From the Recollections of Life and Events in Wawona series

By Fede Peinado


So how did a Uruguayan end up in Wawona, of all places?   When I was 7 years old my parents took my sister, my brother, and me on a trip to California from our native Uruguay.  My grandmother, who was American, but living in Uruguay with her Uruguayan husband (my grandfather), also came along.  We took a cruise ship, sailed up the Atlantic, across the Panama Canal, and two weeks later, we were in Los Angeles.  It was the (northern hemisphere) summer of 1963.

We stayed in California for two months, and during that time, our parents took us to just about every spot imaginable; Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, Marineland (does anybody remember that?), Las Vegas, San Francisco, Sequoia National Park, and of course, Yosemite.  It was when we entered Yosemite that I became transfixed.  I had never seen anything so stunning.  My country resembles Kansas with beaches.  There are no mountains and no forests (other than a few man-made ones).  So when I first saw Yosemite, it felt like paradise to me.

I remember jumping into every lake, river, and stream we found, and climbing every rock and tree.  I just couldn’t get enough of the place.  When we went back to Uruguay, I remember trying to build a “log cabin” made of eucalyptus branches in my backyard because I wanted to re-create things I’d seen in Yosemite.  (I didn’t get too far with that log cabin before the whole thing collapsed…)

Eleven years later I came back to the U.S., this time to study at a university on the East coast.  During my junior and senior years I came back to California to spend the summer with my college roommate.  It was during that summer that I met my wife.  But I still had one last year of college, so I went back, finished my senior year and returned to California.

Shortly after returning to California we got married, and my wife and I went on a trip to Yosemite.  It was then 15 years since I had seen that magical place, and I was eager to find out if it was really how I remembered it through all that time.  As we drove into Wawona, my wife and I stopped at the Hotel to take a look at the main building.  It seemed like an impossibly beautiful setting to me.  All those green lawns, the white Adirondack chairs, the scents, the sound of the sprinklers, and the clean air.  We didn’t stay there that time, and instead, carried on towards the valley, but returned to Yosemite the following year and began what became a 25-year tradition of summer vacation with friends and family at the Wawona Hotel.

By 1995, I began feeling more and more attached to the area, and looked into the possibility of purchasing some property up there.  So I drove up for a weekend with my 5-year old son and looked at a couple of cabins for sale.  The first one I saw was cabin #37, which was later purchased by Beki Simon.  Somehow, I didn’t make up my mind soon enough, ended up buying a lot in Yosemite West, and it wasn’t until 6 years later that we purchased our current home on Fir Street.

Two years after we had purchased our Wawona home, my parents, by then in their late 70s and early 80s came over from Uruguay for a family reunion at our cabin in Wawona.  It had been 43 years since they had taken me to see that magical place, and now it was my turn to show them that same place from our own home.  My siblings and their families came too, and we all celebrated in the Ahwahnee dining room.

Other than first meeting my wife, and the birth of my two children, I can’t think of too many other events in my life that were as meaningful as that.  I also feel incredibly privileged to enjoy Wawona the way all of us lucky Wawona residents do.  We are lucky beyond belief, but after all, just maybe, we deserve it…


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