl got excited and packed my backpack that day.

Let me tell you, getting our spot (#59 in Wawona) was a trek in the wilderness. My husband had his computer, my computer, and his iPad doing the campsite lottery until we got lucky. Oh – Wawona is not on the valley floor so it was about a 45 minute trip into the Yosemite Valley. We didn't mind. We were in. Life was good.

We bought a shade and measured our coolers to make sure they fit into the bear box.

Yep. There's bears in dems woods. The only way to keep your food and toiletries safe is to keep 'em in bear box.

Sadly, there are a couple of "speeding kills bears" around the park where cars have struck bears. The speed limit in Yosemite is low, but it helps keeps them safe. In my ranger book, I learned to: never feed the bears, lock your bear box, don't leave food in your car and throw out your trash. Yes, my inner girl teamed up with my son, Andrew, and we got our Jr. Ranger badges.

Our trip to the park was uneventful. We went to Fresno, changed highways and traveled north until we found the Ponderosa Pines and Granite rocks of Yosemite. It was 20 bucks for a 7 day stay. We entered from the south. Our campsite, Wawona, wasn't far off, but it was busy. Our spot wasn't that far from the river. We pitched our tent, settled in, and visited the general store for some firewood and beer. Next to the general store is a gas station. Needless to say, one look at the price was enough to give me a heart attack.

We settled in after cooking up some grub and visited the outdoor amphitheatre for "Campfire with a Ranger." My inner girl had to go every night, if only to learn something new about the park.

Believe it or not, I didn't see one even after all my prep work. My inner girl didn't mind. I had plenty of adventures without encountering the bears.

Half Dome
On a serious note, I've always been a nature girl and I've always been thankful for growing up in New Hampshire, a mostly rural state. I was always at home swimming in a lake, hiking at Bear Brook, playing on the sand at Hampton Beach, and exploring the quarry near my junior high school. New Hampshire is known as the Granite State and everywhere you turn, you can find it. My grandmother had a big out-of- place granite rock just past her house left over from the ice age.  There's beauty in a rugged landscape that sings a song to the heart which one never forgets and when I went to Yosemite, my inner girl heard that song she hadn't heard in years and it reminded me of those things in life that's special – it's not the things you can buy, but the things that you can hold in your heart.

Next: My inner girl and the boys find Half Dome.


Abraham Lincoln signed a grant in 1864 preserving the land in Yosemite that is now the Mariposa Grove and Yosemite Valley.

The National park Service was established in 1916 to protect parks like Yosemite.

Glaciers were responsible for forming Yosemite thousands of years ago.

Yosemite averages over 3.5 million visitors a year.

In 1890, Yosemite became a National Park.

Author Bio: Stephanie Burkhart is a 911 dispatcher for LAPD. Her latest contemporary romance is "Gifts." Can Famke and Chris make their country's Olympic team despite their challenges?

"A joy to read." 5 Stars, Joy Cagil, Amazon Reviewer. 



  1. Great post! One of my favorite parks! So glad you are enjoying it. If you find yourself with time in Fresno let me know -- I make a great, refreshing grapefruit slush and would enjoy connecting in person.

  2. Awesome post, Stephanie. As a fellow nature girl, i can appreciate the wonder and majesty of Yosemite although I've never been there. I grew up in suburbian CT and now live in the Berkshire Hills of MA. I spent summers camping, hiking, and hanging out at the ponds and lakes close to where I lived. Heaven for me these days is living on four acres of land surrounded by 6,000 acres of woods, bears and all! We have a regular that hangs out in my neighbors field eating dandelions. We call him two-tag Toni since he wears a red tag in each ear from Fish and Wildlife management. We have a very healthy bear population right here in New England!

  3. Steph,

    Did you visit Camp Curry on the Valley floor? I spent time camping in Yosemite many, many years ago. A highlight at that time was each evening after nightfall a bonfire was built on Glacier Point. Then the red hot coals were pushed from the point. It was called the firefall and has long been discontinued. But it was a spectacular sight from out campsite in the valley and one I'll always remember!
    Nancy Kay

  4. I'm also a nature girl. I'd love to visit both NH and out west. So far we've done all the state and national parks in Michigan.

  5. Thanks for sharing Steph! Yosemite speaks to my spiritual side as well.

  6. Loved it, Steph. You can have the bears and the camping, because I'll be in a lodge or a hotel or a motel.
    We did camp even rougher than you did when our kids were young and were excited about such things. I did it all so my kids could grow up and remember going camping--you know, "Making memories for your children."
    But you haven't lived until you go to bed with warm temperatures, and wake up to freezing ones you didn't expect. (Bacon congealed from the cold each time I picked a piece up from the campstove skillet to turn it. Like that! (snap fingers.)Good for you and your husband. Kids need parents like you.

  7. I'm with Celia on the no camping and no bear thing. I'm just too old for that, but swimming, canoing and looking at the beautiful scenery would be wonderful. Junior Ranger--isn't that a National Geographic Magazine for kids?

    I know that Teddy Roosevelt was a big advocate of conservation and national parks.

    Soounds like you had a wondeful family vacation.

  8. You've got me licking my chops! We're planning a trip early next year. Now I know what to look for. Thanks for sharing

  9. Awesome! Can't be Mother Nature for beauty!

    Morgan Mandel