Recently in California Sierras Category

(MURPHYS, CA) -- I tend to hang out in tourist haunts. I did it even before I was paid to. I like the tourist trade. While it comes with incumbent hassles (more traffic, lots of people) typically it protects a very exceptional environment.

Each tourist area has it owns unique local color and personality. In some places, the locals are very convivial; striking up conversations, taking their time helping, sightseeing you as much as you are sightseeing them. Other places are on auto pilot, the locals are waiting for all the tourists to leave so that they can have back their corner of God's green earth. My youthful experiences on Catalina Island were like that. Sometimes the paid help would "helpfully" guide people to the bridge to the mainland - that didn't exist.

By M.L. Hilton

(YOSEMITE, CA) -- There are times when only a few hours separates you from the mundane daily work-a-day life, and journeys so delightful they seem worlds apart. Some trips are gifts in and of themselves; others take on dimensions so ethereal that there will never be a similar confluence.

Bright Autumn weather, spectacular ocean views and rollicking wine events tickled my senses (my sensibilities were otherwise engaged) in beautiful Monterey during the Great Wine Escape in early November.

A couple of days later and a couple of hours by road, the incomparable Yosemite Valley was my destination. I enjoyed an exquisite three days at The Ahwahnee. The trip was like a prism in bright sunshine, there was something delightful at every turn.

If you have an occasion to stay at The Ahwahnee, you must take it. My occasion was a session of the Vintner’s Holiday 2005 series. Moderator Gilles De Chambure, M.S. presided over wine tastings with Chris Benziger, Steven Canter (Davis Bynum Winery), Phil Bilodeau (Grgich Hills) and Bill and Dawnine Dyer of Dyer Vineyards (and other fame). The series included a Vintner’s Reception held in the stone splendor of The Ahwanhee’s grand common area complete with massive fireplaces, crackling fires, enormous windows, and generous pours of the hosts’ wines. Even more fun was the Gala Vintner’s Dinner in The Ahwahnee Dining Room. As unreal in its enormous space as Hogwarts dining hall in the Harry Potter stories, the food presented by Chef Percy Whatley was as excellent as you would find in any culinary mecca.

The weather held amazingly, unseasonably, and old man moon waxed full. It was Yosemite’s magical lantern providing silver light on a deep fall landscape.

Opportunities to visit majesty are usually hampered by daily chores, beautiful weather is a blessing any time, but takes on significance when it is out of season, and romance . . . well, that is provided in books and movies, because there is too little available in most mortal realms.

When you have wine, and food, and weather, and place, what is there left but someone to share it with?

In Yosemite, ardor cloaks itself in many impalpable forms -- in the fragrant smoke of the fireplace that stokes the heart of intimacy. As night’s platinum glow illuminates tall granite towers. And during quiet walks among grandeur when eyes speak more than words.

Yosemite is for falling in love. Sometimes it is under a full moon with the tender heart of a companion; and sometimes it is again with Mother Nature where in her bosom you are reminded of the deep connection between man and his world.

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