John Muir went into the Sierras with tea, bread and a blanket, and spent months exploring its wilds. Chris McCandless – Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild man – gave away his money and was entirely dependent on the contents of his backpack and what he could earn day to day. Everett Ruess – a character like McCandless – had a burro, but still, that’s a lot less than what I’d take exploring the red rock wonderlands of the Colorado Plateau.
As for me, I always bring too much crap. And, I’d have to pack up it all up this morning, which I wasn’t looking forward to.
Oh, I justify it all. It’s for comfort. It’s for convenience. After all, I’d like to see if I can travel for months straight, and I must be comfortable or I’ll burn out. So I’ve brought a generator, a cot, two tents, my laptop and Nikon (of course), and… I’m almost embarrassed to say what I’ve packed into my 4-cylinder Yaris. However, everything fits squarely. Everything’s compartmentalized. And, if I don’t want to set up my big tent, which allows me to sleep on my cot, I’ll set up my hiking tent, and create a camp much easier to break, as I was planning to do at the next spot.
Where was that?
Well, at Yosemite’s Camp 4 I got some golden local advice. I was walking past a boomer emptying his trash, and asked him how difficult it was to procure a spot at Camp 4. He said it was first-come-first-serve, and it wasn’t difficult for him at all. He then said, “If you go down 140 towards Mariposa, right when the road starts to climb out of the Merced Canyon, on the right is a stone house. There’s a bridge behind that house. Take that bridge to a road on the other side of the river, and follow that road to some beautiful BLM campsites right along the Merced. Trust me.”
“Will it be full this weekend?” I asked.
“No. They’ll likely be deserted. It’s a local secret. Trust me.”
Then, a day after, I was talking to a Wildland Trekking guide, from the Tahoe area, who was showing four ladies the Yosemite, and he said exactly what the boomer at Camp 4 said. So, not knowing what was next after Yosemite, and not desiring to rush off to nowhere, a couple days in the Merced Canyon, with jaunts in Mariposa for internet access, and whatever else, sounded perfect. I’d procure Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights on the river, and know where to go Monday. Perfect.
Took me almost two hours to break my camp. The Comanches’ ability to break camp was much better. However, I don’t regret having comfort.
By 11 am I was driving down 140 to that stone house. Saw it. Turned right. Right as the unpaved road began, a blue Ford transit driven by a woman coming out of the canyon. I rolled down my windows to ask about the camping situation. She said, “Yes, get campsite nine at the first area. Trust me!”
We talked a little more. She was a worker for the conscessionaire Aeromark which operates stores, hotels and restaurants at Yosemite. I told her the crowds there were already awful, and that I’d be miserable in July. She agreed, and doubted she would last this summer, as the summer before was too much. She said maybe Yellowstone was next. Yellowstone would also be awful in July, but at least it would be new. I thanked her for her #9 recommendation, and was off.
Fifteen minutes later I was thankful again. Campsite 9 was perfect. It’s next to a beach on the river where small rapids hum pleasantly to add color to silence. Golden chaparral hills, which look uniquely California, rise precipitously on the other side, and only one other campsite was occupied, about 150 yards away, which was far better than the 7-yard distance between tents at Indan Flat.
I set up my camping tent, and just wanted to stay. But artificial pressures of the 21st century prevailed, so I headed off to Mariposa, which I’d passed through on the Sunday before.
The rest of the day was non-eventful. Went to O’Reillys to get a new set of plastic wheel covers for my Yaris, as one had come off between Indian Flat and #9.
Spent a couple of hours at the Mariposa library to publish daily blogs, which of course were already written. I’m doing this for discipline. I’m doing this because, one day, I know I’ll read them again, and remember happy emotions.
Went to the grocery store for avocados and sausage. Saw a man wearing a shirt that sad, “Science is like magic but real.” I bet he wore Fauci’s face diaper gleefully.
Then headed back to #9. Stared at the golden hills turn more golden at sunset. The idea of taking a kayak down the Merced to wherever would be exhilarating – the ultimate form of exploration!
Read more of John Muirs’s The Yosemite. His descriptions of many things were hyper accurate. His use of the word “comet” to describe the appearance of water bouncing off rocks as it falls the hundreds or thousands of feet in Yosemite’s many waterfalls was perfect. He also said Nevada Falls, which I’d seen Wednesday, produced the whitest comets and smoke in the whole park, that whiteness having struck me more than other falls as well. That made me feel justified.
However, I felt even more justified when he said about Illilouette Falls that, “One of the finest effects of sunlight on falling water I ever saw in Yosemie or elsewhere I found on the brow of this beautiful fall.” The spray of the high-above Illilouette Falls is precisely what I was staring at on the way down of the miserable John Muir trail on Wednesday when others stopped to ascertain what I was staring at, which annoyed the hell out of me. My point is that my eccentric staring was a response to the exact same stimuli that manifested those words of Muir. Yay for me.
His several pages dedicated to Yosemite Falls, whose trail I hiked on Monday, made me realize I’d actually missed a lot to be seen, of courser because I was focused on trudging up 2,900′. It made me wonder what photos I could get at the bottom of the Lower Falls, and at the bottom of the Upper Falls, whose landing I did get to, but only spent brief time at. “I could go back…” I thought.
But probably not now.
Thereafter, it was Solitaire and Wordscapes on my phone to sleep took my eyes.