Yosemite: The REAL happiest place on Earth

Being in Yosemite brought back memories of the two weeks we spent in Cochamo, Chile a little over a year ago. Both valleys boast enormous granite rock walls, outstanding climbing, ancient forests, beautiful trails, and waterfall hikes, and with only one potential but highly unlikely predator to humans; the puma in Chile, and the black bear in California.

Yet the two valleys differ greatly in two respects:

1) There’s no deer in Cochamo (as a N. American, I thought a forest without Bambi was super weird)


2) Unlike the fully-loaded (hot water, electricity, shops) and easily accessible Yosemite, Cochamo is so remote  you have to hike in 10k with your pack just to get to the one refugio/camping area–without electricity.

Normally Tree and I prefer the lesser-known treasures like Cochamo and Piedra Parada, Argentina, but I have to say, the National Park Service does an amazing job in Yosemite.  Four million people visit each year, and somehow they keep the grounds pristine, the bears wild, and all the tourists from around the world in a blissed out state of radness. Seriously, people are remarkably friendly in Yosemite–the whole vibe is just GOOD–and I think it’s because everyone is beyond STOKED to be there.

Mirror Lake Tree and Sol

And we, of course, were no different. Even when it started dumping snow on us a few days into our 3wk stay, we kept telling ourselves, “But we’re in Yosemite!”

Soleil happy snow

Soleil wasn’t as easily assuaged. This was her very first time in snow, and I was so excited! I bundled her up, grabbed the camera, and shepherded us outside for the big ‘snow day’ photo-opp. For the first 5 minutes, she loved it! But after we built a little snowman, the whole thing fell apart. “FRIO! FRIO! TENGO FRIO!” [COLD! COLD! I’M COLD!] She started screaming, then crying, then sobbing. I rushed her back inside and warmed her up, but she was hysterical. Finally, the only way to get her to calm down was to threaten her with putting her back out in the snow.  It worked so well, in fact, that we kept saying it for the next 2 wks, even though it was a balmy 70 degrees the rest of the time.

“Be good Soleil or we’ll make you play in the snow!”

Soleil unhappy snow

Aside from the snow torture, Soleil had an amazing time. We all did. Again, how can you not? It’s YOSEMITE!

There was a lot of climbing involved for everyone.  Tree and I must have spotted Soleil up both of these boulders at least ten times each.

Soleil's rock at Mirror Lake

Soleil climbing the boulder at Mirror Lake

Soleil y Dady escalando

Soleil’s boulder at Curry Village

And once Ari and Ramiro, our good friends from Mendoza, Argentina showed up, Sol recruited them to spot her, too.

Ari and Sol cimbing

But, already showing good climbing etiquette, Soleil was quick to return the favor.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Soleil spotting Mama on Kevin’s Traverse

Soleil toothbrush

Soleil helping clean my project

About a week after arriving to Yosemite, I realized something incredible: I was no longer in pain. After 3 months of pinched nerve/disc bulging hell, it was finally over. The 4 wks of physical therapy I did in Bishop really paid off. I’m so happy.

And, to celebrate, I climbed! When I first tried this problem, I sucked. Badly. I couldn’t even make it across the traverse, let alone the crux and then the final push over the mantle.

The Crux Move

The crux move on Kevin’s Traverse- the longest, pumpiest v0 ever!

Shaking out

Shaking out before the mantle and then THE SEND!

But, with Tree’s coaching and lots of training, I sent that bastard on the last day we were in Yosemite.

Damn that feels good.

Bloody Send

Aside from bouldering with Sol and me, Tree had a few great climbing days with our good friend Amanto, too. Yosemite is Tree’s favorite place on Earth, well…along with the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.

Tree and Amanto Climbing

Tree and Amanto El Cap Meadow

After years of being together and not being a climber, I’m really happy that I finally understand the pure joy he gets from “humping rocks,” as I used to quip back when I was just a jealous mistress.

Life is so much better now that we’re climbing-partners-in-crime.

Tree and Stevie El Cap Meadow Selfie

The highlight of Soleil’s time, though, was seeing Ari again. Ari used to be Sol’s niñera (nanny) from 8 months to 2 years old, off and on, in Argentina. I was nervous that Sol wouldn’t remember her, or connect the way she did before, but Ari wasn’t hesitant at all. She picked Sol up, swung her around, and it was instantaneous love just like before.

Abrazo para Ari

Sol and Ari El Cap Meadow

I think some people just have magic together. I’ve felt that way before with certain people, most notably with Tree, of course. It was as if I knew him before I knew him, and I think Sol and Ari have that same rare affinity for each other. If I believed in past lives, I’d say these two have shared a few together before.

Even though Soleil refers to Ari as “Mi Ari,” I actually consider her a really good friend of mine, too.


Photo compliments of Dakota from TraipsingAbout.com

Ari and Ramiro have been visiting California for the past 2.5 months, with just 2 wks left to go. If you’re friends with us on Facebook, you’ve probably read at least one of my “CALLING ALL CARS” posts to help find them short home-stays along their way. So many friends, and friends of friends, in our community have stepped up or offered to help in some way. I have been blown away by “the kindness of strangers” expressed more as a living culture than just as a random one-time gesture. Time and time again, I see the goodness in people. 

Thank you everyone who has contributed to their incredible experience here in the States, but a special thanks to those that have opened their homes: Benny Tadeo, Scott and  Elizabeth McGuire, Mayra Padilla, Amanto Marcotulli, Shaun Galanos, Shannon Petrello, and Sean and Sabrina Vierling.

