Yosemite's Wawona Hotel
Hal: The Wowona is more Yankee or Plantation south than lodge rustic - acres of lawn, white clapboard buildings with long porches, wicker furniture and Adirondak chairs. But the trees root you firmly here, in Yosemite: towering incense cedars, Ponderosa Pine, and the lord of all, the Giant Sequoia. In fact, Wowona means "big tree."
Teresa: We check into our Victorian room: whitewashed furniture, William Morris wallpaper, flowered damask bedspreads . I've never been one for that bed & breakfast style where, by the time you get all the pillows off the bed, naptimes over. But this room doesn't seem quaint so much as caught in time.
Hal: With no TV or phone in our room, we make our way back down to the lobby. It's mobbed, people playing backgammon, and cards, drinking cocktails on the porch, reading books in overstuffed chairs around the hearth. And not a seat in the parlor as a piano player accompanies one of the guests.
Hal: The next morning, chief maintenance man Marvin Kramer broadcasts his own flag raising ceremony over his walkie-talkie throughout the hotel. Teresa's out walking the grounds.
Teresa: It's a beautiful morning at the Wawona. There's just the beginning of this beautiful golden light coming in at a slant over these green swards of lawn. And the buildings are looking so white and ancient and inviting.
Hal: I'm curious about this place. It doesn't seem quite real. I wonder if anyone else feels it.
Hal: That's Mike Bruneer, the executive housekeeper. He came to work here almost 20 years ago and never left.
Teresa: Maybe this is the Enchanted Forest. I look at the staff and begin to wonder if they are guests who just stayed on. Waitress, Sue Gaines worked here as a college student where she met her husband.
Hal: Each night Tom Bopp sits down to an old Knabe parlor grand piano and casts a spell.
Teresa: Tom understands why this place is so homely.
Hal: Over the years Tom's seen managers come and go, all trying to improve on the Wawona. But, he maintains, the hotel insinuates itself on everyone here.
Teresa: And that premise is that you are here to relax and leave the pressures of the outside world behind, to let these big trees work their magic. And while you're at it, share the enchantment with your fellow travelers. I'm Teresa Jordan with Hal Cannon for the Savvy traveler.
The Western Folklife Center's Open Road is produced by Taki Telonidis with support from the George S. and Dolores Dor'e (DOOR-ee) Eccles Foundation.
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