Thursday, April 29, 2010


When Catherine Dodd, my surrogate daughter, invited me to travel to Hetch Hetchy with her last weekend, I quickly accepted. Catherine, as Director of Health Services for the City and County of San Francisco, needed to meet with the staff stationed there to negotiate health needs.  A house would be provided for us, and after the needed meetings, we would be free to play tourist. 

In my 54 years in California I had never been there, although I had heard, over the years about the efforts of various environmentalists to have the O’Shaughnessy Dam torn down, and efforts to restore the glacial valley to its original pristine state.  Of course most San Franciscans sit on the opposite side of the fence, enjoying the twin bonanza of wonderful pure water and the economic boon of cheap hydroelectric power, a significant income source.

 I learned that John Muir himself had not wanted to keep the glacial valley in its original pristine condition; he thought the beauty should be shared by everyone, and imagined some kind of small tourist industry there. Coincidently, Catherine’s paternal grandmother. Linda Genevieve Gehringer Dodd, had protested the construction of the dam, sometime in the teens or twenties. Catherine owns a picture of her standing with John Muir at a demonstration. I guess Cath inherits her many political interests and talents.

Due to our abundant rainfall this spring, the foothills were aglow with many shades of green, more than I have ever seen, and the deep blue of the bush lupine practically stung our eyes.  It bordered every country road, often waist high.

Our not so little house, built in the twenties, was less than a block from the giant Moccasin hydroelectric plant and only a skip and a jump from a helicopter pad, used three times in our brief tenancy to evacuate medical emergency patients. 

Catherine sketched a little, but I failed, once again, to get out my paints. Still, I managed to beat Cath at scrabble.  I read and soaked in all the history surrounding us.  I learned it took twenty years to build the dam, in part because a railroad had to be built first to carry all the supplies and workers. 

 We toured nearby Coulterville Friday afternoon, including a terrific pioneer museum, and Saturday we trekked to Jamestown for a wonderful outdoor art fair, later taking many pictures of Chinese Camp and its falling down homes.

It is interesting how many ranchers in the area are switching to beef that is all grass fed.  They seemed very brown and very fat, though I still can't identify their family heritage.  We skipped lunch for the indulgence of home made ice cream, and came home happy, sated, but exhausted. 

My photography can't compete with the abundant stunning photos of Hetch Hetchy on Google., so I’ve included a photo of Catherine on the porch of a tea house!  What a wonderful weekend!


1 comment:

Sandy Delehanty said...

I am a native Californian and I too have never been to Little Yosemite Valley! Thank you for writing about your adventures how fun! So glad you and Catherine got to share a much needed get away. Love the cow story, and of course the painting. I think your cow has a fun side to her personality, maybe a prankster like Harvey our llama. Sandy