Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin
queerbychoice

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Yosemite, and We're Engaged!

Barry and I went to Yosemite for the second time this year, from October 28 to 31. A certain exciting moment happened there, which I already gave away in the title of this post, but I'm going to try to stick to narrating this in chronological order.

So, I sort of decided in advance of this trip that I really wanted to get engaged during it, and I was probably going to be pretty seriously disappointed if I didn't get engaged during it. This was obviously problematic, because setting up an arbitrary deadline that required Barry's involvement and not even telling Barry about said deadline was clearly unfair to Barry. I tried to prepare some ways I'd be able to stop myself from being disappointed, but I had a feeling I'd probably still end up feeling disappointed anyway. So, taking a different tack, I tried to give Barry some advance warning. In a way, I already had: we'd agreed about two years ago on a time frame that we both felt would be an appropriate point for getting married ("in the third year of our relationship") and we'd arrived at that time frame; we'd subsequently agreed that we both wanted to wait for our most sickly and elderly pets to die first, and they both had died; we'd discussed engagement rings and I'd picked one out and told Barry about it a month or two earlier; we'd made several preliminary house-shopping trips; and I'd asked Barry, on one of the occasions when he was at my house earlier this fall, whether - since there is significant stuff I want to do to my house before we sell it - we could get married first and deal with house buying-and-selling afterward, and he'd said yes. So all signs were that we weren't on wildly different pages. But I still hadn't gotten Barry to specify what he wanted as an engagement ring, nor had he even gotten around to figuring out what size he wears. So it was hard to see how I could prepare a magnificent proposal for him when I couldn't possibly present him with a perfect ring. Also, frankly, it's very confusing to try to subvert the patriarchy by, if you are a woman, getting down on one knee before a man. It's just a weirdly submissive-seeming position to try to claim as a feminist act, you know? So I resorted instead to just dropping an inordinate number of hints, while also feeling bad about only communicating through hints, because in general I'm a great believer in just being bluntly direct about everything so as not to run any risk of misunderstandings.

This is why, on the weekend before our Yosemite trip, when I was saying goodbye to Barry in his driveway, I mentioned to him that according to the Internet being sprayed by the mist of Bridalveil Fall is supposed to improve your chances of getting married, and suggested that maybe I should take him to Bridalveil Fall while we were there. Then I also told him that if he really wanted to get me to stop looking at houses for a while (since we weren't really ready to buy yet), getting me focused on planning a wedding would probably be the one thing that would achieve that.

"So much pressure!" Barry replied, grinning. He must have gotten the hint, because apparently it was the day after that conversation that he placed the order for the engagement ring I'd told him some weeks earlier that I wanted.

And then it was the following Sunday morning, and we were stuffing everything into Barry's truck to go to Yosemite. I had printed out a bunch of directions to all sorts of places in and around Yosemite - more places than I really thought we were likely to have time to see - as backups in case the GPS on Barry's cell phone let us down. Barry had purchased some new rectangular bins to pack our equipment into, and he took a few minutes to work out the quirks of how to stack them and lash them to his truck's ladder rack so as to maintain a clear line of sight for himself. Then we were on the road! We listened to the mix tape I'd made a few trips ago, for our trip to Howard Creek Ranch Inn in 2017, of my favorite songs from various eras of my life; and we alternated it with some podcasts Barry wanted to listen to - primarily one called My Brother, My Brother, and Me, which involves three brothers intentionally dispensing bad advice to people. We stopped in the small town of Mariposa, where I bought Barry some gas, and then we entered Yosemite via the Arch Rock Entrance. We set up camp at the site I'd reserved for us, North Pines Site 103. There was a motorhome adjacent to us on one side, which was kind of nice because the people generally stayed inside it where we didn't see them, and there was a family of four from some European country on the other side of us, with children aged about one and four years old, speaking a language that resembled German but probably wasn't quite German. The one-year-old was a bit loud for a person in general, but probably rather quiet for a one-year-old. Here is our campsite, with Barry's yellow and black bins, my camp stove, and Barry's tent.

North Pines Site 103


Our campsite was directly on the Merced River, near the bridge over the river. You can see the bridge a bit at the left side of the photo above, but you can see it better in the photo below, which shows the view from right next to our tent.

Merced River from North Pines Site 103


After we finished setting up camp, we still had most of the afternoon free, so we filled our hydration packs with water and stuck a small bag of trail mix in each of them, and I asked Barry to drive us to Bridalveil Fall. We walked the half-mile trail that ends at a few benches affording us this view up toward the fall. (Bridalveil Fall is properly referred to as a single fall because it has only one drop for the water to fall over.)

Bridalveil Falls


Many people were climbing on the rocks to approach the fall, as you can see in the picture below. So many, in fact, that it momentarily caused me to blank out on the fact that warning signs specifically instructed people not to leave the path or climb on the rocks, and I asked Barry - though rather unenthusiastically - whether he felt any need to climb on the rocks. He reminded me that the signs said not to, so we didn't. As we were walking back to Barry's truck, I pointed out that this meant we had not been sprayed by the mist of Bridalveil Fall and therefore could not rely on its supposed magical powers to cause us to get married. "This means I have to rely on you to actually want to marry me!" I protested.

Just before we turned back from the fall, Barry asked me whether I wanted a bridal veil like Bridalveil Fall. I said no, wearing a waterfall in our wedding seemed likely to be inconveniently unwieldy. I added that I wanted a bridal cape rather than a veil, and Barry started inquiring further into the details of what kind of cape I might want. I tried at first to answer these questions as if the cape were actually purely hypothetical, but in fact I had already ordered a long white tulle bridal cape, and it had arrived a few days before we left for this Yosemite trip. Yes, we weren't engaged yet. Yes, sometimes I get a little ahead of myself.

