Sunday, November 23, 2008

Yosemite: Part 2

It had been a long day and I was tired. I went to sleep easily and was quite comfortable.

All was not well in Yosemite though. At least as far as one particular Ranger was concerned.

Sometime late in the night my brother is trying to wake me up. I rarely wake up like that in a good mood. While my brain is reluctantly trying to re-engage I hear my brother muttering things over my own epitaphs. I also hear someone else walking away from the tent.

"We have to move our tents," he says.

"The F*** we do," I respond loudly and obnoxiously.

He went on to explain, I went on to curse. We were told that we hadn't quite made it to the backpacker campground. We were between. A hallowed place where one could walk, but obviously not stay for any prolonged period. There was no reason other than it was not a defined here, and it was not defined there.

A blindingly brilliant and happy idea entered my head just then. If I have to wake up, everyone else in the valley should too. In fact, I'm going to make that night one the Ranger would never, ever forget. It was simple and inspired. Chris Farley gave me the idea in the movie Tommy Boy. I was about to start shouting "The BEES. The BEES, of for the LOVE OF GOD RUN FOR YOUR LIVES. It's HORRENDOUS. TERRIBLE. The BEES ARE EVERYWHERE. SOMEBODY SAVE US. The BEEEEEEEEEES..."

*click* Brain finally engages. Getting kicked out of Yosemite permanently is certainly not in my best interest. Not that spending the week in Santa Cruz and Monterey wouldn't have been worth it. So, instead I shelve my inspired idea for another time and start to pack. And Pack. And Pack. And Pack. I had managed to fit quite a bit in that little pack. It was also past midnight and I didn't have a light. However, if cursing could produce a light of its own I would have had 6 Million Candle Power at my disposal. It took a while to BLINDLY identify, and stow everything. My brother and his wife waited, but they were frustrated at how long I was taking. Rocquel would occassionally ask my brother what I was doing and of course he had no idea either. So after an eternity, for all of us, I was ready.

I picked up my three person tent by the top and plodded behind my brother and his wife. I was still mad and kept alternately talking and cursing in my OUTDOOR voice.

We got settled back down and went back to sleep.

We woke up early and went to get our breakfast back at the bins by the car. SURPRISE. A bear broke into our car. We did not have food. We did not have backpacks. We had followed the rules. I did have my suitcase in the back seat and our guess is that the bear thought it might be a backpack. It shattered the rear passenger side window, probably stuck it's head in to smell, didn't find anything, and moved on.

However, we now had a problem. After discussion, we reasoned that we really needed to get the window repaired. We also had to pick a trail and log a trip.

We poured over various trail maps of Yosemite. If you ever consider this, I urge you to take a few minutes and really LEARN how to read a topographical map. Elevation schmelevation right? WRONG. Think of it like having to climb UP and down the steps to the top of the SEARS tower, 10 times in one day. Carrying a heavy pack. With BEARS. And that is just the up and down part. You also have to cover a certain amount of horizontal distance too. Don't just guestimate that too...There is a huge quality of life factor between a 10mile hike and a 17 mile one. More on that little difference later.

The Valley in the Morning:

So we get to the Ranger Station, we log our bear incident, and we are still deliberating over the trail. We then packed up and headed to Fresno to get the window repaired. We sat outside the repair place in the sun and went over the trail maps. We finally decided on a trail in the Hetch Hetchy area. This is a resevoir that feeds the San Franciso area.

When the car was finally done, we barely made it to the Hetch Hetchy area in time to get in and log a trip.

The Ranger was very nice and informative. She explained the rules etc. I'm pretty sure she didn't say we were insane for attempting our little trip in just two days. Maybe we looked seasoned. We were certainly dirty and probably smelled since it was Wednesday late afternoon and we hadn't showered since early Tuesday morning.

She gave us an introduction to bears. She showed us which areas of our trip we were likely to encounter them. She explained how one area in particular had a bear that would come into camp and maybe try to get your food. The rangers had provided us with Bear Proof containers to put our food in. These were small black containers with indented slotted turnable thumb screws that unlocked the top. She explained that we needed to put the container, our backpacks, and anything that smelled like food 50 yards from our tents.

The Ranger went on to explain that when walking through the woods we should act dominant towards any bears we encounter. This didn't really sink in until later so I didn't get to ask how you do that. I still don't know. I just hoped I wouldn't have to figure it out.

The Ranger also said, with a bright cheery smile, that "bears are not normally a problem unless it has been a bad berry year, {pause} and it has been a bad berry year." Hmmm.

I still think she must have not heard us when we said we were going to start out Thursday and be back Friday.

Maybe she was hoping to create some excitement by having to go rescue half eaten crazed hikers. Dunno.

Still blissfully excited, we set camp in the backpacker camp site there and went down to the resevoir. Here is what greeted us:

And then that night:

We ate. We slept well.

Of course, I had no idea what the next day was really going to bring. There is something to the whole ignorance thing. If you knew all the challenges ahead of time, you might not want to make the journey.


  1. Thank you best of all for the star pictures. I've wanted and hoped to get myself there someday, but oh hell now I know I've got to go- to there, to anywhere that stars can be seen like that.

  2. Karen,
    The stars there were great, but really, the desert in Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, or Arizona would probably be better. I spent part of an evening out in the desert in Nevada just before I made the hike into the hoover wilderness (from part 1). It seemed that there was not a point in the sky without a star in it. Be prepared to dress very warm, even in June. It was also the most eerily quite place as there was no life, no wind, no sound.


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