The Professor Goes West//Day 17//Screen Free Road Trip

Day 17—Tuesday, June 5, 2018

We woke early and cold—excited to go back to the valley of Yosemite. By the time we got there it was crowded and we spent awhile searching for a parking spot—but we did not mind as we had a great view.

We parked alongside a meadow with a trail and boardwalk that lead us through the grasses and over the Merced River—Merced means “mercy” and all the beauty we saw there was certainly a mercy.

We took a short trail to the lower Yosemite Falls which were so pretty as white water poured over the gray rock spraying our arms and faces. We sat on large rocks facing the falls and just felt the view. Then we took a trail to the visitor center and bought a new water bottle and some postcards. We ate a snack lunch of popcorn and fried chick peas and carrots before looking at the Ansel Adams gallery and purchasing a few prints to frame.

We then took the valley shuttle to the Mirror Lake trail which was a rocky, tree rooty trail through stunning scenery with Half Dome to the right and another rocky face to the left. The lake was mostly dry with Tenaya Creek running through it. We followed the example of others and all waded through the clear freezing water to the other side. T rode on the professor’s back. The girls enjoyed the cold water so much that they waded much longer than I liked to. The whole experience was fun and a bit thrilling. Once we were all dry, there was a paved easy bike path road we hiked back to the shuttle stop. While we waited to be picked up, the kids played on a giant rock that was smooth and big enough to be used as a slide.

The bus ride was long and crowded—when we got dropped off we walked back across the field to our car and then headed up the Glacier Point Road to get a view of the whole valley. The view was quite breathtaking as we could see all the sights we looked at below from above them and even more. We saw the Nevada Falls and distant peaks. I loved just sitting on a rock close to the edge and feeling the view. The kids delighted in climbing on the huge rocks at the point pretending to be mountain goats. We ate a picnic dinner out of the cooler before heading back to cap to have a fire and s’mores.

There are a number of things that I think are Very Important Parts of Childhood. One of them is the long, boring road trip where one has to make oneself happy with one’s own imagination and enjoy/annoy each other. That being said we have never, ever used the DVD player in our car to entertain our children on trips. We have also never let them use a tablet or other handheld entertaining electric device.

When our children are little we give them things like a magna-doodle to use over and over again for coloring and a few favorite stuffed animals and other toys for imaginative play. When they are older they bring a notebook or journal for drawing and coloring. They bring books to look at or read.

Unfortunately, half of us suffer from motion sickness making car-reading difficult. Because of this we do a lot of audiobooks. Books are better than movies because they give our imaginations room to illustrate scenes in our minds. It has been fun to share favorite books with our kids and discover new ones. Now, the littlest kids do not always like a long audiobook, so we take breaks with music along the way as well. Our favorite books have included: all of the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder read by Cherry Jones, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, Tarzan and the John Carter books by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and The Lord of the Rings, which we listened to on our three week trip.

We start off each drive with a driving prayer for safe travels and a family rosary. Then we either listen to music or our audiobook of choice. When we are doing music the kids all usually play and talk, but when we are doing a story, we ask them to listen quietly. We give them a snack a couple of hours into the trip and lunch out of the cooler on the road. Stops are minimal (more on that later). If we have a long day of driving, we grab a quick dinner and supplement it with cut veggies from the cooler. Otherwise we try to arrive at our destination before dinner time.

These techniques have worked for us as a family on road trips for over ten years!