The other evening, I glanced out the window to the west and the sun was a large orange ball. That same image is stamped in my memory. I was a young naval officer and had just made a long trip from San Francisco to Yokosuka, Naval Base in Japan. My two years of active duty were about to begin; my dancin’ days were on hold. If I’d been a turtle, I would have crawled back into my shell, but life does not make exceptions, so my new life began.
When it was time to leave our patrol off Korea, we would return to Yokosuka, and this gave me opportunities explore. I visited Zushi, a fisherman’s village, found a large glass float and brought it back to my ship. Another time, I clambered aboard a high-speed train to Tokyo. I strolled along the Ginza, an affluent shopping area. At Mikimoto’s pearl emporium, I bought several strands of pearls at pitifully low prices. On another visit I stayed at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Imperial Hotel.
From Japan, my ship the Essex, visited Hong Kong. Hong Kong was a duty-free area and Tailor Chung took my measurement, we picked out a fabric and the next day my new suit was ready. I also took the ferry across the harbor to Kowloon. The next day I rode the cable car to the top of the Peak. It was a scene from “Love is a many splendored thing.”
Once back in civilian life, backpacking into the Sierra becomes my passion. I hike the most remote trails I can find and catch golden trout on flies I tie myself. For most of my life, I have considered Yosemite my own personal paradise. Climbing the slippery steps of the Mist Trail to the top of Vernal Falls is an unforgettable experience. Another favorite is Awahnee Hotel and sitting in front of the cave style fireplace.
The nightly Ranger’s program at Camp Curry is a must. At the conclusion of the evening, the Ranger calls out, as loud as he can, “Hello Glacier Point,” and a Ranger high up the mountain side returns with, “Hello Camp Curry,” and the Ranger in Camp Curry replies, “Let the fire fall.” Moments later glowing coals float gently to the Valley floor. How can something so simple be so entertaining? No neon, no drum roll, nary a flashing light, just torchy hot embers drifting into the night; simplicity trumps excitement and we are moved.
Time marches on. Daughter Marla visits from Kentucky. I contact NPS.gov/yos and arrange a day trip reservation ($35 for 3 days). We arrive at the Tioga Entrance; I am given a sticker for my windshield. Ten minutes later, we pull off to the side of the road. Marla is out of the car walking barefoot in the soft grass and testing the snowmelt stream and happy as if she were still a kid.
The world is filled with beauty and diversity just waiting to be savored. Times awastin’, get out there.
Ron Walker can be reached at email@example.com