Every family has their traditions: their own way of expressing the love they share. With my family, every year since I was five years old, we have gone on a trip. Now, this is no ordinary trip where we go to a different place when the time comes. This is a trip to one particular spot, during one specific time and place of the year. Before the madness of Easter and Spring Break, my family and I revisit the crisp mountain air of Yosemite National Park. How my family came across this beautiful land, I will never know, but what I do know is that I am forever grateful to know of this place and call it a second home. In Yosemite, the scenery is like a picture: so relaxing and still that it seems unreal. There are so many things to do, but the first step is getting there, and if you get nauseous like I do, I recommend some medicine that will help you sleep and keep your lunch down as you go up the side of these winding roads. It takes roughly eight hours to get to the inside of the park from San Diego, and once you’ve reached the top, you pay a one-time fee for a week-long pass into the park. Now, to the fun part: exploring.
I remember sleeping in a cabin surrounded by the tallest trees, where the only noises I heard were of the leaves falling, winds howling and bear claws as they tried getting into the safe boxes scattered around the camp where we would hide our food. Once the sun came to wake us up, we would get ready for the day. With so much to do, we had to use our time wisely. There are so many different paths we could take, but the one I am most fond of is called “Vernal Falls,” where the trail started off brutal for my five-year-old body, but as I grew and gained strength, the trail became easier. There is a bridge that we get to after the uphill battle where we take deep breaths and enjoy the flowing water that is coming from the waterfall behind us. At times, this is where half of my family splits up because there are only a few of us who can continue going up to the top of the waterfall, so the rest take the children back down and wait for the others to return so we can have dinner at our favorite pizza place. Once we reach the top of the waterfall, I feel as though I can accomplish anything. It is very rewarding to be able to make it to the top and enjoy one of the views of nature so high above everyone else. On the way down, there is a race to the bottom to see who can get down first and the loser buys dinner. No family traditions can go without a little competition.
Now, let me tell you about this pizza place; it makes some of the best pizzas I have ever had. It is authentic and can only be enjoyed with family sitting up in the mountains. There’s not too much sauce and just the right amount of toppings for you to indulge in. Why eat anywhere else? We also cook our own food so we don’t spend too much money, but the pizza place is a must. There is no cell phone service until you get all the way back down the mountain and into the little village right before heading up, which allows us to actually be able to enjoy each other’s company. Stories are being told, laughter is being shared and memories are being made. I love the fact that my family makes it a priority to go on this trip every year. No matter where our family is scattered around the world, we know that we will see one another in Yosemite. I have come a long way from being five years old. My parents started this tradition and as our family grows, these trips get better with age. My cousins and I are older and have kids of our own, so now we take them to our secret place in hopes that they remember these fun times and take their children someday. However, there is one last thing we do before leaving the park: drive to what is called the “tunnel view” of Yosemite, which is perhaps one of the most famous views of the park. From here you can see for miles. We have a great view of the valley as well as Half Dome and various waterfalls. You would need to do a whole 360 to take in the view. It is quite mesmerizing. We silently thank the air as the wind carries our breath into the valley, saving it until we meet again next year.