Friday, June 27, 2008
Diary of Yosemite: Day 1
Excited and ready for an adventure we pick up our rental car (with extra damage insurance) and hit the road.
View Larger Map
After about four hours we reach Wawona, the southern end of the park and are excited even at just the sight of the hotel among the redwood trees.
My paranoia regarding bears (which soon became our paranoia) meant I had done plenty of research on how to protect ourselves and our food from their paws. So right away we rent a couple of bear cans, repack our food, and continue on to Yosemite Valley.
Driving into Yosemite from the south entrance is amazing. As you curve around hills covered in tall trees you reach a tunnel, carved into the mountainside and left rugged and rocky on the inside. When you emerge there is the most awe-inspiring view before you. On the left is El Capitan, on the right Bridelveil Falls and framed in between the two is Half Dome in the far distance. I think both of our jaws dropped open and I had to remind myself to concentrate on driving.
This sort of natural beauty continues for the last few miles of the drive as you descend on the Valley: waterfalls, a couple of deer, a rushing river, 3,000 feet of sheer granite cliffs all unfolding along the road.
When we get to the valley floor and Yosemite Village, we orient ourselves with the visitors center, general store, and grab a bite to eat before heading to Camp 4 (our desired campsite) to hopefully snag the only walk-in campground in the area this time of year. After talking to a ranger, we find out we may be able to get a site if we show up at 6:30 a.m. and wait in line, something we're willing to do to save the 90-minute one way trip from our campsite to the part of the park we'll spend most of the trip. Yosemite is the size of Rhode Island so it's not hard to drive two hours without making a dent.
This is when we realize the rental keys are missing and it hits out of nowhere just as this sentence did. Of course I feel responsible because I was driving and should have them in my possession but somewhere between the snow capped Sierras and gushing bodies of water, I lost my brain and the keys went with it.
I begin imagining the worst. What does one do with no campsite, no gear, no car, and no way to get anywhere come nightfall in the wilderness? Luckily we didn't have to find out.
Due to my total lack of a memory in which I last had the keys, I think "Maybe they are in the car?" So we get someone to break into the car and they are there dangling in the ignition (Phew). Crisis averted.
By this time it is much later and darker than either of us had wished to be setting up a tent in let alone driving. 90-minutes later we enter our abandoned looking campsite (other than one family), get out the gear, and start attempting some kind of set up. Only thing is neither of us know exactly how to set up our borrowed tent.
Now this part you must picture: We put the tent poles into the canvas and then have no idea how to make it pop up. Chris gets underneath the middle of the canvas attempting to stand it up but ends up just looking like he is wearing the thing like some sort of tent monster. Frustrated and exhausted we ask the neighbors, two burly guys that show us the step we were missing to make it three dimensional and (voila!) in a few minutes had a shelter.
We chat with the two guys about our plan to get up early and go for the site we really want. They tell us they prefer the solitude of our current campsite to the one in Yosemite Valley referring to it as "Tent City."
We hit the sleeping bags with the intention of rising at 5 a.m. Only problem is in the woods it gets very dark, and very quiet, and there are bears. Chris falls asleep while I stay awake for most of the night. The few times I drift off to sleep, I am woke by a rustling noise outside followed by the feeling that my heart will jump out of my chest. I really want to move to Tent City.
I used to sit in the cube behind you. Then I didn't. And then we fell in love.
reading Lorrie Moore
reading Paper Lion
Links We Love
Smarts & Crafts
Arts & Letters Daily
Paris Review Daily
Joie de Vivre