Monthly Archives: April 2010

The Matey’s Log: Newport to Ensenada

Photos by Brad Hall (Except where indicated)

The Newport-to-Ensenada International Yacht Race, which runs 125 nautical miles south from the shores of one of Orange County’s wealthiest enclaves to the historic, struggling Baja port town, is billed as the world’s largest international sailing event. And while I don’t have the experience to know whether it’s truly the “largest international sailing event”, it sure is the biggest sailboat race I’ve ever been in. This was my second year racing from Newport Beach to Ensenada, Mexico with Captains George and Tom and the crack crew of Curiosity — and once again, it was the kind of adventure that inspires men (and women) to go down to the sea in ships.

The Newport-to-Ensenada race was founded in 1947 as a just-for-fun competition for sailors coming out of World War II. And as big as the race has gotten over the years, you get the sense that, for most of the racers, it’s still “just for fun”. (Though certain hyper-competitive, edge-seeking boats with their flaunting of ratings and their profusion of high-tech sails, can take the fun out of “just for fun”. But that’s just the crabby old salt in me talking.)

In the first Newport-to-Ensenada race (called at the time “The Governor’s Cup”) 117 boats paid $22.50 each to race on April 23, 1948. Winds were estimated at 25–35 knots, and only 65 boats finished the race. 62 years later, Captains Moll and Webber not only paid a lot more to enter the race – but high winds would NOT be a problem. If any sailboats failed to finish in 2010, it would be because they eventually fired up their motors in frustration.

A record 675 boats entered the race in 1983, but with the economic slump in 2009, there were only 270 entries. This year, Curiosity was among 217 boats jockeying for position among the crowd of sailboats at the start of the race. As we tacked back and forth in the light air before our 11:00 am start time, our relatively Hollywood-savvy crew was not aware that icons like Buddy Ebsen, Humphrey Bogart and Walter Cronkite had competed in the race. I simply can’t imagine the thrill of racing to the starting line against Bogie and Bacall aboard Santana.

As is our habit in recent races, we managed to get off to a good start – crossing the line among the leaders of the nine boats in our spinnaker class. I have no idea how they rate and organize all the boats into the various classes, but I do know the difference between a boat rigged for a spinnaker and one that isn’t. Thus, of the 217 vessels in the race, we were only competing against 8 of them: Elixir, Paradise Found, Tranquilo, Escapade, Zeus, Dela, Bonnie Belle and Arearea. Chief among our rivals was Elixir, whose higher rating meant that we had to give her time, but whose collection of high-tech sails gave her a distinct edge. In last year’s race, we’d kept Elixir in sight most of the race. However, with Curiosity’s rating hanging around our necks like an albatross, we’d have to finish well ahead of all the boats in our class in order to win. The whole rating thing hurts my brain.

Crewmen Michael, Wiley and Eric, early in the race, headed to Ensenada.

The winds were fair and we managed 6-8 knots of boat speed for much of the way that afternoon. In a long ocean race like this, where you’re simply racing from point A to point B, there’s not a lot for the crew to do between maneuvers – and as we were pointed on a good heading to Ensenada, and conditions were calm, we proceeded to do what sailors often do under such circumstances: drink, smoke cigars, and tell tales. Of all the joys of sailing, none surpass the camaraderie among a crew of jokers and raconteurs on the deck of a fine vessel making way on a brilliant blue sea. And, as late afternoon flowed into evening, our lead bowman, Claude, helped lubricate our merry maritime festivities by supplying his crewmates with a hearty ration of grog. Thanks to Claude’s knowledge of Royal Navy mixology, not a one of us would suffer scurvy on this voyage.

Claude makes his grog in the traditional way: with Pusser’s Rum, according to the English Royal Navy recipe.

— 2 parts water

— 1 part Pusser’s Rum

— Lime juice to taste

— Dark cane sugar to taste

I don’t think Claude actually used dark cane sugar, but he did squeeze plenty of fresh limes by hand.

The cockpit brain trust: Eric and Captain George.

Grog has been a naval staple since it was introduced into the Royal Navy in 1740 by Vice Admiral Edward Vernon (nicknamed “Old Grog” because of his grogram cloak). Grog served two purposes. Not only did it water down the sailors’ rum ration (“what do you do with a drunken sailor?”) — it also warded off scurvy by virtue of all that lime juice. If, as Winston Churchill was reported to have said, “The only traditions of the Royal Navy are rum, sodomy, and the lash” – then, after 1740, in the interest of accuracy, you’d have to replace “rum” with “grog” on that list.

