Last week we found ourselves in Yosemite. Well, no one casually “finds themselves” in Yosemite National Park. For most people, it is a deliberate and planned event. Especially in the middle of summer, when Yosemite resembles a coup in action and tourists from all over the world armed with dangerous kids and cameras run over the park, causing lines and jams so bad that rush hour seems like a vacation instead.
A few years ago a park ranger had handed us a panoramic postcard of Tuolumne Meadows covered with flowers as far as the camera could see. She’d said, “Come back between the middle and end of July and this is what you’ll see.” That postcard, now prominently magnetized on our refrigerator, was responsible for this trip.
After hours of driving and a long delay to enter the park, we finally got to the meadows. Unfortunately, Lady Luck was the usual cruel mistress and Tuolumne Meadows was bare. Sure there was green grass and a scattering of weeds, but not a huge meadow saturated with wild flowers swaying mildly in the breeze.
Disappointed, we walked into the Visitor Center to get an explanation from a ranger. The National Park Service had somehow gone back to the 1960’s and picked up a young hippie from the corner of Haight and Ashbury and outfitted him in a smart uniform that could not disguise his true identity.
He pointed his beard to a picture on the wall, “You mean flowers like that? We haven’t had that in years.” Emphasis on years.
We were convinced that the postcard was nothing but modern photography trickery, more dangerous than black magic or voodoo. Some evil mind had used the superlative power of PhotoShop to enhance this picture just like baseball statistics juiced up on steroids.
Then he added, “But Lukens Lake was like that last week.” We left the building with a new destination and hopes of seeing a meadow, no matter how small, covered with flowers. Our unintended hike was on.