Starting the Year in Yosemite

All I wanted to do at the end of 2018 was hole up in a cabin and hike around Yosemite. Thanks to my Uncle Roger and Auntie Sharon, we were able to do just that. We celebrated the end of 2018 and kicked-off 2019 in my favorite place on earth…I feel like 2019 is going to be a year of miracles and change! Continue reading “Starting the Year in Yosemite”

Girls Trip to Yosemite

What happens when you take two newbies to Yosemite for the first time?


Technically, one of them (ahem…April) went to Yosemite on bus with a group of Chinese tourists for a day. I say that doesn’t count. The other one (ahem…Ning) would rather be dancing in a club. The baby, of course, is a Yosemite vet.  Continue reading “Girls Trip to Yosemite”

Our Yosemite Fix

Andy and I usually go up to Yosemite at least once or twice a year. It feels like home and we need our fix. If we bring our kids up right, hopefully they’ll feel the same way about our backyard – four hours away is basically backyard, right? – National Park. Continue reading “Our Yosemite Fix”

Sisters in Yosemite

I met Marlena in the Missionary Training Center (MTC) on my first day as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. She was one of my assigned companions and she greeted me with a huge smiley, “Hi, Sister Ho!” I loved her immediately.

We loved our hilarious MTC class of elders, wet our green missionary feet in Colorado Springs where we awaited visas to Taiwan (one day we tracted into a Catholic church!), and even lived in the same house with our trainers when we first arrived in Taiwan.

My Mission 11 082
The best MTC district.
During our first six weeks on island, a road sign hit her in the face during a typhoon, she ate McDonald’s soft serve almost everyday, and our house of sisters chased down an enormous rat and trapped it under a shelf with plastic bags. After I was transferred, I only saw her a few more times in the next year and a half, but the work only brought us closer. When our missions ended, we commiserated by eating an entire box of Ferrero Rocher chocolates.

My mission strengthened my testimony of the gospel and built the foundation of the person I am and the disciple I am trying to become. I had amazing companions, close-knit districts and inspiring wards.

After our mission, we talked on the phone almost everyday. She moved from Seattle to the Bay Area and now we live a few blocks from each other. Our kids were born a few months apart and Carter asks to play with her son, Matthew – Carter calls him Massi – everyday. He also calls Marlena “Jie Mei Ayi” (Sister Aunt) – because even though we’ve been home from the mission for over ten years, we still call each other Jie Mei. Carter is kind of obsessed with her husband, Uncle Mike.

Last weekend, our little families went to Yosemite together. We hiked down to see giant sequoias in the Tuolomne Grove. We waded in Tenaya Lake and cliff jumped into May Lake. We taught our boys to high five each other. It was lovely.


Who knew that the funny girl I met that morning in the MTC would continue to walk with me through life’s challenging and beautiful adventures?

In Marlena I found the sister I never had but always wanted. And I will be eternally grateful.


Yosemite Firefall

A few weekends ago, we ventured up to Yosemite in an attempt to see the rare and elusive Firefall. Every year, for a few weeks in February, the angle of the setting sun strikes Horsetail Falls and transforms it into cascading stream of glowing lava. Water flow, weather conditions, wind and cloud cover must align to create this stunning effect. I read stories of people who spent years trying to see the Firefall. These stories notwithstanding, our two-family band set out feeling hopeful.

As it happens, we were just one of about five bajillion other people who had jumped on the Firefall bandwagon. Some people were already set up and crowded at 11 a.m. We drove into the park to scope sites and we ended up near the El Cap Picnic area. Through a stroke of good luck – disguised as a scarily long parking line four hours before sunset – we found a secluded spot with a nice view. So, we set up to wait it out. Thank goodness for the big bag of Doritos Mike purchased at Curry Village!

As the afternoon progressed, the sky grew hazy and overcast. Bad news for Firefall watching. But, about an hour before sunset, the sky cleared! Massive internal hand clapping and excited jumping! When the water started to change colors, a swell of cheering erupted in pockets scattered throughout the forest and along the river. The clapping and shouts of joy continued as the water glowed more intensely. This glorious show united and mesmerized hundreds, if not thousands, of strangers. It was beautiful, surreal and better than any movie I’ve ever seen. Including Up.

The night before and the night after we were there, a patch of haze blocked the sun about 10 minutes before sunset, obscuring the Firefall. It seems the universe conspired to allow us to see this miracle of nature.

I felt like I was holding up my old, plastic, yellow and blue Fisher Price camera next to all the professional photographers with their fancy equipment and enormous lenses. I don’t know what I’m doing. But, here are a few pics I snapped of the Firefall. Goes without saying that real life was much much better. We were all overwhelmed with gratitude to have witnessed it in person.

On our way home the next day, I made everyone stop in a field of trees bursting with white blooms.

Another epic  weekend. Naturally, one adventure just inspires more. Next on the bucket list: Yosemite Moonbow. Anyone want to join me?