Charlie: It was the summer of 1990, and Linda and I were finally on the getaway that we had been looking forward to for years. Both of us were fried to a crisp from months of overwork. We had been hanging on by our fingernails until the kids left for three weeks of overnight camp. For the first time since our move to California eight years earlier, we were finally going to get to see Yosemite, just the two of us. The idea of having a week to ourselves with nothing to do and no one to take care of seemed almost too good to be true.
We had arrived at Yosemite around dinnertime the day before and spent the night in the Crane Flats campground just inside the western boundaries of the park. The next morning we had breakfast, left our gear in the tent, and drove to the valley floor to spend the day hiking. On the way back down the trail, we noticed that the plume of smoke from the fire in the distance that we had first seen in the late morning was much bigger and thicker. It was spreading over a large portion of the sky, and it seemed to be moving down towards the valley.
By the time we got to the Visitor’s Center, it was early evening and there was already smoke in the air. A large group of people had gathered near the main entrance, and a ranger was speaking to them using a microphone. He was saying something about blankets being distributed and all roads out of the valley being closed because of the fire.