Saturday, May 5, 2007

Railroad Station at El Portal

Before that it took several days to get into the Valley by stagecoach

Until cars were permitted the last leg of the journey from El Portal was by horse-drawn coach, though sometimes we walked.

From Merced the grade went up steadily until the train gave a great sigh and stopped in a cloud of heat and smoke in El Portal. In those early years, before cars were going into the Valley, most people spent the night there at the El Portal Hotel. Uncle had taken pictures soon after it opened showing its amenities and if we had time we liked to stop there and have lunch in the restaurant or visit the shops.

Then we headed out, up the dusty road. I always looked up when we passed through the Arch. Uncle had taken some panoramas there and he had gone along to lug the equipment and help out. That was a Sunday Time. More about that later.

My heart always gave a lurch when we reached that point into the Valley when I first saw El Capitan. (El Capitan) It was a first homecoming. I had listened to the legends while Uncle read them to me – before I was reading them aloud myself beside the campfire in the evenings. I thought it really looked like an old woman throwing down her long hair, getting ready to take out her comb and smooth out the tangles. Uncle smiled at that.

The road ran along the side of the Valley, close to the wall until it curved just after the Ship Stone. The Ship Stone was a small mountain that cut into the grassy meadow behind the Village. I spent time there.

As we made the turn we saw the Masonic Hall on the right, beginning the clutter of tents and buildings that were scattered through the trees and boulders. There was a stable and other outbuildings, too, but the Masonic Hall figured in some significant chapters of the family history, so I always smiled when I saw it.

The Studio was on the left, at the corner of the roads, the one coming from El Portal and the other coming up from what we then called the Lower Village.

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