Seeing (and tasting) a good thing, the Continental Navy also adopted the twice-a-day grog ration. But while the relatively- teetotaling American Navy ended the ration on September 1, 1862, the Royal Navy went on swilling watered down rum with lime juice and sugar until July 31, 1970 – when the last call of “Up Spirits” was heard in the Royal Navy. There was no last call on Curiosity that evening, as the grog and the laughter wore into the night.

The Matey in repose. (Photo by Sebastian J.)

At some point in the darkness, we crossed into Mexican waters. I was catching a few winks belowdecks at the time – until crewmate Brad Hall awakened me at 4:00 am to help perform one of the trickier evolutions on a sailboat – jibing the spinnaker. As I came up on deck, it was still dark, though illuminated by moonlight. Normally, jibing the spinnaker is a pain but, as the wind was merely a breeze, Brad and I were able to get the job done easily. It would have been much harder to wrestle that spinnaker if a stout wind was filling it.

And that lack of wind soon proved to be our undoing in this race. For most of the next 5-6 hours, we were becalmed. As much as sailors love the word “grog” — “becalmed” is a word we dread, as it means “to render motionless for lack of wind.” And that was our situation, bobbing up and down for hours on a perfectly flat (but terribly beautiful) ocean off the coast of Baja, Mexico.

Sebastian, Tom, and the Matey in the early morning calm.

Captain George, becalmed. (Sebastian J)

How bad is it for a sailboat to be becalmed?

Let us remember that the ancient Greek king Agamemnon sacrificed his lovely daughter Iphigenia to the gods so that his becalmed fleet would have the wind it desperately needed to sail to Troy.

Extended periods of calm made for madness and mutiny aboard sailing ships throughout the centuries. Witness this ominous passage from William Clark Russell’s seafaring adventure, “An Ocean Tragedy”…

Brad, Michael, George, Tom and Wiley in the calm. (Sebastian J)

Captain Tom, Eric and Claude, becalmed. (Sebastian J)

But, for the crew of Curiosity, there may have been madness, but there was no thought of mutiny. We were confident the breeze would pick up at some point during the day – though we saw a couple boats closer to shore give up, turn their motors on, and proceed under power to Ensenada. We were determined to finish the race in the right way, and our resolve was rewarded when the wind picked up late in the morning – and we saw the whales!

Claude was first to see their spouts: two grey whales (or were they humpbacks?), a mother and her calf, cruising side by side, headed north, from their breeding grounds in and around the Sea of Cortez to their northern feeding grounds in the frigid waters off Alaska. The whales were a welcome sight for our slightly exhausted and frustrated crew: a good omen for the rest of our voyage.

It was nearing 1:00 in the afternoon as we made our final spinnaker run to the finish line in the port of Ensenada De Todos Santos. By now, we were cracking along at 8 knots, a respectable speed, and leaving other boats in our wake. It wasn’t the screaming 12-knot final kick we enjoyed last year, but it cheered us all to bring Curiosity handsomely across the finish line. Our passage from Newport to Ensenada had taken 26 hours, but we had no clue when our 8 competitors had crossed the line.

Pulling into our assigned dock at the marina below our hotel, we noticed that our rival, Elixir, was already in her slip. Elixir had sailed further out into the ocean and caught wind when we, closer to shore, were becalmed. We made our bet, stayed inside, and the wind gods were not with us.

A final toast from the Matey. (Sebastian J)

So, there was nothing left to do but enjoy our one night in Ensenada. The hotel was in a festive mood, with mariachis playing in anticipation of a big wedding that night. Showers were taken, a few more drinks were served – and we all headed to the race headquarters to check out the results. Alas, after times were corrected, taking each boat’s rating into consideration, we finished next to last. But as we toasted Captain Moll that night over a fine dinner, we all felt like winners. It had been a fine voyage, a safe passage, and another great adventure. Here’s to many more!