And thank you to Ari and Ramiro for coming to Yosemite and sharing so many special moments with us! You are BOTH such stellar people. We are grateful to have you in our circle. Buenas Ondas!

Ari and Ramiro Vernall Falls

Incidentally, both Ari and Ramiro climbed (and well!) for the first time in Yosemite. Not a bad place to kick off your tick list. Ari and Ramiro climbing

Just before our time was up in Yosemite, we finally got to meet some fellow nomad friends in person. It’s always nice to find out that your virtual friends are as cool in real life as they are online.

Meet Chelsea and Dakota (far right) from Traipsing About.  They not only travel full-time in their converted Sprinter van and write a great blog (sound familiar?), they can also boast a recent 4k mile bike ride across the United States. WTF, right?  I like to think we inspired their greatness 🙂

Vernal Falls group shot

Dakota is responsible for that amazing rainbow shot of Ari and me in front of Vernal Falls. Thanks Dakota! And thanks for carrying my baby back down from Vernal Falls.  Holy smokes, those were a lot of steps. Either I’m out of shape, or Soleil gained a lot of weight. My butt still hurts.

Sol and mama Vernal Falls

I think Tree’s favorite moment in Yosemite happened our first full day there, which happened to be his birthday–April 18th, 2015. It’s important to mark the date, because I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a historic day in Daddy and Soleil’s future.

After having spent the day climbing with Amanto, we all went to El Cap meadow to admire The Captain and share a bottle of wine. Somewhere in the middle of the festivities, Tree started teaching us about the features of El Capitan: The Texas Flake, The Boot, Dolt Tower, etc..  Soleil listened dutifully, and then said:

“Yo quiero subir El Capitan.” [Translation: I want to climb The Captain]

Stunned with pride, Tree was quiet for a second before replying,“Okay. Tu puedes!” [Okay. YOU CAN!]

Not one to procrastinate, Soleil stood up and  said “VAMOS!” [LET’S GO!] as she marched towards El Cap. 


For me, aside from sending my boulder project and hanging out around campfires with great company, I got to climb TWICE with, or maybe just in the same area, as my climbing hero: Beth Rodden. By the time I started climbing a year and a half ago and first heard of Beth Rodden, Soleil was 1yr old, and (my friend) Beth was pregnant with her first child, “Bebe Theo” (Soleil’s friend). Sure, Beth had already established herself as a living legend in the climbing world with numerous first woman ascents and feats like Meltdown (5.14c), but what I admired most about her was her courage to do what many women in the climbing world, or heck, what many successful athletes or career women in general, are afraid to do: become a mom. Since then, she’s published a series called Climbing With Kids on her blog that continues to inspire and remind me (and Tree) that being a good parent and expressing your passion are NOT mutually exclusive; on the contrary, they work hand in hand. Anyhow, Beth, her husband Randy, and baby Theo were super cool, down-to-earth, and fun to hang out with. I hope our paths cross on the family climbing circuit again.

Sadly, this is not a picture of Beth Rodden. I was just too shy to bust out the camera, so this badass climber will have to do until the next time my new BFF and I get to “climb with the kids.”




  1. Soleil, holding up mommy Holding up the World. . .

  2. ding ding.
    Love you guys soooooo much. Bring on red lodge!!

  3. Cody love the reference 🙂

  4. Owm, só cute!

  5. is that called “aid climbing” ?

  6. Cody Johnson says:

    Soleil, holding up mommy Holding up the World.

  7. Chris Hauter says:

    Cool blog!

  8. Mara Imbellone says:

    Owm, só cute!

  9. Chris Haueter, thank you Chris!

  10. Jenica, I’m in Oregon!

  11. Nonituyas says:

    What Cody said . . .

  12. You’re right! Everyone in Yosemite was so cheery and happy, tourists and park staff included. So great to finally meet you three in person! Enjoy your time up north and we’ll cross paths in another beautiful place sometime soon.

  13. Ahhhhhh!

  14. Mara, Que saudades de você! Dê um abraço para Luah de Soleil <3

  15. Chelsea says:

    Lovely to meet you three – the best part of our trip to Yosemite! I know our paths will cross again and I’m already excited for that day. Safe and happy travels!

    • Agreed! And thank you both for all of the encouragement with Nomadly in Love. Hopefully I get that up and running SOON! We still need to pow-wow some more about our micro-adventure activism blog/app/revolution 🙂

      Until we meet again over wine and campfires! xoxo

  16. Mommy needs support from her little angel!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. We went sport climbing the other day, and now she wants to to belay. I weigh a little over half of Tree’s weight, so I wonder if that means she can belay me when she reaches 55lbs. 8yrs old?

  18. Thank you Chris! I really appreciate that. Whoops, just realized I already wrote you back. Getting used to this ‘reply” button. Oh well, thanks again 😉

  19. It’s bold, independent and very cool how you guys, your family are living.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Love you!
    -Little Lava

  21. Jason Conroy says:

    Wow, I hope you see this and shoot me a reply. I’m heading up to Yosemite this weekend, almost exactly 2 years after your trip. It’s my first time there and I will be in a small RV the size of your old Sprinter. Please tell me, where did you park the van? I assume you stayed in it for your three weeks there. I’ll be up there this Thursday-Sunday. PS, it’s Monique’s brother Jason 🙂

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