Ah, Yosemite in spring. The splendor of nature. Cascading waterfalls. Majestic granite peaks. A family crippled by stomach flu.

I didn't see this coming. Normally my family and I get sick only during Southern California trips, which makes sense to any Northern California sports fan. We have this mystifying way of attracting germs when we head south on vacation. My 11-year-old has gotten sick during three separate trips to Disneyland. My 4-year-old once let loose while waiting for the Disneyland train. My aunt and I both spent the 1976 Bicentennial weekend getting sick in -- and all over -- Disneyland. I get stomach flu about once every five years. So, naturally, I got sick last year when my buddy and I hit the Grapevine on the way to see a friend in L.A.

The Hicks Family in a health and relatively placid moment at Glacier Point in Yosemite.
The Hicks Family in a health and relatively placid moment at Glacier Point in Yosemite. (Tony Hicks)

These are the kinds of family traditions any good American would treasure.

But Yosemite isn't supposed to make us sick. The air is clean. The water is pure. The hiking makes my legs cramp and scream in agony. But nobody gets sick.

Grand tradition

Every year we go to the wonderful Evergreen Lodge. It's kind of like the place in "Dirty Dancing," only without the 20-year-olds in tight pants. It's one of our annual highlights, the expectation of which made this year such a letdown. Oh, it wasn't the fault of the lodge, which is full of incredibly nice people. If people were that polite back in civilization, I'd demand proof they were real humans. No, I place all 110 percent of the blame for our horrific weekend on one person: My 4-year-old daughter, Lucy.

Four hours before we were supposed to depart for Yosemite, Lucy got sick ... in her brand-new bed in which she was sleeping for the first time. She apparently decided to give it the ultimate road test. Thankfully, I slept through the whole thing. Which, according to karma, is why an hour later Lucy -- then in her parents' bed -- followed suit.

Being good parents, our first concern was for our reservation at the Evergreen and how this conniving child was deliberately trying to ruin our vacation.

We pushed departure back to early afternoon, to verify the raging bug was contained. After six quiet hours, we jumped in the car and went on our way. The kids were annoying. We yelled at them to be quiet. They ignored us -- business as usual.

Then, just as we hit the forest, I heard an unearthly sound, followed by screaming in the back seat. Mount Lucille erupted again.

I pulled over, and we all slid out of the car on the inflatable emergency chutes. This wasn't good. The child was still sick. We had covered about 90 percent of the drive and really had no choice. We'd do our best to clean up, finish the journey, and hunker down for the night, hoping for the best.

The next day was wonderful. We forgot all about stomach flu as we hiked around Glacier Point, basked in the mist of Bridalveil Fall, and took the usual 300 family photos in front of Yosemite Falls.

Of course, my wife and the 10-year-old were sick by the time we got back to our cabin.

My turn

They hit the sack early, while I took the other two kids to do the usual Evergreen Lodge rituals: s'mores at the outdoor fireplace and an evening of games in the rec room. But, secretly, I was dreading what was to come. My prophecy came true the next morning as the sun was coming up, as I spent the next five hours or so cutting a swath between my bed and the bathroom.

I can say, with little doubt, that the long ride home with three then-healthy and loud kids in the back seat, was the closest I've come to hell on earth. The only saving grace, I thought, was that the 11-year-old hadn't got sick ... until the next day. And the day after that.

At least we know that next year can't be anything but an improvement.

Contact Tony Hicks at Facebook.com/BayAreaNewsGroup.TonyHicks or Twitter.com/insertfoot.