Next Time I’ll Read the Signs.
Yosemite. A family road trip just like years ago––only this time my husband and I are old enough to have a free lifetime pass and our sons, both single and childless, are in their 40s. We beat the crowds to the Camp Curry registration desk, where we are greeted by a young woman. “Welcome to awesome Yosemite!”
“Are there cabins, or anything with an attached bathroom, available?” I’m not looking forward to nighttime toilet hikes. My daily on-line checks and calls the past three months have yielded nothing. For years, my husband and I have preferred Yosemite Lodge, where rooms not only include a private bath but one can hear the falls in the right season. For this visit, though, we had to coordinate with the boys’ schedules and by the time we had a date, Curry was the only option.
“No, nothing else,” she says, a little more subdued. Then an energetic, “Your reservations are in the awesome Curry Village tent cabins!”
Oh well, I may be getting old, but I’m flexible.
We all agree––it will be an adventure and a chance to remember our early stays, thirty-plus years ago. The “awesome!” tent cabins haven’t changed. Still basic. A single bulb surrounded by a metal cage, hangs from the ceiling above the bed. No outlets––we must recharge cell phones at the cafeteria or lounge. Our sons are in one tent cabin and we in another, back to back at the end of a long row of tents close together. So close that I can hear one of our sons snore most of the first night. The second night, I hear a different snore. This time the boys are still awake, so it must be one of the two women in the tent beside us. The same two women who speak only French to each other. The ones who stole “our” bench from outside our cabin door, and dragged it next to their cabin when we weren’t looking, so they could sit and smoke while drinking their evening wine.
I understand. I can always sit on the bear box.
The toilets are convenient––not too far, but far enough that we won’t be annoyed by the sound of the hot air blow-driers. No paper towels. The sinks are close together, with a little hook nearby to hang a toiletry kit. It’ll work for a couple days. I forego the electric toothbrush, but I see some people trust others enough to leave their cell phones charging on the common shelf running above all six sinks. The showers are farther away and serve many more people than just our little section of tents––a muddy hike in the rainy season, but our weather is postcard-perfect.
On the second afternoon, we cover every paved trail around the valley on rented, one-speed, reverse-pedal-braking beach-cruisers, stopping for hikes at Vernal and Yosemite Falls and Happy Isles. Yosemite is a place of constant change, they say, but for us it feels so familiar. We ooh and ahh at Yosemite Falls, with so little water that one would think it was the end of the dry season rather than mid-June.
We moan and groan as we trudge up to Vernal Falls, remembering why we have chosen not to do this hike during past visits. And, near Happy Isles, our greatest discovery comes when we walk through the beautiful and serene fen, and hear water bubbling under the wooden walkway. It’s the most crowded of seasons, but we are the only people in this little corner of paradise. A trout darts out of sight when he feels our footsteps on the boardwalk; the restoration of this swampy area has been a success.
After a full day in the heat, we are sweaty, ready for a shower. We have an hour before we must turn in the bikes and catch the shuttle over to the Mountain Room for dinner. We don’t know what to expect at the showers. Jeff wondered earlier if we would have individual stalls and I replied that I was sure we would. After all, we were given a four-digit code to enter the showers.
I pull the plastic bag holding lotions and toiletries from the bear box, and dole out the extra shampoo and conditioner and small soaps, just in case. I add a clean pair of undies to my bag, throw the Curry-issued towel over my shoulder, and head off. As I walk up to the long narrow building labeled “Shower House,” I see a woman punch in the code and enter a door in the front, on the right. The women’s showers are on the right hand side, I think, and that first one is taken. I move to the next door down on the right and punch in the code. Someone inside grunts. Then I see there that a dead bolt that has been locked. That must be the way one tells if the shower is occupied––if the dead bolt is locked. I don’t read the door label––later I would see that it says handicapped-accessible unisex toilet. OK. I’ll try the next one. I move down to the next door on the right. I don’t bother to read the door sign on this one either, but I do notice that there is no deadbolt. I punch in “3124,” and the door opens easily. Three shower stalls, and only one toilet stall, which is occupied. Hmmm. Not what I expected. Oh well, I’m flexible. I don’t need to use the toilet right now. I can hear a shower running and two of the curtains are closed. I choose the open one––I’m no dummy.
A tiny, curtained-off dressing area in front of my shower has one wall hook and a bench-seat maybe a foot wide. I step into the tiny dressing area, take off my grungy clothes and pile them on the small bench. So little space and no shelf. The fabric curtain moves every time my elbows bump it. I take time to punch a hole in the plastic bag so I can hang it on the hook with my towel.
Just as I lean into the shower to turn on the water, I hear the door open and what sounds like my younger son Jonathan’s voice. What the heck is he doing? I stick my head out, holding the curtain tight against my neck, and see my son and husband coming in.
“This is the girls’,” I hiss.
Jonathan’s face is somewhere between chagrin and filial caring. “No, Mom. It’s a Men’s.”
Oh. My. God. I am standing behind a thin curtain without a stitch on, and naked men are showering on either side. I pull on my dirty pants and T-shirt––forget the underwear––and tear out of there, not looking left or right, not hearing a thing. I don’t know if people are laughing or staring. I see nothing. Not the little blue man-symbol glued to the door, nor the urinal, which my son would tell me later is right there.
I run to the shower room at the front left of the building, punch in “3124,” and slip in. Three shower stalls, and two toilet stalls. Everything is occupied. I wait, happy to hear voices of young women talking about the invigorating shower and comparing notes on their hike up Half Dome. When a shower opens up, I step in to the equally small dressing area, and turn the handle all the way to hot, as hot as it will go. The water is tepid. No matter––it’s refreshing. And worth the wait––a previous user left a pricey cake of scented soap that I use to wash the day’s grime and embarrassment away.
Note: this fun trip was in 2014, right before Yosemite’s lodgings changed names.