I've had a long history with Yosemite. My aunt and uncle had a small vacation cabin in Foresta which is inside the park boundaries. I would visit them once in a while and camp out by myself at other times.
I was driving up in my Jeep late one evening, the cold seeping through my thin Army surplus field jacket. No top, no doors or windows, and most regrettably, no heater. Climbing up into the mountains only increased my misery as I reduced my speed to cut the wind chill factor.
A family in a station wagon flashed by and I, for a moment, wished I was just a little less radical. Then I thought to myself, “I'm the youth of America, master of the future, and everything else I can see before of me!” I sat up straighter, put the pedal to the metal, and roared off into the night.
When I got to my aunt and uncle's nobody was there. It was dark and I was cold. What to do?
I saw a light off in the forest and thought it must be somebody else's cabin. Mountain people are friendly and generous I reasoned. Surely they would take in the frozen nephew of Betty and 'Pad' Padilla for a night. Surely they had a warm couch I could sleep on until morning. Surely even a mug of hot chocolate for a weary traveler was possible.
I wasn't sure of the roads in this little community so I struck out cross-country with enough star light to avoid walking into trees. However, not enough light to see Crane Creek before I tumbled down the bank and into the water. Now I was really cold and miserable. I climbed up the other side continuing my quest for the light.
That's what I found, A LIGHT, hanging from a cord, attached to the A-Frame of an unbuilt house. Thus, I met Dan, who would become my lifelong friend. He was building the cabin but this was as far as he had gotten. He did, however, have some spare blankets he was willing to share and we ended up talking about life and carpentry into the night.
Dan was from San Francisco and had a real car with a real heater. He said he came up every other weekend and I was free to ride with him whenever I wanted to visit Betty and Pad.
A couple of weeks later he called me at work and said he was going up and asked if I wanted to ride with him. I accepted and it became a regular thing. Not to see my aunt and uncle but to help him build his cabin. Along with others we built it by hand over the next months and years. We would go up on Friday evening, work on Saturday and Sunday, then stop at the Pine Cone Restaurant in Merced for dinner on the way home. An interesting aside is that my mother worked as a waitress in that restaurant when she was a girl.
All who built it were free to use it with the exception of Dan's bedroom which was not only off limits but was too crammed with stuff to be usable anyway.
Wherever I've been in the world that cabin has been a beacon of stability for me. Over 50 years of stories and misadventures have been witnessed by those walls. Maybe some of them will make it into these pages.
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