Tag Archive for: Ahwahnee

Doing is believing

Tossing rocks (and pinecones) into the Merced.

Tossing rocks (and pinecones) into the Merced.

There are logical reasons why touch tanks always are kids’ favorite part of the aquarium. The exhibits are at kid-level! They’ve got stuff kids can reach in and grab! Most important: They are one of the only places in the facility where kids can DO instead of just SEE.

This last reality is one we traveling parents often overlook. Yes, it’s amazing to expose our kids to international cities and world-class museums and great music and all sorts of cultural phenomena like that. It’s also a big deal to let ‘em get down on their knees, roll up their sleeves and interact with stuff for themselves.

I was reminded of this last weekend, during our storybook family vacation to Yosemite National Park.

Sure, the kids loved it when we hiked to Mirror Lake. And yes, they loved it when we traipsed around Yosemite Valley for different perspectives on Yosemite Falls, the highest measured waterfall in North America.

But they were happiest when they were able to get their hands on the nature around them.

The first example of this came during our hike (from The Ahwahnee hotel) to the lake. About halfway out, L and R insisted on wandering off-trail, exploring the granite boulders around us for “cozy hideaways” for fairies. I monitored these activities closely; technically they weren’t supposed to be off-trail at all, and the terrain wasn’t exactly easy to navigate. Still, amid the boulders, picking at moss and leaves and all sorts of other stuff around them, the girls played for hours (literally).

The second example of the importance of doing came toward the end of our visit, on a day when L and I went out to explore while R and Powerwoman napped back in the room.

My older daughter and I wandered out of the hotel and back toward the Merced River. There, along the riverbank, we spent 15 minutes tossing pinecones into the current and watching them head downstream. I could tell L was curious about something, so I asked her if there was anything else she’d like to do. Her response: “I want to feel the water, Dad.”

And so, I let her. I held her jacket while she leaned out from the side of the bank and dipped her hands in the Merced. Once her hands were wet, she pulled them back and wiped the water on her tiny face. As the droplets ran down her cheeks, she stuck out her tongue and giggled.

“It’s cold!” she commented. Then she dipped her hands in again. And again.

To be honest, I had no idea how meaningful that moment was until the drive home. Somewhere around Mariposa, my wife turned around and asked the girls what they liked best about our trip.

R’s answer was simple: She loved the waterfalls. L’s response, however, caught both of us grownups off-guard. “My favorite part was feeling the river,” she said. “It was fun to see the waterfalls but touching the water itself was amazing.”

I’m not sure I could have said it better myself.

The yin and yang of family travel

Outside The Ahwahnee, right after we arrived.

Outside The Ahwahnee, right after we arrived.

Five days have passed since our family excursion to Yosemite National Park and The Ahwahnee Hotel. Though the trip was, by its very nature, a dream come true, the adventure included stratospheric highs and horrendous lows.

Chronicling the highpoints is easy. On the list: Watching the girls seek “cozy hideaways” for fairies as we hiked amid granite boulders on the way to Mirror Lake, hearing the kids sing songs from “Frozen” as Little R experienced snow for the first time in her life, taking them to the Curry Village Pizza Deck, helping L put her hands and face in the Merced River to see what it felt like, and, of course, spotting a bobcat slink by less than five feet away.

Of course watching my girls watch Yosemite Falls also was pretty amazing—the baby could not get over the fact that the waterfall never “shut off.”

The lowpoints are just as easy to enumerate.

Like the mid-brunch tantrum on the last morning that featured L scratching her mother like that aforementioned bobcat. Or R’s insistence on being carried for the duration of a 3-mile hike.

Both of these experiences paled in comparison to the indisputable nadir: The night when my 2-year-old daughter kicked me out of the bed we were sharing and screamed like a banshee until I agreed to sleep on the floor.

(At first this scene amused me; then I realized I was paying close to $500 a night to camp in a hotel.)

Personally, I expected the trip to have a little yin and yang—this is what happens when you travel with two humans under the age of 6. Still, I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t at least a little surprised by just how much yang there was on this particular adventure, especially considering how well the kids did on our last major adventure in London.

Overall, the experience was a perfect reminder of what family travel really is—beautiful, frustrating, exhilarating, and exhausting. Yes, there were low points. But there also were high points, and all it takes is one of those to make a memory that can last a lifetime for any of us.

Family travel experts who start young

Next week, we'll be here.

Next week, we’ll be here.

As Powerwoman and I make final preparations for next week’s road trip from our home in Northern California to Yosemite National Park, we’ve come up against a rather opinionated family travel expert: our own 4-year-old.

Apparently, since L has amassed multitudes of experience on the road, she has developed firm particulars about what she will and will not accept during a long haul in the car.

On the whitelist: Taylor Swift music, goldfish crackers, Etch-a-Sketch, and playground stops.

On the blacklist: Naps, male singers (including Mumford & Sons, unfortunately), uninterrupted drive times of more than two hours, and carrot sticks.

Our daughter also has shared deep thoughts about hotels over the last few weeks, seemingly in the hopes that we will base our planning decisions on her wants and likes (we won’t; we’re staying here). Some of the more notable statements: 1) Hotel rooms with extra space are better because that way the two sisters can run around “like maniacs,” 2) Sometimes the “toilet seats in hotel bathrooms are too big,” and 3) It is annoying when Daddy has to spend time talking to his “friends” who run hotels.

Yes, these statements are completely ridiculous (especially No. 2). But they’re also true. And they’ve led Powerwoman and me to marvel at how insightful our jet-setting preschooler has become in her short time with a frequent flier number.

We’re not the only parents to marvel at this type of precociousness.

Friend and fellow travel blogger Katie Wood Dillon, a.k.a., La Jolla Mom, recently posted on Facebook about a similar experience with her 6-year-old. With Katie’s permission, here’s the snip:

“I just had the option to upgrade/re-route our mileage flights so thought I’d run the options by [my daughter]. She rejected international first class (!!!) on American Airlines for business class on Japan Airlines citing cold green tea, Pac-Man on the inflight entertainment and beef curry at the Narita lounge. In the same breath, she stated that American Airlines planes smell worse and that she’ll do anything to avoid flying a regional jet unless we’re going to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific which is the best airline ever. At 6-years-old, all of this is so incredibly accurate that I can almost not handle it.”

When did these little humans become so smart? When did they become so perceptive? Are the ins and outs of travel THAT obvious? Most important: What else can our kids teach us about the vagaries and eccentricities and realities of travel we have come to accept as normal?

I’m not sure I know the answer to any of these questions. But I sure as heck am going to turn to the family’s newest travel expert to try and figure things out.