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

Thursday, June 28, 2012

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.


  1. Im exhausted! how bout a beer?

  2. Lovely shot of Half Dome and the Merced River.

    Birthday cakes?

    Have you read Cheryl Strayed's memoir, Wild, about hiking the Pacific Coast Trail (alone)? It's a terrific read.

  3. I'm so glad you were able to use your neighbor's bear box.

    You're a lot more ambitious than I am, Gully. Like muleshoes, I'm exhausted just reading!!

  4. Wonderful reads Jeanne! I love Yosemite. Hoping to take the kids there to back pack.