Bridalveil Falls


After we got back to the truck and got back on the road, I told Barry I would tell him a secret, and he was allowed to laugh at me for it, but he had to promise to do so lovingly. He promised. So I told him I had already bought a bridal cape. He made further inquiries, and I ended up confessing that I might also have bought a wedding dress. That is, I had certainly bought a dress, but it wasn't marketed as a wedding dress, and I wasn't entirely sure yet whether I wanted to wear it as a wedding dress, but I had bought it specifically because when I saw a picture of it online, I thought it might make a unique wedding dress that would be much more "me" than a more typical wedding dress. I also thought that when I saw it in person I might feel very differently, but that if so, I could always wear it as just a nice dress for other occasions. But when it arrived in the mail, I continued to feel that it might make a good wedding dress, so I put it away in a closet, unworn, so I could continue to consider the matter. And when the bridal cape arrived in the mail and I tried it on over the dress, it made the dress seem more wedding-perfect than ever.

The dress is ankle-length, made of dupioni silk, and has a white background but with floral print (plus blue butterflies) on it. To me, something about the print immediately said "wedding," but it may not say the same to other people. When I described it to Barry, he immediately liked the fact that it was ankle-length rather than floor-length, but he was less sold on the idea of a floral-print wedding dress. I was surprised by this, because his first wife's wedding dress was, to my mind, even more nontraditional: it was shorter and solid red. Anyway, I told him I wasn't fully decided, myself, about whether to wear this particular dress for our wedding or just for our honeymoon, but that I thought he might like it better once he actually saw it.

This conversation about the details of what I would wear to our wedding made me feel greatly reassured that I was not alone in intending to get engaged by the end of this Yosemite trip. But we were both so caught up in the conversation about our wedding - even though we weren't engaged yet! - that we both completely missed the turnoff for Glacier Point and Washburn Point, where we had been planning to go next, and didn't realize we'd missed it until we arrived at the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias (almost a one-hour drive, almost all in the wrong direction). It was too late in the day by now for us to be able to turn back and still make it to Glacier Point and/or Washburn Point before sunset. Luckily, however, the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias also happened to be on the list of places I'd thought might be worth going to anyway, so we decided that having accidentally ended up at it meant that it was time for us to hike in it.

When we were at Yosemite last February, the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias was closed for renovations and construction of a boardwalk to protect the tree roots. It reopened last spring, with a new setup in which visitors are supposed to park far away from the grove and take a free shuttle the rest of the way, except if the visitors are disabled or if the shuttles are not running. In late October, the last shuttle leaves the grove at 6:00 p.m. We arrived at the parking lot at about 4:00 p.m., caught a shuttle at about 4:15, and were dropped off at the grove at about 4:30. There are several different trails to choose from, of very widely varying lengths, but the one that seemed right for us was the Grizzly Giant Loop Trail. Here is the Grizzly Giant tree that the trail we took is named for. It is the oldest tree in the Mariposa Grove, believed to be somewhere between 1,900 and 2,400 years old.

Grizzly Giant


And here is one of the other named sequoias on the trail. This is the California Tunnel Tree, so named because in the nineteenth century, someone carved a tunnel through it for people to walk through. There was a fad in the nineteenth century for doing that to a whole lot of giant sequoia trees throughout California, and a number of them have died since then as a result. Carving a tunnel through a millennium-old tree is generally not a very nice thing to do to the tree. But this tree is still alive so far.

California Tunnel Tree


The Grizzly Giant Loop Trail is a two-mile trail that is said to take about one and a half to two hours. Since we had just barely one and a half hours to finish it, I was anxious not to waste any time, and I kind of half-ran the first mile or so of it. Barry matched my pace, and eventually it became clear that we would get back to the shuttle stop in plenty of time, so we slowed down a bit. We ended up waiting a while to catch the 5:30 shuttle, rather than having to rush to catch the 6:00 one.

By this time, the sun was setting. We made a quick stop at Big Trees Lodge on our way back, just to duck in and see what it looked like. Since we weren't planning to eat there or sleep there, there really wasn't anything very significant to see or do there, but we satisfied our curiosity about what the inside of the building looked like. We also bought some firewood and a bag of ice cubes at Half Dome Village.

Back at our campsite in North Pines, I built a fire, and Barry cooked some frozen skillet pasta meals on the camp stove. Then he made homemade ice cream! This was what we had bought the ice cubes for. We had a large block of ice already in our ice chest that was more than sufficient to keep our food cold, but since we had brought Barry's small-sized ice chest, there hadn't been room to put in a bag of loose ice cubes as well. So we had waited to buy the ice cubes in Yosemite.

Barry put heavy cream in a quart-sized ziplock bag, along with vanilla, erythritol (a sugar alcohol that I had asked him to use as a healthier substitute for sugar) and cinnamon (the flavor of ice cream I had requested). Then he put the quart-sized ziplock bag inside a gallon-sized ziplock bag, added ice cubes and ice-cream salt to the gallon-sized ziplock bag, and started mashing and shaking the bag a whole bunch. He soon got worried that the noise of the bag-shaking might disturb our neighbors (though it did not sound very loud to me at the distance I was at), so he took the bag into his truck to finish the shaking. This led to splattering some salt water on the seats of his truck, requiring a bit of cleanup, but it also led to some very good cinnamon-flavored, sugarfree ice cream. We ate the ice cream directly out of the quart-sized ziplock bag, with two spoons.

