Now, California traffic’s miserable almost everywhere. CH 49, from Oakhurst to Mariposa, was loaded with cars. Drivers can be nasty. If you don’t go at least 10 mph over the speed limit, even on winding foothill roads, you’re going to have ten angry drivers in your rear-view mirror. But oh well. I can drive Oak Creek Canyon at 55. Sometimes 60.
49 was pleasant enough. It was hilly, curvy and forested. I imagine the fire threat out here is off the charts. I imagine homes built miles off 49, along some dirt road, are under ever-increasing threat of mega-fires.
These homes, in addition to psychopathic governmental policies preventing proper forest maintenance, can prevent maintenance in and of themselves. They can prevent prescribed burns. That is, their wide disbursement, miles away from towns, diminish large areas of forest that would benefit from deliberately burning away the accumulated fuel on the forest floor. After all, such prescribed burns aren’t really controlled, and that wide disbursement of homes could easily lead to tragic loss of life and property. So, burns are not frequently prescribed in the vicinity of isolated homes, even though the forest around them desperately needs it.
Look, I wouldn’t tell people where they can or can’t live, and maybe those homeowners have a different opinion than mine, and I’d certainly be tempted to live out in those forested foothills too. Nonetheless, this is a variable in the equation.
There’s certainly more I could say about fires, especially what I mean by “pyschopathic” – but later.
Then, lo, Mariposa.
For you gringos who think knowing how to say “baño” justifies saying “I know a little Spanish,” Mariposa means butterfly. Again, this area served as the base of operations for the Anglo-Americans who came here in the 1850’s and waged war upon the Yo-che-ma-te.
Less than 5,000 people live in Mariposa. Frankly, it’s pretty. In saner times, I would have considered moving here. But, Commifornia. The zombies who further the liberal agenda of the state are in conservative areas like here too.
Anyways, it was now close to 9. Mr. Tummy was getting persnickety. He wanted something sweet. So, I obliged him with fudge from a store next door to a tourist office which had just opened. The man behind the desk reconfirmed the words of the lady at Bass Lake. Yosemite should be easy to get into. He also made clear the precise roads to Hetch Hetchy on a map he gave me. Perfect.
(Remember, information from locals is gold. Asking random people on the street who seem to know where they’re going is better than a $50 guide book. Campsites, parking lots, trails, shortcuts… they can save you hours of aggravation and even hundreds of dollars. Thus, I always ask random people.)
Five minutes later my drive continued. CH 140 heads east through hills and then switchbacks down to follow perfectly the Merced River right into Yosemite’s western entrance. The Merced was flowing this day. Frankly, it looked dangerous. Big, muddy brown waves capped by white crests roared. This was the downstream portion of the same river I saw at Vernal and Nevada Falls yesterday. Some boats rafted here and there, which you can’t do all the time as the flow, like Falls above, is dependent on snowmelt. But on this day, wow.
Traversing this canyon would have been harrowing in the early 19th century. Here it made perfect sense why the first white person, Spanish or Anglo, only made it inside the Yosemite Valley in 1851.
Again, Spanish and Mexican California centered around its coastal missions. Treks hundreds miles to explore remote canyons where killers roamed was unthinkable to padres and soldados. They had enough trouble subduing coastal Indians. Why seek more trouble? Besides, what could possibly be in those remote Sierra canyons?
Gold, bobos. Good gosh, the Californios had no idea what they were sitting on. None. Had the Spanish discovered gold in the Sierras, well, who knows? But that gold would be for the gringos.
Then, after miles of winding roads below canyon walls, appeared the park entrance. There were only five cars waiting. It took two minutes to get in. Next week it would take two hours.
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