August 21, 2007

Don't Feed the Bears...If You Can Find Them (Part 1)

Okay, enough of this text message posting. Though it's fun to post as it's happening. It leaves much to be desired in terms of details. Plus, you can't post once the phone is out of connection range (which is wonderfully quickly after you enter Yosemite National Park).

The Drive Up
On our way up to Yosemite from Los Angeles, we stopped for breakfast at a little diner/gas station. For a few minutes, I felt like I had journeyed back in time to the 1920s in a small town in the South. All these old guys in overalls were sitting around a few tables, drinking their coffee. When we walked in, they all pretty much stopped drinking and just watched us. They watched us pick out our high-calorie, low-nutrition muffins, icing-dripping cinnamon rolls, and taurine-loaded Red Bull-type drinks. They watched us look through the candy isle and then proceed to checkout. It was a bit creepy, but kind of fun. I really wish I had taken a picture of them, because they were picture perfect.

Day 1: Til the River Runs Dry
We got our wilderness permit and bear canisters from the information center and headed up to the Mono Meadows trailhead parking lot. After a start-of-the-hike picture, we got moving down the trail. We stopped in Mono Meadows and picked out some walking sticks from among the fallen branches, and continued on to the junction of the Buena Vista trail.

Chris spotted a creek with a bunch of cascading pools, so we set our packs down and relaxed with our feet in the water for a bit. I think this was our downfall. Since we'd been blessed to see water in such abundance early on, and the map showed a bunch of creeks every couple miles along the trail, we figured that would be the reality of the trail. So we didn't fill our water bottles. Mistake #1.

After walking for several miles through the black forest (due to fires), we started a mild ascent. Nothing too steep, but enough to get the heart pumping with a 35-40 lb pack on. So we started taking rest breaks more often and drinking more water to stay hydrated. At around 5 or 6 miles hiked, Stanley re-tweaked his ankle (injured before the trip) and we had to ease our pace.

When we reached the top of that ridge, Chris used his orienteering skills to figure out where we were on the map. But we got fooled by some small building on another hill and thought it was the ski lodge on our map. That was a big mistake. It made us think we were making great time, even with Stanley's ankle, and that we only had a couple more miles to go til Buena Vista Lake. Mistake #2.

After going down the ridge and coming up another, we were out of water. We'd been hoping one of the creeks along the trail would have water and we could filter it and fill our water bottles and Camelbaks, but they were all as dry as Little Neddy Nederlander's canteen on Three Amigos. We maybe had another 40 mins of daylight, and we knew we needed to get to water before we could rest, so we pressed on. Chris went on ahead and I stayed back walking with Stanley.

About two and a half hours later, and after a verbal prayer and many silent prayers as well as a monstrous final ridge ascent, Stanley and I decided we should set up camp at the next junction we had come to. We did this because we didn't know for sure which way Chris had gone and we wanted to make it easier for him to find us. As we were setting up the tent, we saw a little coming towards us around the bend. We called out and were elated and relieved to hear Chris reply. The lake was about 1/2 mile down that trail and he had broght back plenty of water. Stanley and I downed probably a full liter each as soon as Chris got to us. We finished putting together our campsite, made some freeze-dried dinner from REI (which was actually quite good--they've made amazing progress since my Boy Scouting days), stuffed our food into the bear canisters and placed them a decent distance from our camp, and hit the sack. We were absolutely drained and it felt so good to just lay down and sleep.

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