Sunday, December 04, 2005

Chapter 7: Auburn to Yosemite

On Sunday, I arrived at Sue’s in Auburn around one o’clock in the afternoon after the two hour drive from the Bay Area. It was a great feeling to get off the freeway and drive the back roads to her place, up the little road to the house, over the bridge over the irrigation ditch, and into the car spot next to the building she calls the “bunkhouse.” Why it’s called that I’m not really certain, but it’s a 2-storey metal-clad building that shelters her heating wood and stores a bunch of stuff she doesn’t want to keep in the house. Over the years we’ve made trip after trip to the bunkhouse to get something out or to put something in. Her kids keep stuff there in between their moves. And we stored the car-top carrier that we used to move to California in there for the past 19 years – I think it’s still there. It’s Sue’s now.

Sue's place and the bunkhouse.

It was great to see Sue again, the last time being in France when she visited last year. We quickly got caught up. I checked out the new art on her walls and the state of the yard. She told me that the irrigation ditch was going to be decommissioned in the next few years, which is kind of sad. The sound of water running right past the kitchen window is as much a part of Sue’s place as are the windows, walls, trees, and owls.

It wasn’t long before I opened a bottle of wine. I set to work trying to get Sue’s busted computer up and running, but I had no luck. After 2 hours of trying unsuccessfully, I gave up, and we went shopping for food to take on our two night excursion to Yosemite. Dinner was great, but somehow I’ve forgotten what we ate... I think it might have been spaghetti and garlic bread.

The next morning we were up and out by around 10:30. We took two cars since I had to get directly back to Cheryl’s from Yosemite the day before my flight back to Europe (Sue lives four hours north of the park, Cheryl lives four hours west of the park). We decided to take the freeway through Sacramento rather than the small roads through the foothills for time’s sake. We agreed that Sue would lead and I would follow. We agreed that we would exit the freeway at Highway 4 East in Stockton. Just before we reached Stockton, Sue let me pass her. We waved and smiled. A few miles later I watched in the rear view mirror as Sue exited the freeway an exit early. This was not part of the program. It was too late for me – I was already past the ramp. Holy shit, I thought, what’s up with this? Is she out of gas? Did a tire blow? Neither of us had a cell phone, so there was no way for one to contact the other.

I took the agreed-upon exit and pulled off to the side of the road and waited. About 15 long minutes later, here came Sue. I flashed my lights and waved and she pulled over in front of me. She said that she thought she saw me exiting and followed, but realized too late it wasn’t me. She nearly panicked, but managed to find her way back on the freeway and got to the correct exit. “I’m not a very good follower,” she told me. “Then why did you let me get in front,” I asked? “I hate being the leader,” she said. Uh, okay.

We agreed on two rendezvous points in the foothills in case we were to get separated again, but we didn’t need them. We stopped near Copperopolis for lunch – Mexican. Tacos, enchiladas, beans, rice, and beer. It really hit the spot. Next, we headed for the gas station at Yosemite Junction which is the turnoff to Don Pedro reservoir just before the climb up to Yosemite. I was pretty low on fuel and Sue was getting low, too. When we got to the turnoff, the gas station was not there. Sue said she thought it was there the last time she came through. Uh, okay. We debated turning back to Copperopolis or trying to make it up to Groveland at the top of Priest Grade. We both knew there was gas up there. We decided not to turn back. On the way I tried hard to remember a gas station or two in Groveland...

Indeed, there were several. We made it up the grade with no problem and the tanks were once again full. It was raining on and off, but the Sierra landscapes were beautiful as the storm clouds moved around and over the peaks. As we finally pulled up to the park entrance the rain was really coming down. There were about five cars ahead of us, and directly ahead of me was a pair of motorcycles, one with a trailer. I did a double take and realized that in the trailer, with its head poking up, was a big black lab-type dog wearing a pair of motorcycle goggles happily looking around at all that was going on. What a sight! I wish I had had the camera handy, but with the rain and low light, I probably wouldn’t have gotten a good picture of him. We stopped for water and a bathroom break and drove over to Crane Flat and down into the valley. There was construction on the road, but we weren’t delayed too long.

Once on the valley floor, we stopped for some pictures before heading over to Curry Village to check into our tent cabin. I was excited to be back in Yosemite. Seeing El Capitan and Half Dome again, not to mention the trees, the boulders in the Merced River, and the meadows, gave me chills. It sounds dorky, but it’s true. I’ve done that drive through the valley many times, and each time is like the first: wondrous. Above is a picture of Cathedral Rocks near Bridalveil Fall, and below is a shot of Glacier Point rising above the Merced River.

We dodged the rain drops between the parking lot and the check-in office at Curry, and were second or third in line. Check-in was smooth; we got our bear instruction and signed our “bear aware” release forms. The Park Service is not responsible if we mess up and become a snack for the local fauna. We ran in the increasing downpour to our cabin, which was not too far from the village office, to check it out before getting our bags out of the car. Good thing, too, since the cabin had not been cleaned after the previous occupants left. We ran back to the office. There were now about 15 people in line. I could tell Sue was not a happy camper, and we weren’t even camping yet. I took the key and butted into the front of the line. I got looks, but I didn’t care. I told the guy behind the counter that our cabin wasn’t ready. He dutifully apologized and assigned us another one very close to the first. We thanked him profusely and headed out. The rain was really coming down now. It would be nice to get into the cabin and dry out a bit. We opened the door to the new cabin. It, too, was not ready for new occupants. Uh, okay.

Sue agreed to stay put in the cabin while I went back to the office. She said she was not good at being indignant. But I wanted to be dry. We traded jackets (hers had a hood), and I took the keys back to the office. Along the way I passed about 150 middle school-aged kids heading off to their cabins. Inside, there had to be at least 25 people in line. All wet, all crammed in. I marched right up to the desk. The staff ignored me for about five minutes, but I finally got somebody to notice me. The clerk wanted to give me a cabin on the other side of the village, near all those school kids, but when we looked for it on the map it didn’t seem to exist. At least we noticed this before he gave me the keys. I told him we really had gotten attached to the side of village we were on and would rather have a cabin over there, and he bought it. He talked to the manager, and then gave me keys for a cabin very close to the two we had already seen. I was beyond running, so I trudged through the rain back to where Sue was waiting. She had found a couple of hangers in the cabin and was claiming them for us. We climbed up the stairs to our third cabin and... it was clean. I realized why the clerk talked to the manager back in the office: this was a cabin for 5 people. There were 3 single beds and one double; plenty of space to spread out. There were many blankets and pillows, which was good, because it was cold and raining outside.

Tent cabins in Curry Village.

We unloaded the car, packed food and toiletries into our locked bear box near the bathrooms, and unpacked the rest of our stuff in the cabin. Since the tent cabins are made of canvas, bears can get in easily if they think there is food inside. For that reason, it’s strictly forbidden to keep food or anything with a fragrance (like toothpaste or shampoo) in the cabin. The park provides metal storage lockers at several central locations for things that bears might like. Bears have learned they can’t get into the lockers. People have learned that bears CAN get into locked cars, so leaving food and toiletries in your car is also not allowed. You are also strongly discouraged from eating inside your tent cabin, lest the scent of your snack entice a bear to investigate during the night. Since it was raining, a dinner picnic outdoors was not in the cards for us. Happily, there are several restaurants around the park.

Everything was stowed and finally we were happy campers. Time for dinner.

1 comment:

  1. what a wonderful trip. The Yosemite looks so beautiful.


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