After eating the ice cream, we read for a while by the fire. Barry was reading the novel Truckers by Terry Pratchett, and I was reading the novel The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa. I didn't end up liking my novel very much, though. It won a Nobel Prize for literature, yet I didn't feel it was very well written. It switched between three different sets of characters in alternating chapters, and two of the sets of characters bored me so much that I started skipping those chapters and only reading the chapters about the characters who held my interest. When I "finished" reading the book this way. I didn't feel as if I'd missed anything significant by skipping over two thirds of the chapters in the book. But I felt that the chapters I did read had used an unfair narrative gimmick: They were narrated from a third-person limited omniscient point of view, telling the inner thoughts and feelings of only one of the characters - a woman named Urania, who has returned to the Dominican Republic after living all her adult life in the United States - yet a major plot twist near the end of the book reveals something that Urania has known all long, that comes as a surprise to the other characters and also to the reader. I don't think it's fair for the narrator to spend most of the book pretending to tell us all of Urania's thoughts and feelings, and only Urania's thoughts and feelings, only to reveal near the end of the book that actually the narrator has been deliberately withholding from us, for the sake of suspense and surprise, an extremely major reason why Urania has most of those thoughts and feelings.

Anyway, the next morning was Monday, and we packed a lunch into our Bento boxes: sandwiches made of bread rolls cut in half, with mayonnaise, Muenster cheese, and sliced turkey in one compartment, a peeled and halved banana in another compartment, and, because the camping food we'd brought with us didn't turn out to lend itself especially well to variety among Bento box compartments, a mixture of mashed banana and chunky peanut butter in the third compartment. We also packed some ziplock bags of trail mix and, of course, refilled our hydration packs. Then we set off on a long drive on Tioga Road, through Yosemite's high country, and out the eastern border of Yosemite.


Our first stop was Olmsted Point, where there was a quarter-mile hike from the parking lot to a vista point. It afforded us this view of the back side of Half Dome.

Olmsted Point


The short walk allowed me to shoot a few panoramas from slightly different vantage points. I think I took this one from the parking lot.

Olmsted Point panorama


And this one from the vista point at the end of the short hike.

Olmsted Point panorama


The vista point also made a fine background for taking pictures of each other. I really like this picture of Barry.

Barry at Olmsted Point


Here I am at Olmsted Point!

Me at Olmsted Point


Our next stop was Tenaya Lake. I was expecting to find a 2.5-mile trail here, but the Google Maps' driving directions to "Tenaya Lake Trail" led to a random spot on the road that is sort of near, but not within sight of, the trail, rather than to the trailhead.) So, instead, we pulled over into a parking lot at the Tenaya Lake Picnic Area and found ourselves on a very short, perhaps quarter-mile trail to the beach at the east end of the lake. It seems that the so-called "Tenaya Lake Trail" is not necessarily the trail we would have wanted anyway, because it's not really very confined to the Tenaya Lake vicinity. Probably the thing to try next time around would be to start at the Sunrise Lakes Trailhead at the west end of the lake, the join up from there with the Tenaya Lake Trail to go around Tenaya Lake to the beach on the east end of the lake, and then return to our vehicle, skipping the rest of the Tenaya Lake Trail.

But there was nothing wrong with the short trail we took; it was just shorter than I had been planning on. We had quite a nice, slow, easy, romantic walk through the lodgepole pines, on a path wide enough that we were able to hold hands the whole way, with no one else around on the trail, and only a few people off in the distance after we arrived at the lake shore. It was so nice and so romantic, in fact, that although I had previously supposed that the best opportunity for a proposal on this trip was likely to be at the top of Nevada Falls on Tuesday, I started thinking when we arrived at the beach on Tenaya Lake that this might make a perfectly good setting for a proposal as well. Unfortunately, this thought occurred to me at the same moment that I wondered aloud to Barry which of the several picnic tables we should eat lunch at, so I then immediately kicked myself for having verbally taken to focus off the romantic walk and handholding and redirected the focus to mundane questions about where to eat lunch. I resigned myself to having ruined the moment and decided that any proposals would probably still have to wait until Tuesday as I had previously assumed.

We opened our Bento boxes and had a very nice lunch at a picnic table on the beach. We each separately walked out to the lake for a moment, and I took pictures of Barry walking back. Here is Barry walking back toward me at Tenaya Lake.

Barry at Tenaya Lake

Barry at Tenaya Lake (panorama)


The water in the lake was not particularly cold, and we did not see a single flake of snow anywhere along Tioga Road, although there was a bit of white on some far-off peaks visible in the distance. This was surprising for late October, since Tioga Road becomes impassable due to snow each winter, typically beginning at some point in November. A ranger back in North Pines Campground had remarked to me that it was an unseasonably warm fall. She did not actually mutter "Climate change . . ." under her breath and then start sobbing, but I assumed she preferred to try to save that for the privacy of her own cabin.

Anyway, our next intended stop was the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center, but it was closed for the season. Some people had parked their cars anyway to take pictures of the meadow, but we decided we were satisfied with just looking out the window at the meadow as we drove past it. So Barry continued driving east, out the eastern border of Yosemite, through the town of Lee Vining, to Mono Lake.

Mono Lake is at the bottom of a watershed that doesn't drain to the ocean. Because of this, the salts in the water accumulate and are never drained away, making the lake water two to three times as salty as ocean water. The salt accumulation also leads to the formation of limestone spires called tufa, which can form remarkable shapes. We didn't end up getting very close to much tufa, though. The ground was very muddy, and signs warned us that it was unstable near the shore, so we stayed on the boardwalk. There is a longer trail around the lake that affords better views of the tufa, but parts of the trail are below water level at certain times of year, and we didn't feel like getting muddy. You can find much more impressive tufa pictures from Mono Lake if you search Google for them, but here are the pictures I took at Mono Lake.

