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Rustic vs. luxurious

We started off slow in Yosemite. On Wednesday morning I got up early and spent the entire morning dawdling over work rather than rushing out and hiking the park. This may seem like a cardinal sin in Yosemite, but I felt like getting some things cleaned up and I was taking advantage of the fact that Robert was running his generator. We’re plugged into it. Since Robert ran the generator for about four hours, we recharged at the rate of about 4 amps/hr and avoided draining the batteries in the morning when I was using the laptop and our furnace use was high.

I’ve found it’s better to avoid using power than to try to recoup it, because you use it far faster than you can recharge. It’s easy to consume 10-20 amps per hour with just a few lights and the furnace cycling on and off, but as I’ve pointed out before, the batteries will only recharge at a certain rate with a 2-stage charger no matter how big your generator is. So two hours of evening usage at 16 amps/hour will take about eight hours to get back with the generator!

I didn’t make the family sit inside while I fiddled with the computer, however. Emma and Allison are always off playing. Kelli and Robert headed off for a walk, and around 2 pm we all headed out for a Ranger program about wildlife in the park. We saw woodpeckers, deer, and red-tailed hawks, but Emma and Allison wanted to see a pika. They live only above the treeline. To see those elusive little critters we’d need to drive about an hour up to Tuolumne.

Yosemite Valley is really more of a small town rather than a quiet park site. It’s much more developed than many other national parks, but this concentrates the visitor impact in a relatively small area, leaving most of the park wild. There’s a great visitor center, theater, educational info, store, post office, etc in the village, and if I stand still I can even make a call once in a while — not that I want to.


Photographically the village (and indeed, the entire park) is ideal. Stand near the meadow for great scenes in every direction. You don’t have to go far to find pictures in Yosemite.


As I mentioned yesterday, Kelli and I are making a regular pilgrimage to the Ahwanee Hotel to borrow their wifi. There is a place in the hotel where you can sit on an overstuffed couch or chair and use your laptop in total comfort. After I had been there half an hour, the staff came over to light a fire in the giant stone fireplace, which warmed me nicely against the cool breeze floating in from the terrace.

The Ahwanee was built in 1927 as part of an effort to make America’s fledgling national park system more attractive to visitors. It’s a beautiful structure, with native American designs embossed in the concrete floors, hung on the walls, painted onto columns, and integrated in every aspect of the architecture. It’s old, rustic, and handsome without being rickety or overly fussy. I’d love to spend a couple of days there but the rooms start at about $385 a night. Our quiet spot half a mile away in the trees is $20 per night, which fits our budget better. Of course, we can’t schedule a masseuse and we have to ration our electricity, but we all see the same scenery.

Speaking of limited utilities, we decided that rather than rationing our water as severely as we did in Yellowstone, we’d live a little more luxuriously. Robert has a pair of 5-gallon buckets into which we can dump gray water. It’s a short walk to a graywater dump by the campground bathrooms, and it turns out that using the two buckets is a lot easier than the traditional “blue tank” in this particular setting.

But refilling our fresh water tank is a bit harder. I tried a 5-gallon flexible plastic water carrier that I bought at Wal-Mart, but it was a real pain, and the spout was too short. So after dark Robert and I hooked up all the water hose we both owned and strung together over 200 feet from the fresh water spigot all the way to our Airstreams. It was quite a production but after a few minor missteps we both ended up with full fresh water tanks and empty gray tanks (and no, we didn’t dump any on the ground). Thus we are set for another several days.

Is this the kind of adventure you want in Yosemite, or are you the type who would go for the Ahwanee every time? It’s a good question to ask oneself before emarking on the full-time life. Sometimes there are the awkward moments, like when I was carrying two sloshing buckets of gray water over to the dump. It’s up to you to decide if the compromises balance the rewards. For our part, we are staying in the Airstream.

4 Responses to “Rustic vs. luxurious”

  1. John P Sargeant Says:

    I recall camping in Algonquin Park in Ontario Canada and stringing hoses together to fill the fresh water tank on our A/S.
    Should have seen the look of consternation on the park ranger’s face as she leaped from the truck and stomped over to my trailer only to stop short when she saw the hose end disappearing into the fill port!
    I love when that happens.

  2. Jim Says:

    CW lists a portable RV fresh water tank 45 Gallon, Catalog Item # 1605, for $87.00. They say it collapses down very small, 11″ X 11″ X 3″ and weighs six pounds. Would seem much easier than toting 40 pounds of water at each arm. They show it posed on truck roof or hood. Siphoning from this height into fresh water tank would seem practical and easy. We’d love to hear if other readers have tried it.


  3. Clarke Says:

    There is also a very nice medical facility in the Village….I know from personal experience….LOL! They really have it all….a decent supermarket, outdoor theater at Curry Village, public transportation, etc.

    On another note, since most of the waterfalls were dried up when we were there in August we plan to return this next May to be able to see the falls with new snow melt cascading over them.

  4. Paula Says:

    A large funnel with a 12-inch flexible plastic tube attached will enable you to fill your fresh water tank more easily from a bucket.