Wednesday, September 12, 2007

It’s Pronounced Yo-SEM-it-ee

We got up at the crack of dawn – 5:30 a.m. to be exact – on Saturday morning to make our way to Yosemite. Yep, we made plans to have breakfast by 6:30 a.m. at the hotel, followed by an hour trek to our destination for the weekend. We are such adventurers! So gung-ho and up ‘n’ at-em and fired up! I think we were just sleep deprived and didn’t know any better at this point.

We obviously did not get the memo to wear red Hawaiian shirts for breakfast that morning. The “Locusts” as Erin called them – a bunch of adolescent boys wearing (yep, you guessed it) red Hawaiian shirts had totally taken over the hotel’s breakfast area. They ate everything that came out within five minutes and they took up every table. I was annoyed at having to go around them for everything: to get to the serving area, to get a bagel, to get a napkin, to get a fork… you get the idea. What made it worse was that every other word that came out of their mouth was “dude” and that they smelled musty (shower much, anyone?). Thankfully they were gone by the time we sat down to eat. Apparently the Fresno Hampton Inn was THE place to stay that weekend – if you happened to be a teenage boy. Er, or like us, on your way to Yosemite, yeah.

So it turns out it takes two hours (not one) to get to the Yosemite park entrance, then almost another hour after that getting to Yosemite Valley. Once in the park, there’s a two-lane highway with lots of turns that bring you to the valley and it ends when you go through this awesome tunnel dug out of a granite on a hill, with a view of El Capitan and Half Dome on the other side. I can’t imagine a better way to enter Yosemite Valley. Gorgeous, isn't it?

After getting to the valley, we managed to find our digs at Curry Village. Fortunately we got there early enough so that we found great parking but couldn’t check in until 5 pm because the tent cabins were still being cleaned (I found this so funny after we saw the cabin later that night. That cabin did not look all that clean; perhaps a more accurate description is “dump worn out linens on the bed and shut the door.”) so we (Rene, Erin, her fiancé Jeff and I) decided to take a little hike to get the blood flowing and see a little bit of Yosemite. I think we were so excited just to be in the park itself that when Jeff said 3.5 miles one way we thought no problem! We can do anything! Lemme at them hiking trails! Right… so this “little hike” actually turned out to be a big hike. I honestly don’t know why we thought a 7-mile hike would be a good “warm up” for Half Dome. We started the hike around 11:30 am and came back by 4:30 pm. We climbed the uphill trail about ¾ of the way until we decided not to continue because there was no Upper Yosemite Falls at that point – there wasn’t enough rainfall/snowfall during the winter to last through the summer. That, and we were tired and had just about run out of water, and if we continued climbing there was a chance we could be heading down in the dark. We decided on our last break to call it a day and go get ice cream, a BRILLIANT idea after hiking for 2+ miles uphill in the middle of the day (it was HOT). Plus we wanted to save some energy for our trip to Half Dome the next day. I think that maybe we would’ve been better off doing something simpler, but you know what they say about hindsight and 20/20 and all that crap.

View of Yosemite Valley with Half Dome behind me

Half Dome Overlook

This altitude is awesome! I grew almost a foot on the way up this mountain!

No idea what we are pointing at... or why we are pointing at all

After our hike, we got ice cream (I was soooo good I tell you!) and headed over to Curry Village to check in. While Erin checked us all in, we watched footage in the lobby black bears tearing down car windows to get to food and garbage in the car. It was like watching an episode of Cops: Yosemite – bad bears, bad bears, what’cha gonna do? What’cha gonna do when they come for you (or wreck your car)? The worst part about leaving food in your car, aside from being trashed by bears, is that you get fined by the park service for inciting the bears to come into the campground. Ouch! On our last day at Yosemite the car parked next to us had a box of pizza on their dashboard. C’mon people, get with the program! The warning is posted everywhere – in the lobby (video), at check-in you sign an affidavit saying you won’t leave any food in the cabin or in your car, and at the tent cabin itself. Sheesh, some people just don’t get it.

Our tent cabin was ultra-modern, luxurious, and spacious – NOT! In fact it is quite the opposite – rustic, small, and smells a little. In truth I do not know how long these cabins have been around, quite possibly at the turn of the 20th century (we are now in the 21st century folks); I guess what I am trying to say is that the tent cabins are old. And if you should happen to pass gas in the comfort of your own tent your neighbor will hear you. Yes, occupant at cabin #577 I heard you. Given the closeness of these cabins and the flimsiness of the tent material you would think that people would be courteous enough to keep the noise to a minimum, especially when other people are sleeping. Apparently our dear neighbors to the right have NEVER heard of courtesy, and came home at 2 am that night, SLAMMED their bear lockers open and shut, talked in a volume reserved for clubs and bars, and pretended to be deaf to requests from other campers such as “shut the hell up!” or “we’re trying to sleep over here you morons!” My neighbors were classy, I know. I always wondered where the hell they were coming from at 2 am – this was a national park, not a club or rave. Do bears attack raves?

We ate dinner with Erin and Jeff that night – Jeff made something called “hobo food,” which was ground beef, seasoning, bell peppers, potatoes and onions wrapped in foil and cooked inside charcoal. It was simple and good. We washed our food down with beer and red wine, got giddy, and walked to the bus stop in the dark. The night sky at Yosemite was awesome; you could see all the stars and the Milky Way. I was trying to find the North Star and was totally clueless, because the only constellation I know by heart is Orion. That was in the night sky during the semester I look Astronomy in college.

After dinner Erin, Jeff and I took a shower (not together! Boys and girls had separate showers, and there were stalls in each one; it wasn’t bad at all) and after walking back we found Rene laying in bed and staring at the ceiling. Rene told us to quiet down and pointed at the beam holding up the tent cabin. It was a bat! It was an honest-to-goodness bat, brown in color, hanging upside down and staring right back at Rene. Erin and I recoiled and got away from the door as much as possible while Jeff poked the bat with a broom; the bat flew out of our cabin. Rene and I then checked under the bed, under the covers, and the rest of the ceiling to make sure we didn’t have any other roommates crashing our cabin. We fell asleep almost immediately only to be woken at 2 am by our lovely neighbors (see above), and again at 5:30 pm by overzealous hikers DYING to get out there. At 6 am we thought it was as good time as any to start our hike to Half Dome.

Say hello to my little friend

On the next post – Half Dome! Or, how I hiked Half Dome and still managed to walk the next day.

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