This first one is basically the view from the parking lot. I was excited to see rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa: the dried flower clumps right next to the trail in the picture below) because I've planted this species in both my yard and Barry's yard. I must say, it didn't look that attractive in the wild. It looks better when it's just a small part of a more varied garden planting.

Mono Lake panorama


Here's a view from closer to the lake.

Mono Lake panorama


And here's the view from the end of the boardwalk.

Mono Lake panorama


We also had another photo op at Mono Lake. Here is Barry at the end of the boardwalk, with a bit of my shadow.

Barry at Mono Lake


And here I am at the end of the boardwalk, with a bit of Barry's shadow.

Mono Lake


After Mono Lake, we stopped at the Whoa Nellie Deli in the town of Lee Vining. We had planned to eat dinner here, but since our hikes at Tenaya Lake and Mono Lake both ended up being much shorter than planned, and since the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center was closed, not all that much time had passed yet since we had eaten lunch, and we weren't really hungry yet. Still, the food looked good and had received rave reviews online, so we decided to order some food to go and carry it around with us until we got hungry. I bought Barry some more gas, and Barry bought a barbecue chicken sandwich with fries. Then he noticed that they also sold carrot cake, and he wished he'd ordered that instead. I encouraged him to order it in addition, and he did. We also looked at the many souvenirs for sale at the Who Nellie Deli, but we didn't buy any. We bought Yosemite souvenirs on our February trip (a keychain Swiss army knife with my name and "Yosemite" on it for me, and a bear refrigerator magnet with "Yosemite" on it for Barry), but we didn't buy any more of them on this trip.

Our next stop happened when we saw signs along the side of the road for the Nunatak Nature Trail, a half-mile loop around Glenn Lake, slightly outside the eastern border of Yosemite, and spontaneously decided to hike it. Here is Glenn Lake.

Nunatak Nature Trail


October is a particularly active time for bears, since they need to eat a lot before they go into hibernation, so Yosemite was even more emphatic than usual (and they are always very emphatic) about the need to make sure not to leave even one crumb of food or anything edible in a vehicle, because bears will smell it and smash the windows to get at it, and these bears will then be even more likely to break into other cars in the future, and the bears may eventually have to be killed if they start hanging around people too much. And the Yosemite park rangers will issue a large fine to the vehicle owner. Although the Nunatak Nature Trail is not in Yosemite, it is still very much in bear country, so we had to carry our food with us on the hike. Here is Barry on the Nunatak Nature Trail, carrying a barbecue chicken sandwich with fries and a slice of carrot cake from the Whoa Nellie Deli.

Barry on the Nunatak Nature Trail


Back inside the border of Yosemite again, we made another impromptu stop to take a picture of this stream we noticed along the side of Tioga Road. I figured out later that it was the Dana Fork of the Tuolumne River.

Tuolumne River Dana Fork


As we were returning to Yosemite Valley, I calculated that we had just enough daylight left to make it to Washburn Point and Glacier Point in time to take a few pictures before the sun finished setting. So we set out to make the trip that we had missed the turnoff for the night before. This time, we didn't miss the turnoff. But we were held up for a few minutes by some road construction, further reducing the amount of daylight left to us. When we arrived at Washburn Point, we jumped out of the truck, ran down the steps to the viewing area, snapped a few pictures, and jumped right back in the truck only about a minute later, so as to continue on to Glacier Point. Due to the darkness, this is the only picture I took at Washburn Point that didn't come out blurry.

Washburn Point panorama


At Glacier Point, there is an 0.6-mile trail from the parking lot to the best viewing area. Since we had only a few minutes of sunlight left, I ran ahead with my camera while Barry was unpacking our food from his truck. He caught up with me along the way. Even the best of my pictures here are slightly soft-focused due to the darkness.

Glacier Point panorama

View from Glacier Point 


I thought this pair of visitors posing for one another's photographs would make a great shot, but it's harder to tell than I had hoped it would be that the woman with the camera was photographing the girl on the rock.

Glacier Point Photography Session

View from Glacier Point


This particular view of Half Dome from Glacier Point is, to my mind, the ultimate Yosemite shot. I don't mean that it's the prettiest - there are many, many other iconic views of Yosemite that have been photographed over and over by millions of different photographers, and a great many of them are prettier than this view of nothing but giant hunks of rock and very faraway trees. But this particular view captures what is unique about Yosemite better than I think any of the others do. You can find beautiful waterfalls, rivers, lakes, and wildlife in many places, but these specific, incredibly massive expanses of lumpy granite, with a river of trees flowing through the low valley between them, are instantly recognizable as Yosemite to anyone who has ever been to Yosemite.

View from Glacier Point


After it got too dark to take pictures, Barry and I sat down on the ground in a corner, out of the way of the other people still lingering, and ate the barbecue chicken sandwich with fries and the carrot cake that we'd been carrying around ever since we left the Whoa Nellie Deli. The sandwich and fries had gotten a bit colder by this time than would have been ideal, but they were still pretty good. After we finished eating, we found our way back to Barry's truck by flashlight. Then Barry drove us back to our campsite, and we made another fire and read some more of our books by the fire.

The next morning, it was time for our big hike: the 5.4-mile Mist Trail, with about 2,000 feet of elevation gain, up past the top of Vernal Falls to the top of Nevada Falls. We packed another lunch into Bento boxes, much the same as the day before's, refilled our hydration packs, and caught a free shuttle to Happy Isles, just across the Happy Isles Bridge from the trailhead. Here is the view from the Happy Isles Bridge, facing north, away from the trail.

