For many, many years, my family and I went to Yosemite every summer for a week. It was always my grandparents, my mom, my two aunts, me, and then any number of other people who would come each year. We stayed in the tent cabins at Tuolumne Meadows, where you had simple cots and wood stoves in your cabin, and you could walk to the showers and bathrooms. It wasn't luxury camping, but it certainly wasn't roughin' it either. My grandparents were in their late 70's and 80's and after decades of backpacking together, they appreciated the enhanced comfort in their later years. The rest of us youngsters had no excuse, but it sure was nice.
All these years later, my mom's parents have both died, but when I go to Yosemite I feel so close to them. I feel their presence and the memories of all those beautiful hours spent hiking and talking and appreciating nature and swimming and reading and playing Scrabble together.
The last two years, I haven't been able to go to Yosemite, and I really miss it a lot. Last year, my dad was sick, and we cancelled our trip. This year, I went to Italy. Also, since my grandparents died, the momentum for a family trip seems to have disintegrated a bit... which is both sad and understandable. So. In absence of a beautiful week in the High Sierra... I did the next best thing and celebrated with a memorial meal: "The Walker."
authentic presentation of "The Walker"
What's "The Walker," you ask? When you stay in the tent cabins, you are supposed to eat your dinner at the "restaurant" there at the campground (a giant tent) - partly so they make more money, and also to attract fewer bears and wild animals to the tent cabin area. So, at night, after a long day of hiking, we would all gather for our nightly meal. But here's the thing: there was only ever one vegetarian option on the menu: "The Walker," featuring a baked potato, the steamed vegetable of the day, and a side salad comprised of 95% lettuce. I think that for one or two years they secretly had vegan veggie burgers, and if you knew to ask, they would make you one... But that came to an abrupt halt.
You would think that a national park in California would have lots of vegetarian visitors, but the menu was not at all accommodating. In our group we usually had anywhere from 3-5 vegans, and night after night after night, we would order the dreaded "Walker." Maybe they just figured vegetarians didn't eat enough protein to have the physical stamina to do more than walk, but after some of our long hikes, that damned baked potato could be quite a bummer! Plus, the only vegan thing they had to put on it was ketchup. Ha ha. It was simultaneously disappointing, annoying, and hilarious.
slightly enhanced walker-experience: extra veggies on my plate, extra veggies on my salad.
And so today, in absence of a trip to Yosemite, I could quickly bring back all those most treasured memories of days spent with my most beloved people with this "excellent" meal! Ha ha. Somehow, even in its total mundaneness - it still felt so special and meaningful to eat this lunch and think of all those summers together. I miss those days a lot.