The John Muir Trail has blistered more than a few happy feet. Once you get hooked on the sweeping granite domes, gin-clear streams, and putting-green meadows, you're not gonna stop just to treat a measly hot spot. Which explains how I found myself nursing a silver dollar-size whopper this spring after a JMT hike into Little Yosemite Valley. But I didn't care. Nor did I mind when a surprise storm dropped a foot of snow in the high country. I had miles of Yosemite backcountry behind me, and a reservation at the Ahwahnee Hotel ahead.
Let's speak plainly. For the cost of a room at the Ahwahnee, you could buy a bomber four-season tent. A super-plush down bag. Heck, you could get three ultralight packs with change to spare. Or you could buy the privilege, for one glorious night, of soaking your filthy, stinky, aching, backpacking feet in an elegant bathtub in Yosemite National Park's historic grand hotel. I chose
the tub, and never wished I'd gone shopping instead.
As befits a lodge nestled in the heart of Yosemite Valley, a trail leads right to the Ahwahnee's red-carpeted entrance. Hand your pack to a valet, warm up by the fire in the Great Lounge (tea and cookies every afternoon!), then drag your weary butt up to that bath (I recommend the scented bubbles, supplied). My room overlooked Yosemite Falls, gushing like a hydrant with spring runoff. Other rooms command views of Glacier Point, Half Dome, and Royal Arches. Downstairs, pop into the Winter Club Room to see memorabilia from Yosemite's legendary climbers. Then slide over to the grand dining room, where the native granite pillars, sugar pine beams, and tall-window vistas make you feel like you still have one foot in the wilderness. Worried about the dress code? Don't be, because the Ahwahnee understands backpackers. It keeps a ready supply of loaner jackets and Band-Aids on hand.
For more information or to book a room (rates: $359 to $1,152), call (559) 252-4848 or visit www.yosemitepark.com.