Happy Isles Bridge


And here is the view from the same bridge, facing south, toward the trail we were about to hike.

Happy Isles Bridge


A sign at the start of the trail warned us that there would be no drinkable water available anywhere along the trail. (In the past, there has been drinkable water available from the restrooms at the footbridge below Vernal Falls, but these restrooms were closed when we were there.) The signs said to bring a minimum of 3 liters of water per person. We were each wearing full 3-liter hydration packs, so we figured we were sufficiently equipped.

The first photo-worthy landmark along the trail was the gauging station on the Merced River, not very far from the trailhead. It features a little dial where you can observe the current water measurements, and a platform where you can just stand and look at the river. Here is Barry looking at the river from the gauging station.

Barry at the Merced River Gauging Station on the Mist Trail


And here is the Merced River at the gauging station.

Merced River Gauging Station on the Mist Trail


The next photo-worthy landmark was this little rectangular pool built into the side of the trail where there is a natural spring. I recognized it from previous hikes here. As I told Barry, I've hiked this trail many times - but the last time I had hiked it all the way to the top of Nevada Falls, I was only 27 years old.

Mist Trail


The next landmark was the footbridge below Vernal Falls. Here I am at the footbridge!

Me at the Vernal Falls Footbridge


And here is Barry as part of a panorama on the footbridge. This is the view facing upstream, toward Vernal Falls, although you can't see the falls from the footbridge. I really like this picture of Barry!

Barry at Vernal Falls Footbridge (panorama)


This next panorama is the view from the same footbridge, facing away from the falls.

Vernal Falls Footbridge panorama


The next major landmark on the trail was our first glimpse of Vernal Falls. Here is a panoramic view of Vernal Falls from below.

Vernal Falls panorama


Here is the non-panoramic version.

Vernal Falls from Mist Trail


And here is the pool at the base of Vernal Falls. Although you can see people down there, there was no actual trail leading to the base of the falls. I think those people must have scrambled over a bunch of boulders all the way from the footbridge.

Pool at the Foot of Vernal Falls


The steps just before the top of Vernal Falls are the steepest section of the trail. Many of the steps are about two feet high, and it took serious effort to hoist myself up each of them. I had tried to train for this hike by running up and down the slopes of the levees surrounding Marysville, but I probably should have focused on the sections of the levees that have stairsteps rather than slopes. even then, though, the stairsteps wouldn't be anywhere near as tall as these stairsteps. Maybe stepping on and off of a tall chair would be a good way to train. In any case, my attempt at training didn't end up seeming to help much, because I was sore for a solid five days after this hike. I could hardly walk at all for the first three days afterward.

When we arrived at the top of Vernal Falls, we were greeted by wildlife. This squirrel was the first greeter.

Squirrel at Vernal Falls Summit


And the next one was this Steller's Jay.

Steller's Jay at Vernal Falls Summit

Steller's Jay at Vernal Falls Summit


Here is the view straight down from the top of Vernal Falls. (There's a metal railing for safety.)

View Down Vernal Falls from Summit


And here is the view from the same spot, but with the camera aimed up a little more so you can see some of the sky.

View Down Vernal Falls From Summit


Here is Barry at the top of Vernal Falls.

Barry at the Summit of Vernal Falls

Barry at the Summit of Vernal Falls


And here I am at the top of Vernal Falls.

Me at the Summit of Vernal Falls

Me at the Summit of Vernal Falls


We sat down for a while at the top of Vernal Falls to eat the trail mix and fruit roll-ups we'd brought with us. The top of Vernal Falls was also the first place on the trail where there were any open restrooms - just outhouses, but better than nothing. They were set back a bit from the trail, and I commented to Barry that it was probably not a good sign when even just the walk to the restrooms felt exhausting.

We soon got back on the trail and continued up toward Nevada Falls. There was another footbridge just a little past the top of Vernal Falls. Here is the view from that footbridge, facing upstream.

Mist Trail


And here is the view facing downstream, toward Vernal Falls.

Mist Trail


Another hiker caught up with us on this footbridge and offered to take our picture together. We accepted.

Us on the Mist Trail


The next major landmark was the first glimpse of Nevada Falls through the trees. This view was really from a bit off the trail, and we didn't actually step off the trail to see it until we were on our way back down from the top. But I'll include it here to give a sense of where it was located geographically.

Nevada Falls from Mist Trail


As we neared the top, we had this view of Nevada Falls from the trail.

Nevada Falls from Mist Trail


As we approached the top, I again felt a need to drop some more hints that I would like a proposal. I asked Barry what incentives he could offer me to motivate me to make it the rest of the way. "Kisses?" he offered.

"You've kissed me before," I said. "Sorry, it's all gotten old and just doesn't excite me anymore."

Barry then tried bribing me with an offer of sexual favors.

"Yes!" I said. "That definitely seems appropriate in front of a large crowd of people! That is definitely the right bribe for this setting."

Nevada Falls from Mist Trail


And then we were at the top. There was another footbridge here. This is the view from the footbridge, facing upstream.

Nevada Falls Summit


This is the view from the footbridge, facing downstream toward the falls.

Nevada Falls Summit


Here is Barry on the footbridge.

Barry at the Summit of Nevada Falls


Here I am on the footbridge.

Me at the Summit of Nevada Falls


At this point in the picture-taking, we sat down on a couple of parallel rock ledges to eat the lunch we'd packed in our Bento boxes, with our feet hanging slightly above the ground for some much-needed rest. I was still trying to figure out how to get myself engaged to him. Barry noticed this and commented, "You seem lost in thought. What are you thought-ing about?"

