Waking up, I was relatively sure I had gone unmolested by bears during the night. I checked my arms, my legs, my torso. All seemed where it should be. Putting on my clothes, I woke Katherine and headed outside.
I shouldn't say I woke her, as she woke up at six to check on the line of people waiting for tent sites, and then fell back asleep – but at seven, I re-woke her, and headed out to take pictures of the new day.
More about the tent sites. We only put our name in for one night, we'd have to pay and then try to get on the list for tonight's site as well. A line formed early morning, as these Valley spots normally go quick. It was only because we arrived on a Sunday, change over day, that spots were available yesterday. Today the site would be full up.
The line had yet to form.
Back to the pictures.
Just outside my tent, the rock walls towered over me. Only five hundred feet shy of those cliffs at the Grand Canyon the grey granite shined in the morning sun, a guardian for all that once fell under its shadows. Yosemite was looking to be one of the most beautiful national parks I'd ever seen – and I'd only just stepped out of my tent.
The moon was still out, above the rocks, and the light was perfect. I may have snapped a few more pictures than I'd meant to. I thought the 16 gig card I bough a while back would last until the end of the trip. We'll see. If I can keep to one hundred frames a day, I'll be fine – but that's not so easy a task. Who knew.
If I visit some boring places for a while, well maybe that will let me stick to my rationing, but I'm thinking that's not going to happen either. It's amazing to think that four rolls of film a day, in 1999 standards, isn't nearly enough.
By eight o'clock a line was forming to get a tent site for the night, as we joined it. Early in the morning, some people were extending, like us – others were trying to secure one, driving up near day break.
It was in this line that a crazy person appeared. I try to stand back and let crazy hippies be crazy hippies, but when one started to pester a guy for studying his accounting text book, I took umbridge. “Hey man, you'll remember the time this bearded guy said – don't do it! Don't go into accounting. And you'll regret it.”
In honour of bearded men everywhere, I stepped up and claimed, “let me counter balance, you can remember the time a bearded man encouraged your choice of action.”
The future accountant was studying to get a job, and get money. The hippy protested money, claiming it as all things evil. How he got his five bucks for the night, I'll not know. But, there he was talking about how it does not good. I stepped up again, “money got my butt to Antarctica. It let me walk on all seven continents of the world in a year. I'm thinking you need money for this.” And I do. I don't think you can do that without money – not on so short a time frame, anyway. And the love of money? I don't think there's anything wrong with it.
Soon the hippy turned his back to me, and talked loudly about how lost I was to whoever would listen. And then it took a turn for the wacky. A father was talking about how his son was afraid of bears. The crazy guy said not to worry – bears are more afraid of you (not true) and they won't bother anyone (where was he last night when the ranger was chasing them away?) claiming that he used to run after bears an whack them when he was younger (should we be listening to this man?)
Then the father asked about the eighteen mile day hike – the hippy said the eight year old was never too young for something like this (this is a hard hike for an experienced hiker) and I just prayed the guy wouldn't listen.
In one sentence, though, all credibility was undermined and order was restored once more:
Animals are smarter than us man, you know – they're like smart, and all; the bear, right, well unlike us it hasn't even lost its power of telepathy yet.
And there it was. Thank you very much. Please come again. Moving on.
At just this moment, the line started to move, we got our tent sites, and all went our own ways. Good for that. We were also told that shampoo, and toothpaste were “food” which needed to be removed from our car. We had got a warning on our windshield. Bears enjoy these things and will break your door down to get at them. Into the bear locker just about everything went.
Now nine in the morning we were finally ready to start our day. First we checked out the morning program where a Native American took us through a recreated Indian village. For hundreds of years the Indians lived in the Yosemite valley, until the government kicked them on out. Now only two true-bloods remain, one being her husband. When he and his aunt dies, that will be the end of the Yosemite natives.
She was from the ocean people, full blood from her tribe, now joined with his. And she told us of the acorns, the staple food. She told us how women stay away from men's plants (those used for making weapons). She told us a story of creation – diving frog, mud slinging coyote. She allowed us entrance, to the right, counter clockwise, into the round house, and then she bid us good day.
It was an hour of interest, and education. And – our hippy was there. Now that he saw my interest in this way of life, and this culture he was confused. He knew not what to think of me – and I believe we parted on good terms. To be honest, I would have liked to have heard of his life, and everything he has done and seen... It's just when people start to push their views against what another so clearly wants that I find myself upset. Just let the guy be an accountant. The world needs them, and there are people who do enjoy that line of work. Hard to believe, but there are people who hate camping too. To each their own.
After a sandwich at the deli we headed up to Vernal Falls.
I hated myself every step of the way.
No more hiking. Why do I never listen to myself when I say this? How hard would it be to just see a sign that says, “hike,” and think – nope, I don't think we'll be doing this, thank you very much?
It wouldn't be hard... except I really wanted to know what was at the top. Who comes to a park to sit in a tent all day?
Off we went, Katherine leading the charge. Over the first half mile we rose 400 feet in elevation. My legs were not happy with this. From the mid point, we were on a foot bridge. Some people turn back here – but I was not in pain, just irritated. An the falls looked so beautiful. I'd have to climb to the top to feel as if I'd accomplished anything at all.
Onwards we went. Another half mile, this time over 600 feet of elevation. This time my legs were screaming at me, but Katherine's hurt more. Unsure if she could finish, I told her she could wait and I'd come back. A glare of pure anger. In all fairness, she was carrying the pack. She had every right to be more worn out.
As we climbed, we passed others, and were passed by some. Mid way from the mid way, a rainbow appeared where the falling water hit the pool below. It was a thing of beauty, and more than one picture may have been snapped. Still, we could not wait long. Every moment paused, was another moment to realize the burning in the upper thighs. We pushed on, and on – not in the best of shape, seemingly. Then, we hit the top.
And like always, when finished every hike is worth while. You never thought you'd have to turn back. It was always possible. There in front of us was a clear cold pool of water, surrounded by large slabs heated by the sun. I may have been annoyed by the three guys fishing across, ruining an otherwise perfect picture, but at the same time were they not there, I would have simply taken a few shots, and left – rather than reclining for a brief and comfortable nap.
Lying on the rocks, in the sun, across from a still glass lake – well it was the type of thing that made you wish you had the whole day to waste. Unfortunately we're always on the move, Katherine and I. We never have the time to stop and sell the proverbial roses. No – we press on, and after an hour of relaxing it was back down the hill, and down to the shuttle bus which would take us to our next trail head.
Mirror Lake: There's not much to say, except that the lake was dry – not much to see during California's drought. We were passed by a number of people on horse back. Five used the sand in front of us to relieve themselves. The horses, not the riders. That would have been weird. More weird.
A quick miles around, and we were headed back to the camp village trying to make a ranger led hike. We failed. To console ourselves we ate, and then checked out the museum. As luck would have it just as we got there it was announced that the final showing of the Yosemite Spirit movie would be played – we grabbed seats and watched, learning how the park came to be. As beautiful in winter as it is in summer, we were shown images of the valley and also the grove of Sequoia.
I'd not known it, but in this park were some of the world's biggest trees. We would have to look into seeing these tomorrow. I was no longer disappointed about missing the ranger hike as had I been on it, I would never have learned about these trees.
All that was left was the evening program – about how bears will try and eat you, but don't worry about these black bears, it's the Grizzlies that are the real monsters (you know, the ones the live in the parks where we'll be next week.) Not sure I should have watched that film, I wandered back to the tent, sure a bear would appear at any moment, and got into bed, still dressed – determined to get out and see any bear that came around tonight.
Of course, on this night, there was not a bear to be heard of.