Saturday, November 22, 2008

Yosemite: Part 1

It started with a simple hike in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It was June 2002.

First this view:

Then this view of Summit Lake in the Hoover Wilderness:

Looking at my maps I saw this bordered Yosemite National Park's eastern border. I was awestruck. I decided that I MUST hike through Yosemite some day. I obviously had no idea what a daunting task that is for someone that doesn't do any backpacking at all.

My brother called me two weeks later to tell me he had a skim contest in Southern California labor day weekend and another the week after in Santa Cruz. He and his wife were going to spend the week in Yosemite and asked if I wanted join them. After much thoughtless and careless consideration I quickly answered yes. I bought a plane ticket for LA the day after labor day. My son was going to stay with my parents for the week.

I started looking at my gear. It didn't take long, I didn't have any. I had a backpack. Not a backpacking pack, just a simple school type backpack (no frame, no support) with mount points on the top and bottom that I could strap a tent and sleeping bag to.
Here it is:

This backpack has been through a lot. We go lots of places together. In 1994 I broke a strap on it snowboarding in Norway. I still don't know how the T-bar hooked me after I let go, seeing as how it was in front of me, but it did. It jerked me off my feet backwards, like when a cartoon character has stretched the rubber band to it's limit. While I was in the air my only thought was "What the hell???" Then I hit the snow, was pulled up and over an ice wall and was being slung around for an undesired trip down the slope at the mercy of the t-bar. Just as I was about to unhook the backpack, the strap buckle broke. I tied it back together and tried really hard to pretend like that didn't just happen. I broke another strap when I was nearly impaled by a tree limb snowboarding in Vermot a year later.

I bought a sleeping bag. I bought a Camelback. I bought a raincoat. I think that was it. My brother said he had everything else. I did bring a change of clothes, socks, and a fleece as well. I also brought two 35mm cameras, an Advantix camera for panarama shots, and a tripod. They said my job was to take pictures, and that I did. My brother brought his video camera, and thank God he only got the more tame parts of trip.

I left Norfolk very early in the morning. I got to LA around 10 or 11am I think. My brother and his wife picked me up at LAX in their rental car and we headed for Yosemite.

We stopped in Fresno to get food and stuff. Trail mix.

We got to Yosemite late in the day. We had checked the web site and the hours and we had time. Well, something you should know about Yosemite, their hours change after Labor Day and that may or may not be readily apparent in their literature or their website.

We got to the Valley just a little too late. Everything was closing up and we would need to stay in the backpacker's campground and log a trip in the morning. I was just happy to be there, and blissfully ignorant about all that was about to transpire.

We got lectured about bears. Signs about bears everywhere. Don't leave food in your car. Put food and backpacks in the bear-proof containers. Really? In the main valley?

Here are the bear proof containers:

The blissfully ignorant explorers...well, at least I was, if the other two knew then they didn't do a good job explaining it to me:

And the view of half dome in the sunset:
(I know, Ansel Adams did a much better job, bear with me though, literally BEAR)

So we found a parking spot. We grabbed a bit to eat. We found the back packer campground, one of many mistakes along the way. Then we saw our first bear. It was twilight amidst the coniferous trees and the bear was walking about like it had just gotten home and was greeting all the new guests. Several people looked like they were either trying to get pictures or trying to shoo it away. Hmmm. This was the VALLEY. I surmised, the most visited area of the park. What else was in store for us. I felt very cavemanish as the only weapon I had was my voice and whatever armory of rocks was laying about. This was not to be our only encounter with the bears of Yosemite, nor would it be our closest.

After that excitement we went to bed.

Part two in a day or so. The next day started early. Way early. And it went way long. Surprisingly, most of it was not spent in Yosemite. Come back soon for the shattering next installment...


  1. Yeah! You're finally writing out the whole of this adventure!

    I will definitely be back for the next installment because I want to hear more about the trail mix...

    (And funnily enough, your name and bear came up the same sentence in conversation at dinner on Friday. Remind me to tell you about that!)

  2. OK- I looked at that little blue backpack, and literally fell off my computer chair. THANKS FOR THAT!


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