"I'm thinking about promoting you," I replied.

"To fie-ance?" Barry asked.

"Yes," I said.

"Well, I was thinking about that too," he said. "But the ring is still stuck in the mail somewhere."

I assured him that the ring was not important; getting married was what was important. (In fact, the ring I had asked for was just a $10 one made from anodized wires in two different shades of blue, twisted together and bound with thinner green wire like tendrils of a vine. I liked it because it felt symbolically appropriate, looked festive, and didn't pretend to be anything more expensive than it was - and because I felt that it made little sense to spend a lot of money on an engagement ring if I were just going to wear it for a short time and then replace it with a wedding ring. A wedding ring needs to be made of durable and therefore somewhat costly materials to survive a lifetime of daily wear, but an engagement ring only needs to last for the duration of the engagement. I did not plan to have a particularly long engagement; I've already done that and didn't care for the experience.)

"Well, should I make a big show of going down on one knee for you?" Barry asked. He was worried, he later told me, that this might be too patriarchal for my taste. I had no strong feelings about it one way or the other; again, getting married was what was important. Also, we were still eating lunch; it was a little awkward to put our food down and assume traditional positions for no apparent reason.

"I think as long as we set a date to get married, or agree that we will set a date next time we have a calendar handy, we can consider ourselves to have done it correctly," I said.

"Will you marry me?" Barry asked.

"Yes!" I said. And then I added, for good measure, "Will you marry me?"

"Yes," Barry confirmed. "I wasn't planning to get one of those modern types of marriages where one of you gets married but the other one remains single."

"Good," I said.

We discussed wedding dates as we fiinished our lunch, agreed on an approximate marriage date of "April or May," and then had an engagement kiss. Then, holding hands, we wandered back to the other side of the footbridge, where there was a railing that allowed people to walk right next to the edge of the falls, which we hadn't walked down to before. As we walked, we talked about wedding dresses. Barry had cellphone reception on top of Nevada Falls, so he showed me some wedding dresses he'd noticed online and thought I might like, with colorful ombre dyes. I did like the general concept of them, but I'd seen similar wedding dresses before and had determined that they were hugely expensive, so Barry and I tracked down a price tag on these and confirmed what I suspected, that they cost thousands of dollars. I did not have any interest in paying thousands of dollars for a wedding dress. I tried to show Barry the potential wedding dress I'd already bought, but not only had I had it made with a customized pattern, but even the fabric I'd had it made from was already no longer available online. The closest picture I was able to find to show him was a fabric with the same floral pattern and butterflies but on a black background rather than a white background. It didn't really give the same effect. Barry remained unsure about the dress, but he said if it was really what I wanted to wear, then I should wear it. I said, again, that I was still thinking about it and not sure yet whether or not it was what I wanted to wear.

He helped me down a steep rock, and we approached the railing to look over the edge of Nevada Falls. Here is the picture I took of the view down the falls.

View Down Nevada Falls From Summit


Here is the view back toward the footbridge.

Nevada Falls Summit


Then we took more pictures of each other. Here is Barry, looking newly engaged!

Barry, Newly Engaged!



Barry, Newly Engaged!


And here am I, looking newly engaged!

Me, Newly Engaged!


There was a group of three hikers eating lunch on the ground near us, and I asked Barry whether we should ask them to take a picture of us together. Barry agreed that this seemed like a good idea, and then, because I hesitated a moment, not eager to be the one to approach strangers, he asked me whether he had to be the one to ask. I supposed that since it was my camera and my idea, I should probably do the asking, so I did. The lone woman in the group of three eagerly agreed to take our picture. She cut off a bit of our feet, but I suppose we got what we paid for in engagement photoshoots. (We did not tell her we had just gotten engaged.)

Newly Engaged!


And then it was time for the long hike back down. We first made a pit stop at the outhouses just below the top of Nevada Falls. These and the outhouses at the top of Vernal Falls were the only restrooms open anywhere along the trail. Anyway, we got back on the trail and descended probably twenty minutes or so below that point before I asked Barry to hand me my camera - I'd asked him to carry it for me because it was throwing my balance off a little, and he has vastly better balance than I do - and he turned to me with a stricken look on his face. He did not have my camera. He must have left it in the restroom, he said. I said I might have been the one who left it in the restroom. We were both rather horrified by the prospect oh having lost my rather expensive camera, with all the photos from our entire trip on it, immediately after having gotten engaged. Barry told me to stay where I was while he raced back up, at a faster pace than I could have kept up with, to try to retrieve my camera if he possibly could. I told him to check both sides of the outhouse in case I was the one who had left my camera behind.

And then he was gone. I waited and worried, watching various other hikers go by. Finally, Barry was back, with my camera in his hands. He had saved the day! Though he said he was the one who had left my camera behind in the first place. Anyway, it didn't matter anymore, because all was now well again.

Well, perhaps not quite all was well. Because it was shortly after this that my hydration pack ran dry. And it was only a couple of minutes later that Barry's hydration pack also ran dry. We were still well above Vernal Falls, only a little over halfway done with our hike. It was worrisome.

It didn't end up seeming like as big a deal as we initially feared, though. We had guzzled so much water on the way up that some of it was still sustaining us. Although I definitely would have been drinking water the whole way down if I'd had any water left to drink, I didn't feel any real desperation for more water. Which was good, because we had to get not only back to the trailhead but all the way back to our own campsite before we got any water.

Mostly what I wanted was to sit down and not have to hike anymore. But that would have meant going longer without water, so we didn't do much sitting down. I just kept plodding along as fast as I could, which was often significantly slower than Barry could. Barry took this picture of me descending the stairs between Vernal Falls and the footbridge below it.

