December 31, 2021 Annual Year-End Letter

Last year we asked our friend, Anne, who seems to know things, “What do you foresee for 2021?” She answered something like “It’ll be just as strange as 2020.” Nah, couldn’t be! Things looked so giddily bright when, around December 14th, a gleaming new COVID vaccine strutted forth to armor our front-line healthcare professionals. Everything would be made safe, and we could return to normal. Sure, we figured, some distant day, age, health, and finances would compel us to head for the coast like Bilbo and Galadriel (to the “Grey Havens”) – maybe in five or ten years. Any sooner was unthinkable – it’d take something really improbable, like, say, a pandemic, global climate change, or loss of income…something like that. Right. We have all three. Thus, we began to entertain thoughts of selling our house – but those thoughts were soon interrupted.


Lucky it was only 100 mph winds, that January 19th – at least there wasn’t a fire. Around midnight Diane said, “Hey Tom, I think something’s going on out there.” For hours we boggled, gaped and cowered amid thundering wind and booming of giant falling trees – trees that could slice a house. Sun up, wind down, electricity out, generator on, we edged outside to peer at the mess.

Tree on left blocking road - narrowly missed the propane tank.

(Photo on right) the severed top of a power pole artistically suspended over Forest Drive.

Deck used to extend to the right - smashed along with two fences. This massive, tall fir missed our generator by inches, while we hunkered inside well away from the windows.

The fir tree blocking the road in the foreground was forced down when the cedar behind it fell (you can see the cedar's root-ball on the left). The cedar came to rest on top of the fir that had smashed through our deck (you can see its branches up against the house and extending through the remains of the fence on the right.

Forests overcrowded by drought-weakened, beetle-ravaged trees had, in 2020, 2018, and 2017, brought fire and choking smoke to Wawona’s doorstep; now thousands of them had fallen all over Wawona and across the Sierra. Amazingly no injuries, but several houses and cars were smashed.  

Soon after came a whopping snow storm, just in time to stymie the efforts of utility repair crews. Confined to our house by downed trees, powerlines, and snow, we rationed our food and propane. Day-9, the fallen tree blocking our driveway was removed in time for Diane to get to her first COVID vaccination. Day-10, our propane tank (which fuels the generator) ran dry. We dined on freeze-dried backpacker’s meals heated with a camp stove on the front porch. Day-12, power was restored, and the next day I coaxed the propane truck driver up the one-mile narrowly-plowed road to fill our tank. Not until Day-27 was internet restored.


Convinced by the mounting indications of risk to health and home, we resumed the decision-making process that led to selling our beloved WawonaMoon – our dream-home in Wawona – and moving closer to good medical care in a land that has not been forsaken by homeowners’ insurance companies. Employing two charming and expert real estate agents, we listed WawonaMoon on May 15, while Diane logged countless internet hours finding properties for us to visit. We toyed with buying a tiny cabin nearby with a lower-priced house on the coast, but it didn’t work out. After several rejected offers, we learned that in this competitive market we would first have to sell our house, and then make a full-cash offer. Dear friends Carol and Scott let us use their vacant condo as a base of operations during the process.

The Wawona Hotel opened June 10th with a skeleton crew. The pool and golf course were closed, the dining room service reduced to a “no-touch” buffet, and four of the hotel’s six buildings were still closed for electrical repairs. The limited capacity did not yet justify my returning to work.  

We opened escrow on WawonaMoon June 24th, and were lucky to find a place to rent on the coast. July was all about preparing to move – Diane packing and marking endless boxes, me taking truckloads to local thrift-stores. August 18th, we observed Diane’s birthday and the completion of our move, with a take-out dinner in the car overlooking the ocean from Ragged Point.

Mother & child - elephant seals, near San Simeon

Listing Brochure (no, we didn't get our asking price).


Tioga Pass

Mono Lake

Country road near Raymond, CA

With only a few sticks of portable furniture left in WawonaMoon, we savored the few remaining weeks in the home of our hearts, visiting favorite trails, swimming holes, and drives to the high country and eastern Sierra.

Given Diane’s and my health vulnerabilities, our doctor urged me to not perform indoors, so the question was, how do I safely resume work? We considered my performing outside on the verandah with electric piano, but during the summer the deck was usually crowded. In my very vocal and interactive performances, I always enjoy the up-close camaraderie that our guests have come to expect. In the park, people outside in crowded places are required to be caringly masked and distanced, ensuring that nobody feels threatened or unsafe. Amid these circumstances, it still wasn't quite time for my return.

But on August 23, I began a series of four free outdoor performances on the porch of Hill’s Studio, adjacent to the hotel, courtesy of the good folks of the National Park Service – especially Ranger Adam Ramsey, for whom I signed on as a volunteer. Physically distanced from the audience, I was able to satisfy both NPS and concessionaire concerns that I could safely entertain the hotel guests in this way.


Friday, September 17, escrow closed and we bid a tearful goodbye to WawonaMoon. Heavy smoke that day from a nearby forest fire gave us the feeling that Wawona was gently urging us along for our own good.

That night at our friends’ Wawona cabin (while they were away), Diane had another look online at a tiny two-bedroom 1-bath house on the central California coast. Saturday, while we stood looking at lower Chilnualna Fall, we phoned our agent and arranged to see the house the next day and decided, if it all worked out, that we would name the house “Chilnualna.” Exactly three weeks after selling WawonaMoon, we closed escrow on Chilnualna. We plan to move in after remodeling is finished.

Meanwhile, I was called back to work at the Wawona Hotel for their holiday-opening-night December 18th (outside, on the veranda) – hopefully a good sign of things to come. We’re assured they want me back in the spring, but it will depend on the availability of suitable housing. We’ve considered buying a Scamp trailer (haulable by our Subaru) for our seasonal home in Wawona, but they have a minimum six-month waiting list, and it’s not certain whether the NPS or the concessionaire can provide us a place to park it. We’ll see how things play out over the coming year.

Tom performing at Hill's Studio - Wawona Hotel peaking around the trees on the left.


This past year we bade goodbye to a dear friend from our Oakhurst days, Shirley Young. Also Dee Schneider, from whom we bought our former home in Fish Camp, and Dale Hewlett who lived next door to us there, and to Diane’s cousins Jeannie Hinman and Eddie Wood. Jeannie and Diane were like sisters, and in Jeannie’s last year they had joyful, epic (four hours was common!) weekly phone-visits, right up to the end. At the beginning of this year (2022) we lost Bud Friedman, who welcomed Tom into his home and family so many years ago.


From the sacred sayings of Yogi Berra: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” We now have pockets full of forks. For 2022, we wish you all the silverware of your dreams, and plenty of warmth and love.  

Tom & Diane Bopp