Filed under Adventure

Rockme Reunion Reminder

I’ve revised this classic Rockme poster by Gary Whitney (circa 1982) to remind everyone within reach of Evanston, Illinois by rocket car that Riffmaster & the Rockme Foundation will be playing a reunion gig at SPACE in Evanston on May 17th. We haven’t made the kids jump in Evanston for over two decades, so it’s about time we showed the rock-hungry youngsters of Northwestern University what the finest in traditional and original American garage music sounds like. Hope to see you there!


Filed under Art, Music

Julia Gets Her Star!

Julia Louis-Dreyfus — our friend and fellow Northwestern, Mee-Ow Show, and Practical Theatre Company alum – is getting her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Tuesday, May 4, 2010.

Now that Julia is a certified Hollywood legend, let us recall a couple of comic steps that Julia took along her path to greater comedy glory.

There was the 1980 Mee-Ow Show, Ten Against the Empire, which is where I met Julia and first worked with her.

Then, there was the Practical Theatre Company’s 1981 improvisational comedy revue, Scubba Hey! On this show, Julia met her future husband, my good buddy and partner in the PTC, Brad Hall.

The cast of "Scubba Hey": The author, Brad Hall, Julia, Rush Pearson (1981)

And then there was The Practical Theatre Company’s Golden 50th Anniversary Jubilee, a collection of the PTC’s greatest hits, which played at the Piper’s Alley Theatre in Chicago, attracted the attention of Saturday Night Live – and the rest is, of course, history.

"The Golden 50th Jubilee" cast: Brad, Gary Kroeger, Julia, the author (1982)

And now, after her classic, long-running sitcoms Seinfeld and The New Adventures of Old Christine — and more Emmys and awards than you can shake a stick at – Julia’s getting her star on the Walk of Fame alongside such show biz legends as John Barrymore, Clark Gable, Elvis Presley, Lucille Ball and Rin Tin Tin.

Congratulations, Julia! The best is yet to come…


Filed under Beauty, History

Vic & Paul: Finally Out of the House

An Evening of Comedy, Music, Marriage & Martinis

Vic & Paul: Back in the day.

After a two-decade absence from the stage, my wife Victoria Zielinski and I will perform once again in The Vic & Paul Show — an original two-person comedy revue with music that will play for three weeks this June at Push Lounge in Woodland Hills.

Imagine that.

It’s 2010 and we’re doing a show. We can hardly believe it ourselves.

Shelly Goldstein, friend and chanteuse.

Our longtime musical director, Steve Rashid, is coming out west from Evanston to accompany us on keyboards – and our good friend (and local cabaret goddess), Shelly Goldstein has not only been heroically giving us what direction we’re capable of absorbing after all these years – she’s also going to be singing her popular cabaret set after our shows each night at Push.

It’s going to be three weeks of fabulous grown-up fun – somewhere between Nick & Nora and Nichols & May (if they were a couple of over-50 parents with grown children.)

Push Lounge is located at 20969 Ventura Boulevard in that picturesque block of Woodland Hills known as The French Quarter. While this French Quarter lacks a Mississippi riverfront, Bourbon Street and beignets – it does have plenty of free parking in the evening. (I’ll say it again: free parking.)

Previews run Thursday, June 10 through Sunday June 13.
(Preview tickets are $10)
Previews will be followed by two weeks of shows:
Thursday, June 17 thru Sunday June 20.
Thursday, June 24 thru Sunday June 27.
(Show Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for folks under 18)
All shows are at 8:00 PM.

Push Lounge seats about 50 people a night, so if you’re planning to come – just reply to this post, let us know what night you’d like to come (and how many tickets you’d like), and we’ll put you on the reservation list.

The Vic & Paul Show is our way of celebrating our 20th anniversary as husband and wife by doing the thing that brought us together in the first place: having fun onstage and giving folks a chance to laugh along with us at this crazy world in which we live.

About Our Friends & Comic Collaborators:

Steve Rashid (Musical Director, The Vic & Paul Show)

Steve is an Emmy winning composer, performer, producer and recording engineer with a B.A. in Music and Philosophy from Ripon College and a Masters in Music Composition from Northwestern University — and he’s one of the coolest cats we know. Steve’s company, Woodside Avenue Music Productions, is both a recording studio and a record label – and through it he’s released four solo CDs (“i will hold your tiny hand,” “Fidgety Feet,” “As In A Mirror” and “Song of Songs”). In addition, he’s produced/engineered hundreds of recordings for many other artists and labels, spanning jazz, folk, classical, bluegrass, gospel, country and pop music.

