December 31, 2014 Annual Year-End Letter

A windstorm has knocked out power for 20 miles from Oakhurst to Wawona, including ours in Fish Camp...but Diane in her wisdom encouraged the purchase of a whole-house generator some years ago, which has been whirring away for the past 12 hours, keeping us well-lighted. 

Diane also encouraged the purchase of a wood-burning stove, and that's also doing its little job - we cook on it, and keep hot water for tea-on-demand and, most importantly it keeps our 19 year-old Blackbeard-the-Cat very happy.

2014 began with the removal of a great silver fir tree that, before it fell ill and died, was planning to widen itself to an extent that it would crack into our driveway, stairs, and boardwalk, and had already begun pushing into the railing of our lower exterior stairs. Here it is (left), limbs removed, ready to be sectioned.

The Tree-Guy, Steve McQueen (yes, really) and his talented daredevil crew cut and removed each three-to-four-thousand pound section just as daintily as you please, gently lifting and lowering them to the street.


As they left and we stood mourning the departed fir, Diane noticed on the newly revealed face of another giant fir, just above our bedroom, a giant hole about 40 feet below the top of the tree. I trotted up the road and retrieved Steve McQueen who was starting another job; he came back, looked at the tree, and pronounced in his quiet sagacity, "well, that doesn't look good." The daredevils returned and after long, silent consideration, one of them cautiously eased himself up the tree, ascending past the basketball-sized hole to the top, one hundred and forty feet up! Wielding a chainsaw the length of your leg, he trimmed off the branches and then the trunk itself, one foot at a time, tossing each slice away from the house. A dark scar on the tree revealed the cause of the hole: a lightning strike. At any time a winter storm could have snapped that tree, and 4,000 pounds of wood could have come rushing down through the roof of our bedroom! Note to Self: when building a home in the forest, don't leave trees growing right next to the house.

Tom, for the first time in 28 years, did not work at The Ahwahnee Hotel during the Wawona's annual winter closure (except for a two-week stint). This was due to what might be called a bureaucratic oversight which, Tom is happy to announce, was finally corrected the day before yesterday - Tom starts back at The Ahwahnee on January 6th.

January 13th saw the passing of Tom's aunt Doris, just six days short of the one-year anniversary of her brother Ray's passing (Tom's dad).

In March we finally took our first trip to Hawaii to see what all the hoo-haw is about. We joined our friends/neighbors Dale & Shirley Hewlett, who shared their timeshare with us. Okay, we get it - the place is beautiful! - but it ain't Fish Camp, and we've got the Big Trees next door, and Yosemite Valley, and Tuolumne Meadows, and...we like it here.

Speaking of which, we took as many motor-trips to the east side of the Sierra as possible, camped at Tioga Lake, sauntered around Convict Lake followed by a fine dinner there. Also enjoyed a last dinner before the departure of Jim and Mario at the Mono Inn, and a trip to Diane's grandparents' and dad's former home of Bishop, CA. We also had a fine visit with Diane's family at Duke's in Malibu in July.
This was a year of anniversaries: Bicentennial of the birth of Galen Clark (who started the Wawona Hotel in 1857), and the Sesquicentennial of the Yosemite Grant (which preserved Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Big Trees). Tom performed at the official commemoration of the latter and at a gala dinner connected with the event:

This year also marked the Sesquicentennial of the capture by Confederate soldiers of Tom's great-great-grandfather, Crampton Williams, a musician in the Union army - he spent the remainder of the American Civil War in the infamous Andersonville Prison. This Christmas Eve, upon lighting the Yule Log at the Wawona Hotel (a first - the beginning of a Wawona tradition!), all the guests raised a glass to commemorate the Centennial of the passing of John Muir, also raising their voices with a rousing "Auld Lang Syne" in tribute to the great Scot.

 Bopp o'Lanterns by Diane

It was a nasty fire-season; much effort was expended removing pine needles, branches, and drought-stressed trees from the yard, preparing for a quick evacuation if necessary, and removing all our valuables into safe-deposit boxes.

Fortunately for us, the many nearby fires stayed away; others we know were not so lucky.

Diane taught yet another semester of college art, sold prints of her artwork in Yosemite and online, and worked away with Tom at endless home projects. Tom continues his history research, closing in on his goal of writing and publishing. We continue to pursue our dream of downsizing and moving to Wawona - so if you know anybody looking for a splendid all-season house perched at the edge of the most beautiful place in the world, send 'em our way!


We wish you all a Happy New Year full of goodness and love.

Tom & Diane


In the Great Lounge at The Ahwahnee, Dec. 2014