This is part 2 of 3. Read part 1 first.
Yosemite Valley is absolutely gorgeous to drive through. Unfortunately it is no where near Hetch Hetchy. I guess we didn’t really budget in the 2.5 hours it takes to drive from the south edge of Yosemite to the northwest section where we would be backpacking.
We got to the ranger station closest to the O’Shaugnessy Dam, got our wilderness permits, and rented a bear canister for out food. Bears are a problem in Yosemite and you have to stuff anything that has a scent into a locker in the parking lot or a bear-proof canister that weighs about 20 lbs. Okay it weighs 2 pounds at first and then 20 after you carry it for a few hours.
So we pull into the parking lot, and stuff all our food in the bear canister. We empty out the car and put everything we’re not carrying (almost nothing) into one of the lockers that are supposed to keep out the bears. These are full of dents and scratch marks, better the lockers than the car.
Heather gets the bear canister and I get the tent. Heather gets the Kool-Aid and I get the map. The bear canister takes up most of Heather’s pack, so I get to add a few more items. Great workout! We both have our own water. It’s getting later in the afternoon so we need to get going.
Oh boy we are excited to get started on our spa vacation; we step onto the trail from the parking lot to the dam, but hey, we’re on a trail! Heather is in front, and I take the rear, which is exactly where a bee stings me within a few seconds of walking. Why? Fuck that bee, I don’t know. I wasn’t doing anything to it. I was obviously walking away from it…
We drop all of our shit and dig out the first aide kit. Bee sting swabs, we have those, plus every other medical supply you could imagine you might need over the course of 5 days.
You know the rear, its back there where you can’t see a damn thing. I’ve got that bee sting swab in hand, ready to go, but to go where? You already see this unfolding in your mind. Heather will have to do it. I take a deep breath and bend over a boulder. She is very professional about the whole thing.
Humiliated, we resume our march, me with a little less spring in my step. We reach the Dam, of course, because it’s about 5 minutes from the parking lot, and it’s picture time. Got to document, document, document. There are lots of people coming down the trail, back to their cars, telling us how pretty it is (as you can see in the above picture, looking west from above).
We cross the dam and get on the trail to the right, east toward Rancheria Falls. This trail is uphill (damn is it uphill), and runs along the reservoir. After about 30 minutes we stop seeing people coming the other way. Time for a cookie break.
The terrain is rocky and dusty. The vegetation is sparse, with scraggly bushes and plants and small pines. Not a cloud in the sky, and the sun, the sun is setting. That’s okay because there will be several hours of daylight after that. It sure is beautiful. The sunset, I mean. The terrain is not very inspired. Luckily we don’t have to worry about needing shade.
Up, up we go. Time for another cookie break. Other than that, we’re trying to hurry because it’s getting dark fast, so we push our little bodies (5′ and 5’2”) up that big mountain.
To no avail. Darkness falls.
Guess what? Darkness can’t stop us because Heather insisted on headlamps! We dig those suckers out (and some cookies) and keep going. It couldn’t be far now, right?
Ok, it’s map time. Heather calls me Tasslehoff, a character from Chronicles and Legends, two Dungeons & Dragons trilogies. He’s a tiny thief with a giant collection of maps. I may have an obsession. It’s cheaper than heroine.
Hm, geez, by the map we should be so close. We keep going. You know, it’s illegal to camp outside the designated campsite in certain parts of Yosemite including along this part of the trail; this has been stressed to us. Plus the campsite has the bear proof lockers where we can put our stuff so the bears can attack the locker instead of the tent. That’s what bears would do, right?
Finally, we decide 9 hours of hiking is enough, with at least 1/2 of that in the dark. We are lost (on a trail with no side trails), or maybe we passed it? Time to break the rules. We find a flat grassy spot off the trail that’s even behind some bushes so there’s some cover if someone comes along looking for people to arrest.
We set up the tent and put our bear canister way far away from it, giving the bears 2 targets and forcing them to choose. Cookies? Yeah. That is all we have eaten all day, no trail mix, no pita pockets, no electrolytes.
Now at this point there is a big black hole in my memory, which I think is when I went into a coma until morning.
When we got up, a lot less cranky, we decided to start all over. Heather does some yoga and I do some tai chi. We are so centered and serene.
Time to get back onto the trail. About 100 yards away from where we camped, we find the sign. THE sign. “Rancheria Falls Campsite ¼ mile →”
Back on track! What could go wrong?
Stay tuned for part 3!