December 31, 2017 Annual Year-End Letter

(Written January 21, 2018)

End of year letter, er, what year? Oh, yes, that twenty-seventeen thing. Sigh. Flood, surgery, fire, smoke, but through it all the love of friends. It all started nicely with the usual festivities at the Wawona Hotel (currently masquerading as “Big Trees Lodge” until the lawyers have accumulated enough billable hours). Diane and I enjoyed nights in Yosemite Valley as I caressed the various Steinways at the Ahwahnee (doing business as “Majestic Yosemite Hotel” until…oh yes, said that already).

A flood alert closed Yosemite Valley on January 7 for a couple days; here’s some video I shot in Wawona the next day: https://youtu.be/oL22fhNnOkM . Rain-triggered debris-flows closed highways into the valley for a time. For a couple of weeks in early March Highway 41 was completely closed when the road collapsed between the Yosemite South Entrance and Fish Camp. To shop in Oakhurst we had to drive there via Yosemite Valley/Mariposa.

We tripped down to Los Angeles to bid a last farewell to Anne Carson, one of the last of Diane’s parents’ generation of Pacific Palisades matriarchs. Another passing of note was our beloved cousin, Dick Andrew (Diane’s paternal aunt’s son-in-law) on September 28th. Also we note the passing of Ace the Cat, Diane’s dad’s kitty companion who spent his later years with neighbor Ray Bracken.

Most of late spring/summer was devoted more or less to my health issues. As it turns out, my life was saved through intervention of doctor-friends (and Wawona-fans) Mark & Greg who one night, visiting with me after work, recommended I get a second opinion about my heart condition down at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. Here, from Dr. Alfredo Trento, I received prompt satisfaction to previously unanswered basic questions about my condition, and underwent successful open-heart aortic-valve-replacement surgery on July 13. Diane was there with me all the way and was brave, loving and supportive. Dear friends came to comfort us both at the hospital and through recovery. In less than four weeks I was back at work (August 8th), the two of us receiving a loving and warm welcome home from neighbors, friends, co-workers and guests at the hotel. 

Tom, 5 days after surgery, recuperating at a rather nice hotel near the hospital.
Photo by Fede Peinado from http://wawonanews.weebly.com/july-2017.html 

Five days later, August 13th saw the start of the South Fork Fire which caused the evacuation of the entire Wawona community from the 19th through 23rd. Wawona was fortunate to sustain no damage, thanks to the valiant firefighters.

Photo Christian Mueller

Five days after our return from evacuation, August 29th, we received notice of the start of a fire (soon to be dubbed the “Railroad Fire”) in nearby Fish Camp. We were given a pre-evacuation notice, but never required to evacuate for this fire.

Photo Gina Clugston, Sierra News Online


Five days later, we left on a long-planned two-week train trip to Glacier National Park which, as it turns out, was also on fire, thwarting our hopes to get away from choking smoke. In fact, much of the route up the coast to Seattle and east through Washington to Montana brought us through a smorgasbord of forest fires. Two of the hotels we’d booked were evacuated due to fire (and subsequently saved from burning), so we spent all of our time in East Glacier Park between two hotels: Glacier Park Lodge and Many Glacier Lodge. A shift in the wind cleared much of the smoke, much of the time, but strenuous activity was out of the question.

On a vintage cruiser on Josephine Lake, Glacier National Park.

Autumn brought us lots of Dr. visits in Los Angeles, getting a handle on Diane’s medical issues. On one of those trips fire closed our normal route up the 405; our only escape from L.A. was via Hwy 1 as fire bordered the road on both sides.

We ended the year as usual with holiday festivities at our dear hotel singing carols and Auld Lang Syne. We’re so grateful for caring friends and caring doctors, and wish you the same through life’s journey.

“O hush the noise, and cease your strife, and hear the angels sing.”

 Diane & Tom


Diane's garden tree-scape this autumn.

A smoky sunset at Many Glacier Lodge