Me Descending the Mist Trail


Our hike took a total of about six and a half hours. After we took the shuttle back to North Pines Campground and walked back to our campsite, there was still a bit of daylight left, but not enough to motivate us to try to go anywhere when we were already exhausted and sore. Instead, we guzzled plenty more water, and Barry cooked some sausages and hash browns on the camp stove, and we enjoyed our final campfire of the trip.

The next day was Halloween. We packed up our camp and set out for home - but first, we stopped at Hetch Hetchy Reservoir on our way out of Yosemite. Hetch Hetchy was once a beautiful valley - like a second Yosemite Valley, according to the naturalist John Muir - until it was dammed and flooded, over John Muir's strenuous objections, to provide drinking water for the city of San Francisco. Which Barry drank for a number of years, while he was earning his M.B.A. at San Francisco State University and then working at various tech start-ups in Daly City, so I thought it was particularly important that he should go look at where his drinking water used to come from.

This stream just downstream of the dam is probably a fair representation of what all of Hetch Hetchy Valley originally looked like.

Hetch Hetchy


This was my attempt to zoom in on what Barry termed a "wrong-way waterfall," where the water being released from the dam was shooting up into the air because it had been under so much pressure. (The bit of white near the bottom center of the photo is the water.)

Hetch Hetchy


This is the O'Shaughnessy Dam, built between 1919 and 1923.

O'Shaughnessy Dam at Hetch Hetchy


This is the base of the O'Shaughnessy Dam, where water flows out of it.

O'Shaughnessy Dam at Hetch Hetchy


This is Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, created by the O'Shaughnessy Dam.

Hetch Hetchy


This is Barry on the O'Shaughnessy Dam.

Barry at Hetch Hetchy


This is me on the O'Shaughnessy Dam.

Me at Hetch Hetchy


And here are a couple of panoramic views of the O'Shaughnessy Dam and Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.

Hetch Hetchy panorama

Hetch Hetchy panorama


We got back to Barry's house early enough on Halloween for Barry to decorate it for trick-or-treaters and for me to hand out candy to them. That was Wednesday. On Thursday, I emailed my parents to tell them we are engaged. On Friday, Barry's parents came over to his house, and we told them in person that we are engaged. Later on Friday, my engagement ring arrived in the mail.

engagement ring


My wedding ring is the more "real," expensive, and durable ring, though, and I bought that on Etsy way back in July 2017. It was a vintage ring, and there was only one available, and it just happened to be the perfect size for me, and the perfect design also, so I decided to buy it while I could and save it in the hope that it could become a wedding ring later. And now it will! It is 18K rose gold with a tiny, inset diamond, and it is the best ring ever.

wedding ring


On Saturday, we went to the Woodland house of our friends Corey and Renee, for our semi-regular Saturday game of The Rise of Queensdale with them, and told them we are engaged, and enlisted them to host our wedding in their Santa Rosa house. It was at their house that we picked out a specific wedding date. Then we drove to my house in Marysville together on Saturday night, in preparation to attend the Sikh Parade in Yuba City the following day. In Marysville, I found that a pin I had mail-ordered to go with my wedding outfit had arrived, and I put on my potential wedding dress and the white tulle bridal cape and the pin, and modeled them for Barry (who said he wasn't supposed to see them ahead of time, but I told him I didn't care). After actually seeing them, he was very much more convinced of the wedding-appropriateness of my floral-print dress, and I think I have now fully decided that it is indeed the right dress for me to get married in. It is important to me to look and feel like myself for our wedding, and a lot of the traditional wedding stuff does not feel like me - but wearing a jeweled pin as the clasp of a cape feels much more "me" than a necklace and veil would, and this dress feels extremely "me" whereas the typical wedding dresses with see-through "illusion" sleeves or no sleeves at all would feel significantly less "me." The cape needs to be trimmed slightly to better match my dress, and I might add a few things to fancy up the dress a little more, but the main thing I still need to figure out what to do with is my hair. I think I want it "up" somehow, perhaps in either a crown braid or a twisted crown braid, whichever is easier. But I'm not sure I'll be able to do either of them myself, so probably I'll either need to teach Barry to do it or find a female friend who can do it. Renee might be able to. But it would be easier to practice in advance with Barry.

That Saturday night, I announced our engagement on Facebook. The next day, Sunday, we went to the Sikh Parade, where we were supposed to meet up with Barry's parents and a bunch of friends. Barry's parents were also supposed to drive Barry back to his own house. However, they arrived before we did, ate all they wanted of the free food, and left before we managed to park. So Barry arranged to get a ride back to his house from Corey instead. We arrived before any of Barry's friends and got some free food on our own. Corey arrived next, without Renee, and then Richard (Barry's best man) without Adriel, and then Maggy, and then we walked all the way to the other end of the parade route to meet up with Rebecka and Jordan. (The walking was a bit challenging for me because, although this was November 4, my poor leg muscles and my poor blistered feet were still not entirely recovered from the Nevada-Vernal Falls hike on October 30.) We went shopping at a Punjabi bazaar that had been set up for the parade. I was interested in some very fancy Indian shoes that looked wedding-appropriate; I later found out that they were actually Indian wedding shoes, which explains why they looked so wedding-appropriate. However, the largest shoes they had were too small for me, so I couldn't wear them. I searched online for them later and may still end up wearing some, if I can get a good fit. Fancy shoes are especially important with an ankle-length dress!

Corey drove Barry home from the parade, and took the opportunity to suggest various honeymoon destinations to Barry. One of them stuck: we are planning to stay at the Madonna Inn for part of our honeymoon. I think we've also picked out a second place, a bed and breakfast, where we will stay for one of the nights.

