Vic and I have stayed at Curry Village, the Ahwanee Hotel and the Wawona Hotel in Yosemite National Park, but keep returning to Tenaya Lodge, a fabulous resort just outside the park. With an ice skating rink, indoor Olympic pool and two whirlpool spas, a full-service spa, snowshoe rental, and snow play area, there is always something to do. This was our sixth consecutive winter visit there.
Entry drive to the lodge
When you arrive, Bell Captain Bruce Howard and the valets greet you like returning family members, setting the tone for a fabulous stay.
Installing or removing chains is a complimentary service provided by the valets, although tips are appreciated.
The complimentary valet service includes cleaning snow off the car.
A fresh snowfall turns the grounds into a winter wonderland full of fine photo ops.
Snow on branches turns them into works of art.
From majestic oaks and evergreens...
to manzanita shrubs...
to buried grasses, everything becomes a camera subject.
Even the metal firepit becomes a work of art.
After playing in the snow, it's nice to relax by the fire in the lobby, especially with a hot beverage.
We admired the magnificent 40 ft white fir in the lobby.
The breakfast buffet at Tenaya is not to be missed. This is only a small portion of the fresh fruit, hot dishes, and pastries that are offered each morning.
The model train layout runs through a gingerbread village that fascinates the children.
We were lucky enough to be at Tenaya when the chefs put on a gingerbread house decorating workshop. Nicole and I signed up and each got an assembled house to decorate.
Nicole and Allison put gelatin windows inside the house.
The twins were more interested in eating icing and the candies than decorating the houses. Nana was complicit, I'm afraid.
Allison did a good job sticking peppermints onto the roof. But when their Mom told them they couldn't eat any more candy, the twins hid under the table and licked icing off each other's faces. Silly girls.
It's a race against the clock to get finished, and there wasn't enough time. This was my finished house.
While the grandbabies were napping, Vic and I went for an late afternoon stroll.
The sunset reflected on snowy hillsides was spectacular.
Nicole signed the twins up for an evening of crafts with Santa and his elves.
The rest of us had a delightful dinner in the Sierra, a newly opened fine dining restaurant at Tenaya. Here our waiter Matthew makes a fabulous Caesar salad at the table.
The lobster bisque with black truffle crust was exquisite.
I had Filet Oscar, a 6 oz. filet topped with artichoke bottom, Dungeness crab, and Bernaise sauce. Beef comes from the Brandt family farm in Brawley CA and is raised naturally without hormones or antibiotics.
On our last morning there, I signed us up for an old-fashioned sleigh ride down a snowy trail behind a team of Belgian draft horses.
The destination for the ride is the stables, where we relaxed by a fire and had hot cider.
Vic held Megan up so she could pet the huge horses.
Megan enjoyed playing in the snow, a new experience for her.
All three girls enjoyed seeing the alternate team resting in their corral.
Scott took our photo after the ride back to the lodge: Papa Vic, Lauren, the driver, Nana Lou, Allison, Nicole and Megan. What a fun Christmas vacation.
(To read more of Lou Murray’s environmental writing, see her weekly column, Natural Perspectives, in the Huntington Beach Independent at www.hbindependent.com /blogs_and_columns/)