Steve’s newest project,, is also his coolest. It’s an online gallery that displays a collection of Steve’s musical portraits of ordinary people observed in coffee shops.  You’ve got to experience it to understand how very groovy it is. (Steve’s a jazz guy, so it’s okay to use the word “groovy” when you talk about him.)

Rashid regularly composes music for dance — often in collaboration with his wife, choreographer Béa Rashid, who runs her own dance school, Dance Center Evanston. (It’s a wise man that works creatively with his wife.)

His jazz group, Steve Rashid and the Porkpies, was called “one of Chicago’s most entertaining groups” by the Chicago Tribune, and WGN Radio has called Steve “a Chicago treasure.” Vic and I are just happy to call him “friend”.

Shelly Goldstein (Director, The Vic & Paul Show — and the talented songstress who’s performing her cabaret set afterward.)

Shelly has been called “Kitten with a Quip”. By day, she’s a writer-performer who has written for every genre of TV, film and stage: screenplays, sitcoms, dramas, documentaries, animation, awards shows, song lyrics, jokes, club acts and special material for such performers as Steve Martin, Debra Messing, Sharon Stone, Liza Minnelli, Paula Abdul, Cybill Shepherd, Eva Longoria Parker, Steven Spielberg, Garry Marshall, James Earl Jones, Norman Lear and Yoko Ono.

By night, Shelly’s an international cabaret performer who has headlined in such venues as The Gardenia, Cinegrill, Hard Rock, 88s Cabaret, and the Inner Circle at the Magic Castle (LA), Pizza on the Park, The Theatre Museum & Frankie’s (London) & the Mill Theatre (Dublin). She sang the Judy Garland songbook in the London Production of Judy & Frank.

A native Chicagoan, Shelly and her husband, Brendan Foley, divide their time between Santa Monica and London. She and Brendan also manage to collaborate as a couple: Shelly co-starred in writer-director Brendan’s film, The Riddle with Sir Derek Jacobi and Vanessa Redgrave and Brendan’s thriller, Legend of the Bog, with Vinnie Jones.

Shelly says she’s thrilled to reconnect onstage with me and Vic and Steve for the first time since the world was young. Indeed, this is going to be a lot of fun.

And we’d like you all to come out to Push Lounge and share the fun (and a smart cocktail or two) with us this June.

Who knows? It may be 20 years before we get a chance to do this again…


Filed under Art, History

Baseball Season Opens: Of Mud Hens & More…

Baseball is back. Which means that, for some of us, the suffering has just begun.

But despite the travails and triumphs of the teams we follow with such passion each season, the classic American game that legend has attributed to Abner Doubleday — played with a bat and ball — is fundamentally a profound and simple joy.

My hometown Cleveland Indians opened this 2010 baseball season on April 5th in Chicago by scratching out just four hits in a 6-0 loss to the White Sox. An ill omen, to be sure. Three days later, 250 miles east on Interstate 80, it will be Opening Day for the Toledo Mud Hens.

For some, the Toledo Mud Hens are a team of 16” softball players who played from the mid 1980’s to the early 90’s in the Chicago Theatre League, led by their manager and sweet-singing slugger, Coach Tom “Wolf” Larson. (More on these Mud Hens later.)

But for the vast majority of those who follow baseball, the Toledo Mud Hens are a minor league baseball team that plays in the International League. The current Mud Hens are the latest of a series of pro ballclubs that have called Toledo home since 1883.

For many years, "M*A*S*H" star, Jamie Farr, was the Toledo Mud Hens most high-profile fan -- other than Wolf Larson, of course.

The name “Mud Hens” was bestowed upon the team in 1896, as one of the two parks they played in that year was located near marshland inhabited by American Coots, also known as marsh hens or mud hens.

Today, the team mascot’s name is Muddy, and the female mascot is named Muddonna. (Which sounds a bit sacrilegious to this former altar boy’s ears – but I’m sure the reference is to the pop singer not the BVM. Which should not be confused with the MVP.)

