"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Yosemite Journals, Chapter Four

Norman pulled the truck up to the Park Ranger kiosk to check into our campground site.   A dry erase board next to the window got our attention.

As did two large photos next to it:

Photo is of black bear in a vehicle with window frame around its upper body, showing the kind of damage bears can do.

Black bear raiding an unsecured cooler at campsite.

That evening a park ranger camp through the campground, advising everyone that a bear had been sighted in the far end of the campground.

She warned us again about keeping food and all scented items (like toothpaste, hand lotion, etc.) secure in the bear boxes.

I was sound asleep later that night when I thought I felt something bump the top of my cot.  There is a pocket sewn into the tent wall where I kept my Kindle, a notepad and pen, and my reading glasses.

Groggy, I tried to figure out what it had been and finally decided my hand must have touched the pouch.  I listened for a while and heard nothing.  All was calm.    I stuffed my earplugs back in and went to sleep.

There were no further disturbances for me that night.

The next morning, Kristy said there had been a bear outside her tent during the night.  She mimicked the asthmatic-like breathing of a bear.  Her tent was right next to mine.

A few minutes later, she said, people a couple hundred feet away were yelling, “Bear!  Bear!  Bear!”  They had neglected to dispose of their trash and the bear scattered it around the campsite.  Had I heard them yelling?

Nope.  Not with earplugs.  Now that slight bump against my tent wall made sense.
The next night, about 10 PM, we heard a loud bang, like an explosion.  My first thought was that the propane system of a motorhome had exploded.

Warning sign at Camp Curry parking lot.

We asked around thfollowing day and the consensus was a rock fall, something that is not unusual in this valley.  I was pretty sure that noise had not been a rockfall.

Not until several nights later did we find out what the noise was.  I head the distinct sounds of a shotgun firing some distance away.   A while later, there were two more shots closer to our camp.

A half hour later, two more shots like the explosive noise I’d heard earlier and just as close.  There was no doubt this time.  Park rangers were firing bean bags at a bear that was roaming close to people.

I never did see a bear in Yosemite.  I did, however, see some other wildlife.


Stellars jay.  These jays seem smaller than Alaskan jays and ours don't have the blue stripes on the head.  Or, not that I've seen.

Stellars jay

A very warm raven.  Birds have no sweat glands, but open their mouths and breath rapidly (pant) to cool off.

This squirrel had dug itself a shallow depression and stretched out full length to cool off.  It tucked in its hind legs when it saw I was going to take its picture.  Squirrel vanity?


Coyote in wildflowers.

Mule deer

Nice sentiments, Mr. President, although I maintain that wild beasts and birds are not our "property," and that it is our responsibility to protect them for themselves as well as for future generations.

The Yosemite Journals, Chapter Three

My introduction to Yosemite began at its southwestern gate.  I “paid” the entrance fee for the four of us in Norman’s truck, flashing my senior pass, one of the great advantages of reaching the Age of Medicare.  Never mind that everyone else in the truck had a senior pass also.

Not only does it grant free lifetime entrance into all our national parks, it also confers 50 % discounts on camping fees.

The National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Pass.  I have three of these, one of which I can't find right now, and that should adequately explain why I have three of them.


“There’s Bridalveil falls.”

“That’s El Capitan.  We’ll go there one day and watch the climbers.”

El Capitan

“Can you see Yosemite Falls?  Look through the gap in the trees and you’ll see the lower falls.”

Yosemite Falls

“That’s where we used to camp before the flood.”

Sign showing 1997 flood level with Yosemite Falls in background.

“That’s Half Dome.”

Ah, yes.  Half Dome and Ansel Adams’ famous black and white photo with the full moon.  Something familiar, but I was mentally trying to arrange what I was seeing with my preconceptions based on various photos and TV news videos.

Half Dome and the Merced River

By the time we got to Upper Pines campground, I was thoroughly confused, turned around, and disoriented.  The map we’d been given by the ranger at the northern gate didn’t help much either.

The campground spreads along paved loops beneath the cedars, red fir, and Ponderosa pines—all tall trees that block most of the hot sun as well as the views of the granite walls of this narrow valley.  While I’ve seen numerous photos of the two most famous landmarks of Yosemite, those being Half Dome and El Capitan, I hadn’t realized how narrow the valley was between those icons.

