Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sunrise Camp

Here's a journal entry from August 2, 2009.

Sunrise Camp:
One of the most glorious places I have ever seen with my own eyes. Opal blue skies, warm gentle summer breeze, lush emerald green meadow. Jagged mountain peaks form the perfect backdrop. A scene of perfect serenity.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Fire Season is Upon Us

I went for a hike in the San Gabriel's a couple of days ago to see how strong my legs felt after hiking the JMT. It was incredibly hot and most of the water that I had seen in the spring and early summer had completely dried up. When I reached the top of the mountain I chose to climb, which also has a small tower and camera, I noticed for the first time that the camera was moving around a lot. I assumed it was looking for fires. I believe that same day, a fire indeed erupted. Today, smoke and ash from the fire entered the LA basin. Temperatures are supposed to be near 100 the next few days.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Bearbag FAIL

My second night in Yosemite, I camped 6 1/2 miles from the valley in a place called Clouds Rest Junction. I found a nice campsite away from the trail nestled under some beautiful pine trees. I thought I was going to be alone for the evening, but later in the afternoon, several small groups of hikers set up camp for the night in nearby sites. Among them were a couple named Linda and Milo. I met them later in the evening when I heard a ruckus coming from their campsite. "Get out of here bear!!" I heard Linda screaming, followed by the banging of pots and pans. Excited to catch another glimpse of a bear, I followed the commotion. It turned out to be a mother bear and her small cub. Linda, a former Yosemite Search and Rescue member, showed no fear making sure the mother bear was far from camp before calling off pursuit. As the excitement of the chase wore down a bit, I told Linda I had some food hanging from a tree near my site. "These are not east coast bears," Linda told me. "You cannot hang your food, the bear will get it," she said. I tried to argue my case, explaining I was using an Ursack, a bullet proof bearbag, and that I had a good hang. "It doesn't matter, the bear will get your food," Linda forcefully responded.
At this point, Linda intuitively said, "Let me go see your bear hang." No sooner had I walked through my campsite and over a large boulder to the tree where my food was hanging from, that I saw the Ursack swinging back and forth in glow of the Yosemite summer sky. "Shit! The bear is in the tree!!" I yelled.

Milo started yelling at the bear and throwing sticks and rocks in an attempt to scare off the unwanted intruder. The bear was unfazed, and continued to bite at the rope while her cub watched and learned from the safety of a nearby tree. After about a minute of chaos, the bear successfully bit through the rope and my food bag came crashing to the ground. Milo and I continued to yell and throw things at the bear while she shimmied her way down the tree. At one point, she stopped about halfway, and started snapping her jaws at Milo and I. (I couldn't help thinking we must have looked like a couple of Neanderthals.) Anyways, while the bear hesitated, I heard Linda yell, "Grab the food!" I quickly ran in and grabbed the bag of food from the ground while the bear continued to snap away. "Damn it! She got the hotsauce!!" I yelled. My Ursack and my shirt were now covered with hotsauce. Milo and Linda continued to scare off the bear once she returned to the ground, and her cub followed down the tree into the woods after her mother. "I had a feeling she was getting your food!" Linda said. She also explained to me how generation after generation of Yosemite bears learn how to target food hanging from trees, and pass the information on to their young. For the most part, they will leave food canisters alone.

Thankfully, Linda, Milo, and some other campers had some extra space in their bear canisters where I could store the remainder of my food for the night. Linda and Milo also let me use their canister for the next couple of days while I hiked towards Tuolumne since they had finished their trip.
Note to hikers in Yosemite: Do not hang your food from a tree! Bears will get it and it will continue the cycle of bad bear behavior. Please learn from my mistake and store your food in the canisters.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Welcome to Yosemite

I arrived in Yosemite on July 30th after taking a series of enjoyable bus rides. I took the ESTA bus from LonePine to Mammoth Lakes, and the Yarts bus from Mammoth Lakes to Yosemite. I really enjoyed the Yarts bus because the driver was playing some Native American flute music on the radio which provided the perfect soundtrack for the scenery we passed.
After getting off the Yarts bus at the Yosemite visitors center, one of the park rangers informed me where the overnight backpacker's campground was located. It was about 3/4's of a mile away, so I quickly made my way in that direction. It was the first time I would walk with my pack any considerable distance, so I was mainly listening to my body as I was hiking. As I approached the campground, I could see two teenagers sitting at a picnic table playing cards in camp from a distance. The exact moment I entered the campground, I saw a brown bear crossing a bridge and entering from the other side. Immediately, I thought to myself, this will be interesting. The teenagers had not yet noticed the bear. Having had recent encounters with bears in Los Angeles National Forest, I did not feel too afraid. I continued walking into camp towards the teens. One of them noticed me and said hello. The other one, sensing something approaching from behind, turned around and literally jumped out of his seat when he saw the bear about 35 yards away. "Bear!!" they screamed. Trying to play it cool, I reassured them it was probably harmless. Indeed he was.

The bear simply sniffed from tent to tent looking for food and climbed on the picnic tables. After failing to find any significant pieces of delicious human food, a passing tour of horseriders scared the bear back into the forest. Later in the day, a ranger informed us to immediately scare the bear out of camp as soon as he or she arrives. That way, they will hopefully not be as bold the next time around. After the incident occurred, I immediately thought of a video I had seen on YouTube before I left LA. The bridge looks very similar.

JMT 2009

I made it back from hiking the John Muir Trail safe and sound yesterday. Instead of boring you with day to day journal entries, I'm going to select certain stories and passages that I find somewhat interesting and hopefully you will too. As I continue to process what I saw and experienced, I hope to give you a brief glimpse of what it was like on the trail. If you ever get the chance to hike the JMT, do it. You might catch a glimpse of heaven on earth as I did.