I find it particularly interesting to note that The Mud Hens have a connection to my hometown, though only the most trivia-obsessed baseball fan living beyond Northeast Ohio will be intrigued to learn that The Mud Hens relocated temporarily to Cleveland from 1914-1915. The move was made to ensure that Cleveland’s League Park would have a game every day – and thus help the Cleveland Indians to counter territorial threats by the Federal League. (Damn that upstart Federal League!)

Another Cleveland connection to The Mud Hens is even more surprising. When the team was playing in Cleveland, it took on a new nickname: the “Iron Men”. The nickname of my high school alma mater, Cleveland Central Catholic, is “The Ironmen”. This is the kind of information baseball fans love to exchange in the long pauses between pitches, between innings, and between hot dogs and beer.

No, Alex Rodriguez was never a Mud hen -- but in 2007, they did (with beak in cheek) offer free agent A-Rod a contract that included a bonus for hitting 75 home runs in ‘08 and leading them to 10 straight International League titles. Hank Steinbrenner, son of the Yankees owner, asked The New York Times: "Does he want to go into the Hall of Fame as a Yankee, or a Toledo Mud Hen?”

The Mud Hens may be a minor league team, but they’ve had a lot of major league talent over the years – and some legendary ballplayers have worn Mud Hens gear, including Addie Joss, Travis Fryman, Kirby Puckett, Casey Stengel, Jim Thorpe (yes, that Jim Thorpe), Frank Viola, and the great, drunken Chicago Cub’s slugger, Hack Wilson, who knocked in 191 RBI’s for the Cubbies in 1930 – a major league record that still stands. Click here for a complete list of Toledo Mud Hens alumni enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

It should also be noted that Toledo is the site of a failed late 19th Century attempt to break pro baseball’s color line. The 1884 Toledo Blue Stockings of the American Association, was the only major league team with black players (Moses Fleetwood Walker and his brother, Welday Walker) before Jackie Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers made history in 1947. Sadly, Cap Anson, the racist star of the Chicago White Stockings (alas, the modern day Cubs) refused to play on the same field as a black man. Though Anson relented when told his team would lose its share of the gate for an exhibition game against Toledo – Anson’s steadfast resistance to interracial play helped to draw an ignominious color line in baseball for another 63 years.

Now, back to 16” softball. Most of what you need to know about this wacky, egalitarian, and blessedly coed sport is encapsulated in this graphic from the website of the Chicago 16” Softball Hall of Fame.

Back in 1983, the Practical Theatre Company joined the fledgling Chicago Theatre Softball League, and someone — most likely Coach Wolf Larson himself — dubbed our team The Toledo Mud Hens. We played against teams from the Remains and Steppenwolf Theatres, among others. Bashing around the big 16” orb, a good time was had by all. And who can forget the time John Malkovich helped us to tackle Donny Moffat and give him a pink belly? But I digress…

Toledo Mud Hens on the stage of the PTC's John Lennon Auditorium (1983).

Jeff Lupetin. (Dig that crazy headband!)

These photos, taken in 1983, capture the distinctive batting stances of the early PTC Toledo Mud Hens. What we lacked in skill, we made up for in style. Of course, not all Mud Hens were without skill. Coach Wolf consistently crushed the ball at the plate and caught everything in centerfield within reach – and many that were far out of reach.

Terry Barron was a real honest-to-goodness shortstop that could field and throw with dexterity and flair. I witnessed Terry’s heroics many times from my post at third base. How good was I? Well, I still have a bent ring finger on my left hand from where I mishandled yet another bouncing, bounding 16” projectile.

Brad Hall, Casey Fox at the Bat, Isabella Hoffman

Julia Crowe, Jim McCutchen, Sally Nemeth

The Author, Stacy Upton, Shelly Goldstein

As Coach Wolf hits, note the all-star lineup of Hens on deck. (Photo by Jim McCutchen)

Over the years, players came and went – but Coach Wolf continued to hold the team together with the help of player-manager Ken Snedegar, and a new cast of Mud Hens clucked together into the early 1990’s. This edition of The Mud Hens was a winner. Heck! They even won league championships! And they had baseball cards, drawn by John Goodrich.

Here’s a select batch of some of Johnny B’s favorite Mud Hens cards from the six sets that he and Ken Snedegar produced. John tells me that many Mud Hen veterans have chosen the Paul Barrosse card from the first set (1985) as their favorite Mud Hen card portrayal of all time. It certainly captures my proficiency in the field.