That was Sunday, November 4. On Thursday, November 8, the town of Paradise burned down in the Camp Fire, rendering at least one friend of a friend of mine homeless, and inundating much of the state of California with smoke. Barry and I drove through Paradise just last summer, for one of the trips we took for my birthday. It was a very pretty town, but now it is largely gone. It will be rebuilt, of course, though it arguably shouldn't be, and its fire-safety standards will probably not be much better than before. And climate change is only going to keep getting worse.

On the following weekend, November 10-11, Barry and I went to his parents' house. They are having their house renovated, moving some walls around and rearranging bathrooms and closets. It was a very alien idea to me, to move walls around; it's not part of my life experience. Anyway, Barry's parents offered to pay for our entire honeymoon, with minor limitations about not going too crazy. So that was nice.

I went back to Marysville that Sunday night, equipped with a dust mask Barry loaned me to help me breathe in the smoky air. But I also installed an air-quality app on my cell phone and started comparing the air quality in Woodland versus Marysville (well, Marysville wasn't listed in the app, so I used nearby Yuba City as a proxy for it). Woodland had fairly consistently less terrible air than Yuba City, although that isn't saying much. But it was saying enough that I decided to pack my cat Stardust into my car and head back to Woodland on Tuesday night and work from Barry's house for the rest of the week. So that's what I did.

Barry and I have been making decent progress, I think, with our wedding planning. The best piece of wedding-planning advice that I came across was to write a wedding mission statement; it sounded odd, but it turns out to be useful for clarifying what is worth doing and what isn't. Barry and I decided that our mission is to convey to our family and friends why we like each other so much, partly as a way of helping them get to know us better, and partly so that if we ever start to forget, at some point in the future, why we ever liked each other so much, people will remind us. (I came up with this mission statement and supplied it to Barry, who said, "I like that. I especially like that it's selfish - it's focused on what we ourselves get out of it.") So we quickly decided, for example, that we don't want a florist, because buying professionally grown flowers would not help convey why we like each other so much. We are focusing instead on things that help convey the story of our relationship and why we are ideally matched. In that vein, I've drafted a wedding website that briefly tells how we met and how we decided to get married, and I assembled an online photo album for the wedding website, and I'm going to assemble a scrapbook of our relationship mementoes for display at the wedding. There will probably be more along this line; I think we will each write up a page or two for display or handout or something at the wedding, about why we like the other one so much.

Barry had no trouble recruiting a best man and an officiant from among his friends. My own friends are more difficult to schedule. I tried to recruit two co-matrons of honor, but it turns out I picked an inconvenient wedding date for both of them, so one of them definitely can't attend (she's accompanying her husband to run in the Boston Marathon that weekend) and the other one probably can't attend (she's probably going to be making a movie in Europe, but there is some chance the moviemaking plans may fall through or be rescheduled, so she's a maybe). So I recruited two bridesmatrons who fairly definitely can attend, and if the probably-not-available matron of honor ends up becoming definitely not available, I can promote the two bridesmatrons to matrons of honor at the last minute.

I got quotes from a couple of photographers and now have a leading candidate for a photographer. We decided that we can round up enough basically matching tables from Barry's board-gaming friends, and that we will need to rent chairs. We didn't decide where to rent the chairs from, but I verified that there are some reasonable options to choose from. We found some tablecloths and table runners that we can buy for less than the price of most rentals; I ordered a sample so we can make sure we like it before we order as many as we need. We decided that we don't want any dancing - this was part of the broader "we want to feel like ourselves" theme, because Barry said he wouldn't normally have dancing when he threw a party, so why should he have dancing now either? And I was rather relieved, because I wouldn't normally dance, especially not in front of an audience, and this means I don't have to. We haven't picked a caterer, but we decided that food will be dropped off on location and guests can serve themselves, buffet style; and we decided that we do not want to serve alcohol. Cake-wise, we know a very talented, professional cake decorator, so I think we will ask her first. And invitation-wise, we finalized the guest list this evening, and Barry is going to design some invitations and lasercut them himself.

This weekend we attended a "Friendsgiving" celebration, because my millennial fiancé and his millennial friends do millennial things together. (Sadly, friends Jason and Corey and Renee, all of whom could have spared me from being the oldest person in the room, did not attend Friendsgiving, so I was indeed the oldest person in the room.) Barry made four sweet potato pies and a bunch of deviled eggs; he gave two of the sweet potato pies to Corey and received banana bread in exchange. He forgot the deviled eggs at home, so I get to eat all the deviled eggs myself. (I love deviled eggs.) He brought the two remaining sweet potato pies to Friendsgiving, and also the banana bread. I made homemade bread and rolls for Friendsgiving. Only about half of what we brought got eaten, so we came back home with one sweet potato pie, half a banana bread, and half the rolls - the homemade bread was less than half eaten, but I managed to give it away to the host of the party.) I ended up really overstuffed! I am not sure how I can possibly be hungry again in time for Thanksgiving on Thursday. But I will have to find a way, because Barry's parents are having my parents and my brother and Barry and I over for Thanksgiving, and Barry is going to be cooking the turkey with his sous vide, and it is going to be delicious.

Mostly, my life these days seems to consist mainly of the way I keep randomly exclaiming to Barry out of nowhere that I still want to marry him, and I really think we should get married, and will he really marry me? And equally randomly and out of nowhere, he keeps looking at me and getting a dreamy smile on his face, and then explaining, "Sorry, I was just thinking about how you're going to be my wife." It is great and amazing and blissful, and nobody ever told me that wedding planning could be this much fun.
Tags: barry, photographs
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