Among all of the grandeur that is Yosemite someone decided to plop a hotel smack dab in the middle. Really there are a few but there is one that is worth talking about The Alawanhe was created to be the high class destination for the movers and shakers of a time long past. If you ever have seen “The Shining” you can get an idea of what this place looks like. Giant halls with cathedral ceilings are seemingly placed about at random. Large fire basins are present inside to keep the guest cozy in the winter and stained glass is tossed about with near reckless abandon just because they can.
Getting a room at the Alawanhne requires reservations at least a year in advance for even the most basic room and some suites with a view can cost up to $1500 a night. And since I travel with reckless abandon and don't have $1500 to throw around I wish I could tell you that I got a room to sleep there. That didn’t stop me from trying however.
Needing a place to stay and felling like a lucky punk I decided to ask if there were any cancellations. The staff all wears tuxedos and treat even the average slug like me with politeness that doesn't come across as saccharine. The hotel receptionist seemed genuinely sad that I couldn't sleep there that night. What I did get out of this exchange is the list of all the properties in the park and the single phone number that you can call to book any one of them.
By some miracle of technology my AT&T got cell phone reception in the middle of the valley at Yosemite National Park where everyone else’s phones were reduced to fancy paperweights. In the parlance of sports this is like throwing a perfect game. It just isn't supposed to happen (suck on that Verizon!) Suddenly I was talking to Chad and making reservations. Wanting to keep the conversation quick lest my cell phone start paying attention to the laws of physics I kept things moving.
“Yes, any room will do... A lodge... south entrance... sure sounds cozy, they have TV right?... Great...Well since I saved $20 getting into the park today sure I'll take the scenic view for $20 more... yeah... I think $190 is reasonable... no I don't need cancellation insurance for my room I am checking into in 2 hours...Just book it!”
So with a 3 minute conversation we had a room. Only having a general idea where this place was I then put the car in drive, pointed it south, and hit the gas.
The Tanaya Lodge is just outside the south entrance to the park in the tiny town of Fish Head. Yes, “Fish Head”. The official population of this town is 200, which is roughly the size of an average college dormitory. Fish head still has a 'general store' and I am sure that if I looked hard enough would have a black smith and a livery tucked away someplace.
Being from the east I am used to the word 'Lodge' being preceded by the words “old” or “motor”. The Tanaya Lodge, however, was more resort then lodge. I had to be in the wrong place! This place made the Alawaneh look like someplace that charges by the hour and has a sheet deposit. As the valet took our car we could see racks of complimentary snow shoes that flanked the entrance. The main hall of the Tanaya was decorated like a hunting lodge, only enormous and comfortable. And there was no way that a staff at a place that costs this little could be this damn polite.
“Hello Mr. Spoto. Here are our three restaurants, they all have full bars but this one has the outdoor fire pit... here is our in house convenience store, and your room is just past the spa, pool, and hot tub... Would you care for a massage this evening?” Oh, I so don't belong here. But yeah... I could get used to this!
Waiting for the other shoe to drop we went up to see our room. The valet was kind enough to fetch our bags from the car and we followed him past the pool, past the fire pit, past the massage concierge, past the pool, hot tub, and sauna, and then up to our room. There were complimentary robes in the closet, the room was large enough for 5, and the place was impeccably clean. It was then that I finally met disappointment with the Tanaya Lodge. The TV wasn't HD. I mean how do these people call themselves a “resort lodge” without HD!? The nerve!
After freshening up in the room it was clear that we all needed to get some dinner. None of us had a full meal since breakfast and granola bars and trail mix only get you so far. Ready to go coyote on my own arm I finally got the girls moving towards food. Why you need to put on makeup to walk downstairs will likely always confuse me but I have learned in my time to not ask questions like this. We naturally decided to go to the restaurant with the outdoor fire pit!
Bellying up to the bar we ordered drinks and went out to the fire pit. The patio that enclosed the pit looked over the forest and mountain and gave a spectacular view of the spring sky. We had lucked into premium weather the whole trip but outside the park in the high Sierras things get cold at night in April. The air temp did it's best to slow the rapid intoxication that we were heading towards, but little in life can reverse the effects of gin on an empty stomach.
When we finally got our table we lucked into the best server that the Tanaya had to offer. Sabrina had served us our first round at the bar and had a lot going on. Aside from being a competitive snowboarder she owned her own bikini company and had enough personality to say all that while looking completely chill about being that impressive. She easily kept the banter with three thoroughly snockered individuals at her table.
There is, of course, only one way to finish the night at the Tanaya. The hot tub. Donning the complimentary robes that come with the room we trekked out to the spa. Ordinarily I would have felt weird wandering around a hotel in a robe, but this was a “lodge”, and everyone else was doing it! Let me tell you, if you are in place, that gives you robes to wear and hot tub spas to soak in, you are a fool for not going. (I’m looking your way Steph!)
As I soaked in the tub I ran through the checklist of things I didn’t expect to do just 24 hours previously. Road trip with friends: check. Explore a natural wonder of the world: check. Find a resort to stay at: check. Get loaded on gin: check. Talk to a bikini model/snowboarder: check. Soak in a hot tub: check.
Not bad for not having a plan.