I think we all left part of our hearts in Groveland. It's a little gateway town into Yosemite proper, and has been for as long as it's existed. Once a mining town, not uncommon for small northern California cities, it boasts the oldest continuously open saloon in the state. It also boasts some of the most open-hearted, free handed people we met on this trip and the start of our strangers-becoming-friends-becoming-family adventures.
I'll let Paul and James tell you of how they met Tammy, but know that the woman is a gem in her own right and deserves to be canonized. She put us up for about 8 nights in her inn, free of charge or allowing us to help with the bedding and plants. No really. It was like showing up 100 years ago and working for your room and board, with the added benefit of getting to know the close circle of the innkeeper, share a meal with strangers-now-friends, and carry someone's JetBoil with you because they wanted to know their camper stove made it all the way to D.C.
All in all, it was very cool.
At the Iron Door, we looked up and noticed a serious of mysteriously sticky dollar bills floating on the underside of the raised wood ceiling. Turns out there's a technique making the dollar into a dart (involving a quarter), and the locals would make a game of throwing them up there. We should have thrown one, and it's a small little road regret of mine that I carry. Tammy told us of when she was coming up in Groveland as a teen and that bar was packed with Friday night concerts and developed into a particular haunt of The Grateful Dead, per some connections of the owner. "It's not like it used to be," she said with a sad smile.
Tammy then humored us by reading the adults a children's book - "Oh, the Places You'll Go", as we sat outside Sage Cafe (which is also a nursery, which is also a gift shop, which is so much more than so many Starbucks we've seen. You can't buy character). She said that book was one she read to all her closest at all the most important parts of their lives, and frequently gave away. That day, it was ours to hear for ourselves.
Sitting in the back of Sage cafe and listening to Tammy read, we bumped into another small group crossing Yosemite. A city-born group from San Francisco made up of a couple of explorers that took teenagers out to experience the wild. At the time, they were making lunch. They exuded positivity and peace, and it was contagious.
We could tell you all about our adventures at MarVal, the town grocery store, or Bob of Bob's adventure store, or who we found 4 pairs of used top-brand hiking boots at ECHO co-op (just my size), and all the trail angels that stepped out of the woodwork to ease our way.
But, we chose to spend the time getting to know them, and our journaling skills will go on as we improve.
For now, know that Groveland holds a special place in our hearts, and we hope that in the midst of the fires (as of this point, mid-August, we received a text from Tammy saying they are all evacuated and the police are scouting for looters) that it returns again to normal.
In a world where everything was so naturally crazy, it was a rose amidst the thorns, and we hope Providence and Nature spares it so it can continue to bloom.
- Katrina Dobieski