For John, half the fun of the cards was the meticulous stats and “fun facts” on the backs, supplied by Captain Snedegar. You can see by the reading the back of Barb Reeder’s card in ’90 how far John and Sned progressed in their card-making, stat-tabulating craft.

Today, Coach Wolf is living in faraway Madrid, Spain – where I presume they have no 16” softball. Yet I know that, even in Spain, Wolf Larson is well aware that it’s baseball’s opening week – and that The Toledo Mud Hens will take the field to start the 2010 season this Thursday.

As for the Chicago Theatre League’s Toledo Mud Hens – they played in the league championship final on August 31, 2009. Does anyone know who won? Do we still know any Mud Hens on that team? Let’s hear you cluck, Mud Hens!

Now, here’s a gallery of classic Chicago Theatre League Toledo Mud Hens Cards, drawn by Johnny B. Goodrich.


Filed under Art, History, Sports

Return to Yosemite: Snowshoes & Rainbows

The natural power, the grandeur, and the serenity of Yosemite National Park have a grip on my family’s imagination, but while we’ve visited the park several times during the Christmas holidays and in the summer, we had never been to Yosemite when its snow-fed waters were flowing abundantly. We’ve seen Yosemite Falls and Bridalveil Falls reduced to a trickle in an August drought and choked by ice in late December. And though these legendary cataracts are impressive in any season, we could only imagine how impressive they would be in the spring thaw, when the snowpack in the Sierras swells the creeks that cascade over Yosemite’s towering granite cliffs.

On the last weekend in March, we got the chance to see Yosemite’s waterfalls at their free-flowing best – with some very colorful surprises!

Victoria and Eva encounter deer in Yosemite Valley.

For me, just getting to Yosemite this time was going to be an adventure. Victoria and the girls were driving up to the park on Friday morning, but I was going to be stuck at work until 4:30 pm that day. So, while they enjoyed the scenic car ride up California State Route 99 through the San Joaquin Valley to Fresno, and then northeast on Route 41 up into the mountains to the south entrance of Yosemite – I was leaving my office in Hollywood and sweating it out in traffic on La Cienega Blvd., trying to make my 6:30 flight out of LAX to Fresno.

Eva celebrates her arrival in the Yosemite Valley. Meanwhile, I'm still trying to get there.

Luckily, the travel gods smiled upon me, and I was among the last shuttle load of passengers to board our tiny American Eagle jet to Fresno, landing at 7:30 pm. By 8:30, I was behind the wheel of a rented Jeep (with 4-wheel drive so I wouldn’t have to worry about using chains in the possibly snow-covered mountain roads) and on my way up Route 41. I made Yosemite’s south entrance by 9:45 – and the moonlight hinted at the natural wonders I was passing on my way down to the valley floor.

Just before 11:00 pm, I drove up to the Ahwahnee Hotel, named for the the Ahwahneechee – the Native American tribe that inhabited the Yosemite Valley when the white men “discovered” it. I was happy to discover that my family, and the dear friends with whom we would spend the weekend, were waiting for this straggler to arrive.

On our previous visits to Yosemite we’d spent a lot of time at the lovely and historic Ahwahnee, designed by architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood and built in 1927, but we’d never stayed there. We’ve been to the celebrated Bracebridge Dinner in the dining hall at Christmastime, warmed ourselves by the huge fireplaces in the Great Lounge, and enjoyed many dark beers and hot bowls of chili at the Ahwahnee Bar after our winter hikes. This time, we were spending three nights at the Ahwahnee, and I was delighted to join my family and friends for a nightcap on the 6th floor sun porch (which was actually a full moon porch at the time) before retiring to our splendid, comfortable room.

Back in the early 1920´s, Stephen Mather, the National Park Service Director, chose the hotel’s site because of its stunning views of several of Yosemite´s natural landmarks – Half Dome, Yosemite Falls and Glacier Point – but those breathtaking sights would have to wait until morning.

The next morning, we enjoyed a quick breakfast on what was now truly a sun porch. Brilliant sunlight streamed through the windows, and the magnificent sheer cliffs that rise above the hotel were now in view. Those cliffs rise 3,000 feet above the valley floor – and today, we were going to hike to the edge of one of them.