Kristy and Sally had staked out our territory in the two campsites we had reserved.  Fortunately the two sites were almost directly across from each other.  And, they had a tent set up for me, complete with cot, memory foam mattress, pillow, and welcome mat.  I moved right in with my gear.

My abode for the duration.

And right out again, sans the gear.  It was hot in there at mid-day.  A nice folding chair in the shade beckoned to me, and Sally handed me a tall bottle of ice water.  

The tent trailer where Norman, Katy and Missy slept.
Norman set up the tent trailer in the spot across the road, and soon Julia and Kathy arrived with another tent trailer.

Julia and Kathy's tent trailer.

Then came the fun part—trying to get all the food and scented items (like toiletries and such), stored safely in the steel bear-proof boxes, called bear boxes, for short.

The daily, hourly, every waking minute attempt to stuff everything in the bear boxes.

It was a losing battle, despite rigorous re-arranging and organizing.  Food for meals later in the week went to the bear box across the road, food for meals sooner stayed in this site.  But, what to do with the excess?

While all this was going on, a fifth wheel trailer backed into the site next to us, and while dad leveled the trailer, two little girls immediately made friends with us.  Three year old Emma raced around in circles, showing how fast she can run.

Then someone in our group had a brilliant idea:  “Are you going to be using your bear box?” she asked of Emma and Kelly’s dad.  He was not.  Because he had a hard-sided trailer, they could keep their food in it.  We were welcome to use all but the small portion he needed to store his outside grill.

Five year old Kelly

Three year old Emma

In went the birthday cakes, toiletry bags and overflow from the other boxes.  

Whew.  Camp is ready.
We were set and settled.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Yosemite Journals, Chapter Two

Kathy’s e-mail said, “Going camping for a week in Yosemite with the usual suspects.”

I promptly got myself invited and decimated my airline mileage account to get a last minute ticket.

The “usual suspects” vary in number according to where and when the action is, but the basic core is four sisters, two identical twins, and one twin’s husband.  It used to include the other twin’s hubby, too, but he now chooses to stay home and work in his wood shop.

I’ve been to Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji with this group on one trip, and cruised the inland waterways from Moscow to St. Petersburg on another.  I went polar bear viewing in Manitoba with three of them, and this November will be in Antarctica with Kathy, the suspect I’ve known the longest.
Hot air ballooning in the Outback of Australia.

The whole bunch of us in Queenstown, NZ.
Kathy, Donna, Julia, and me in Churchill, Manitoba.
In the Kuranda Rain Forest near Cairns, Australia.
Kristy celebrating her 50th birthday by bungy jumping off the 141 foot high Kawarau Bridge in Queenstown, NZ, the place where that idiocy began.
I'm on the far left in blue jacket.  Other Usual Suspects are in back row:  Julia, Kathy, Katy, and then Norman right front.  1973.  We'd just finished the 36 mile Chilkoot Trail from Skagway, AK, to Lake Bennett, Yukon Terr.
Kathy holding my lead dog while we prepare for a trip over the Resurrection Trail in 1973.
Kathy and Missy during life boat drill, Moscow, Russia.
Kathy rubbing the nose of a bronze dog for luck, in a Moscow subway station.

I met Kathy and Katy when they threw responsibility to the winds in their misspent youths, quit their jobs, and arrived in the tiny ski village of Girdwood where they became chambermaids (okay, housekeepers) at the Alyeska Resort Nugget Inn.  I worked for the resort, also, and we three got to know each other when I had time to assist them in the laundry room.

Kathy went back to civilization after a year.  Kathy went to work for Werner, the chef for whom I had previously worked.

On a trip to California and Kathy’s home, I met her sisters Julia, Sally, and Kristy.  I also met Katy’s new hubby Norman, and Katy’s twin Missy.






 Now that Missy’s husband has opted out of the group’s travel-mania, Norman has acquired the title of Token Male.

On a few occasions, the group has come to Alaska.  Once or twice I was able to wander off with them.

Now, all are retired but for Kristy and Sally.  The traveling hasn’t slowed down a bit. 

Hot air ballooning in the Australian Outback, getting drenched on the Shotover jet boat ride in Queenstown, NZ, snorkeling in Fiji, riding the canals of St. Petersburg at sunset, watching polar bears sparring—the adventures are many.

It’s life well-lived, traveling with great friends.