December 31, 2022 Annual Year-End Letter:



Ah…hold on…there was a year around here, somewhere – just noticed it – wait…er, right, something called “2022.” At least it’s called that by a few people who pay attention to those year-thingies, whatever they are, which have become so bafflingly ephemeral that they’re almost unnoticeable. Anyway, we started our year in a rental home, waiting for contractors to make improvements to our home-to-be.


To start off the year, in January I submitted a manuscript to the Yosemite Conservancy publishing team, for a Wawona-related history book. They forwarded it for review to the National Park Service, who had it for nine more months. Everything takes four times longer since 2020. The Conservancy declined to publish it, but were very encouraging and provided very good feedback. But enough about me…

Diane at Soda Springs, Tuolumne Meadows, looking into the future


This has been the year of Diane Saving the Day. The beautifully meandering folds of her comprehensive brain make my lateral cranial ziplines-to-nowhere just collapse with grateful appreciation. Well, after said ziplines recover from their automatic resistance to anything they didn’t think of themselves. Stupid ziplines.

One of Diane’s prolonged efforts would take all year to solve: the Atrium Conundrum – what to do with the plastic-roofed room in the middle of our house – but we now have a plan.  More on that in next year’s letter, we hope.

The Atrium. Rain hitting the plastic roof effectively ends all conversation and thought

By February it appeared likely that I could return to work at Wawona. One challenge was to create a virus-resistant space in which I could perform masklessly. Friend, Jim, suggested surrounding me with screens, and a while later, friend, Jeff, introduced us to the “Drum Screen.” Like a Japanese free-standing screen but made of 6’ x 2’ clear acrylic panels, they dampen the decibels of a live drummer on stage. Diane proposed we buy enough of these to surround the Wawona piano, creating a space into which a fan blows fresh outside air.

Above: Pillillooeet - the name John Muir said these were called by in a local indigenous language

Below: Tom at North Lake, eastern Sierra, looking at Diane looking into the future

Nighttime, Yosemite Valley: rock climbers' camp-lights on El Capitan, winking waggishly at the celestial lights farther above


Inside and outside the acrylic screens - I tell guests I'm an exhibit on loan from the Monterey Aquarium...and how much I miss the jellyfish


Another challenge was to find private housing. With no company housing or seasonal rentals available, Diane once again proffered the solution: reserve vacation-cabins, a week or two at a time, throughout the season. After I recoiled at the concept that we’d be spending all my income and some of our savings on housing, I realized that this was Diane’s solution to rescuing our sanity, which had been on the endangered list since our relocation to the coast.

Moon & Jupiter, Wawona Hotel & Annex from the golf course


Once my fragmented performance schedule was publicized, a little miracle happened. The Wawona Private Property Owners Advocates (WAPPOA) and The Redwoods in Yosemite informed their members of our gap-filled schedule. Cabin owners responded by offering us free stays in their cabins, filling in the gaps and solidifying the schedule. Overwhelmed and humbled, this outpouring of generosity from our friends enabled us to cobble together nearly five months of regular performances at the Wawona Hotel. We are so grateful! And the response of hotel guests has been heartwarming – they tell me repeatedly that the comfort of being once again together, enjoying music in the piano-parlor, feels like a return to normal. Certainly, it felt that way for Diane and me, once again enveloped in the home of our hearts!

Diane's photo of some friends


After ten days of performances in April, and two more weeks in May, we returned to the coast for the month of June, in order to finish various projects in the new house and get moved in. Then it was back to Wawona at the start of July, ready to settle in for an uninterrupted season, clear into November. So we thought. The first week was great – we took walks, had a few dips in the clear flowing waters of the South Fork of the Merced River, enjoyed the clear Sierra air... er ... did somebody say “clear?”

July 8, 11:30am, from the golf course

July 8, about 4pm: Diane escaping in the Subaru; I followed in the truck

Burrell at the reins. In June, he'll celebrate 50 years as stage-driver in Wawona


The Swinging Bridge


Returning to our cabin after one of those dips – it was July 7th – had either of us looked over our shoulder we’d have seen a wisp of smoke up behind Wawona Point, near the Big Tree Grove. We soon got a text from friends that a fire was heading our way, so we began the familiar pre-evacuation routine, and the next day were indeed evacuated – not to return for an entire month. We departed as the fire marched steadily down-slope toward our beloved hotel, not knowing if we’d ever see it again. A road closure compelled us to head north out of Wawona through Yosemite Valley, down through El Portal, and back toward Oakhurst, taking a shortcut to bypass Mariposa. As we drove along that shortcut – Triangle Road – we both felt apprehension seeing the overgrown dry grasses and shrubbery all along the way. Erupting just twelve days after we drove through, the Oak Fire would burn much of what we'd seen, along with dozens of homes. For a while there were concerns that the Oak Fire would also threaten Wawona, but it was contained on the western side of Signal Peak (aka Devil Peak, visible to the west from Wawona).

Last look toward Wawona Point as we bade goodbye 


Thankfully, once again, Wawona and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias were saved through the technical and physical prowess of an army of firefighters, with the proactive assistance of a fifty-year-old program of forest management in Yosemite National Park. We returned for the season on August 8, after most of the smoke cleared.

At the South Fork of the Merced River


In mid-August we paid a visit to friends in Huntington Lake, owners of the mountain cabin where Diane enjoyed family vacations as a child. Sadly, the cabin was incinerated by the Creek Fire in 2020. The owners are now in a nearby cabin that was spared by the “fire tornado” that had swept through the area.

In September we headed to the east side of the Sierra for a stay at Tamarack Lodge, built in 1924. Diane’s dad remembered selling fish-worms to patrons of the lodge when it was new, nearly a century ago.

Squeezing as many weekend trips as possible to the high country and east side, until snow made the passes impassable, we settled in for lovely autumn walks in Wawona. Our season ended a bit early when I caught covid, this despite our draconian precautions. It was a mild case, after some initial nastiness, and we succeeded in protecting Diane from getting it.

Tuning the dear old Kanabe  

At Tioga Pass: "Dean's Tarn" we call it, in honor of Diane's dad and brother

Diane captured this wee, early-season snowbeing along the Tioga Road


Five days into 2022, the world lost Bud Friedman who, with my lifelong friend Doug and his family, brought me into the warmth of his wonderful home. Just three weeks later we learned of the death of my dear teacher, Richard Cheesman, who’d proposed that our 6th Grade science class students all keep in touch with him throughout our lives, which we did, right up to the end. He was a splendid teacher, artist, and friend. Our long-time dear friend and neighbor, Joe Attinello, passed on June 22 and is sorely missed – we continue to cherish his wife, Barbara, who shepherded Diane and so many others through tumultuous schooldays as their MYF Leader (Methodist Youth Fellowship).



Looking back through notes, I see that over a year’s time we’d attempted buying a mountain home three times, opening escrow twice – in Fish Camp, a one-room fixer-upper with too much to fix up, and a similarly challenging mobile home in Bass Lake – and a rejected offer in Wawona. We continue to look, at least, for an affordable seasonal rental in the area.  

We’re now out on the coast, dry and reasonably warm, while cowering from the terrific noise of pouring rain on our plastic roof, boggling at flood reports (we’re safely uphill, with well-drained property). And we hope that you are reasonably warm, dry, and content.

Wishing you plenty of blessings to count (instead of sheep, as Irving Berlin advises), and a love-filled, joyous, safe, healthy, and reasonably affordable 2023!

Tom & Diane Bopp