We drove up Route 41 to Badger Pass Road, where we rendezvoused with two naturalists (not to be confused with naturists) who would guide us on an 8-mile snowshoe hike to Dewey Point.

It was my first time wearing snowshoes, and while these weren’t the classic snowshoes I’d known from watching Yukon Mountie movies as a kid, we all put on our red plastic versions and stepped out across the frozen snowpack through stands of lodgepole pines and blindingly white wide open meadows on our way to Dewey Point on the south rim of Yosemite Valley.

Note: From this point on, all the photos were taken by the tall and talented Brad Hall…

At an elevation of 7,385 feet, the air was crisp, fresh and relatively thin as we reached Dewey Point – where we were rewarded for our efforts on the trail with a stunning panorama from El Capitan to Half Dome – and beyond.

We paused on this glorious ridge to gape in wide-eyed wonder, devour a picnic lunch – and listen to our guides as they described what we were so fortunate to be seeing. Most interesting of all, was the background they gave us on Yosemite’s Native American population, and the local legends they inspired.

Chief among the legends was the story of Chief Tenaya — and the infamous “Curse of Tenaya.”

Me and Vic at Dewey Point.

Tenaya was the leader of the Ahwahneechee tribe — which means “people of the Ahwahnee” (Yosemite Valley) — when white men came to Yosemite for the first time in the 1830’s.  The Ahwahneechee were feared by the surrounding Miwok tribes, who called them “Yosemite” meaning “they are killers.” Some historians say the name is a corruption of the word “Uzumati” meaning “grizzly bear” — which was also a fearsome, deadly appellation. Clearly, Chief Tenaya and his warriors were a badass bunch.

The Barrosse & Hall families: a relatively badass bunch.

By 1851, tensions between Tenaya’s band and the white settlers in the Sierra started to increase, and the state of California decreed that the Yosemite natives should be relocated to reservations outside of the valley. The Mariposa Brigade was enlisted to carry out the relocation – an operation which eventually resulted in the tragic killing of Tenaya’s youngest son.

When Chief Tenaya was informed of his son’s death, he was enraged — and confronted Captain Boling of the Mariposa Brigade, expressing his anger in a fateful curse: ”Kill me, sir captain! Yes kill me, as you killed my son — as you would kill my people if they were to come to you! You would kill all my race if you had the power. You have made me sorrowful, my life dark.  You killed the child of my heart — why not kill the father? You may kill me, sir captain, but you shall not live in peace. I will follow in your footsteps. I will not leave my home, but be with the spirits among the rocks, the waterfalls, in the rivers and in the wind. Wheresoever you go, I will be with you. You will not see me, but you will fear the spirit of the old chief, and grow cold.”

To this day, it’s said that Yosemite Valley is haunted by the spirit of Chief Tenaya’s murdered son — and Native Americans and white folk alike attribute mysterious accidents and unaccountable deaths to the curse of Chief Tenaya. The old chief’s namesake landmark, Tenaya Canyon, located at the northwest corner of the park, is a particularly deadly place. Park rangers refer to it as the “Bermuda Triangle of Yosemite”.

On our way back down Route 41 into the valley after our Dewey Point hike, we came out of the Wawona Road tunnel, and paused to take in the fabulous panoramic view of the Yosemite Valley – featuring Bridalveil Falls. Incredibly, the cascading waters of Bridalveil Falls were lit up by a vivid rainbow: the kind of spectral vision that kept the Valley’s foremost promoter, John Muir, transfixed.

The next day, we explored the wonders of Yosemite Falls. I will let my very good friend Brad Hall’s photos tell the tale of our hike to the lower and upper sections of these landmark cascades. Brad’s inspired camerawork captured the beauty and majesty of Yosemite Falls – and those fabulous, ever-present rainbows!

Victoria's photo of the Bridalveil rainbow.

Many thanks to Brad for his marvelous photography – and for a wonderful weekend together!

Brad turns a pine stump into art.

Brad captures my last burst of energy at the end of our snowshoe hike.

Brad Hall: Adventurer, photographer, gentleman.

On the second day, we hiked to Yosemite Falls.

A rainbow on upper Yosemite Falls.

Sugar Pine: Up close & personal

Brad captures the details.

Upper Yosemite Falls.


Filed under Adventure, Beauty