Day 1 – July 4, 2014
Odometer Reading: 5.14 miles
Miles today: 5.14
Camped: near Nevada Falls
Today’s Key to Success: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
4am came, loud and unapologetic.
Don’t get up don’t get up don’t get up yet, I silently pleaded.
Aidan got up.
After several rounds of hugs and well-wishes, we were gone by 5.
The Tuolumne Meadows Visitor’s Center was not yet open when we arrived, so Aidan took me to get some breakfast. Things always go better for him when I’m well fed. We got parking information, settled the truck in, and gathered our gear. We went back to the store and there were some Pacific Crest Trail hikers hanging around outside. I correctly identified one from her blog. Trail name: Pathfinder. I’ve been following her blog since she began hiking from the Mexican border earlier this year. She’s on her way to Canada. Check out her journey at:: http://pathfinderpct.wordpress.com/
I told her she was a celebrity, and I got my photo taken with her. Here’s me with my celebrity::
We got on a bus to the floor of Yosemite Valley. Tourists forget the rules of the road in places like this. They just park wherever it suits them, or stop in the middle of the road to check out the view. No common courtesies. The bus driver, clearly annoyed by tourists, was very liberal with his horn. Beeeeeep – GET OUT OF THE WAY. Beeeeeep – MOOOVE. Best.BusDriver.Ever. Tourists make me crazy.
The views were amazing, but we both fell asleep anyway. Until a bear crossed the road. The bus driver hit the brakes, hard. Tourists leaped from their seats, cramming cameras out the bus windows, shrieking with joy. Tourists. Aidan and I resettled ourselves and went back to sleep.
So many tourists everywhere. They made me a little sick to my stomach. So many voices, so many smells. Deodorant, baby powder, perfume, aftershave, B.O., stuffed in a little box on wheels. It all made me dizzy. Statistics show that most tourists stay within 2% of the Park, so we’d be away from them soon enough. I took solace in that.
We had little neck-cooling cloths to help keep us from overheating. We were overheating anyway. We stopped and I dripped some water from my camelback onto the cooling cloths. I watched the beads inside swell with the moisture. A tourist flounced by wearing flannel pajamas. Tourists.
Our breathing labored, our faces rose red, we made excuses. That guy isn’t carrying the weight we’re carrying. That girl doesn’t have a big old backpack. They’re much younger than we are. Salt caked my temples. You can justify anything.
The river of people diminished to a stream as we veered from the main trail onto the JMT itself.
We found a large, expansive rock – perfect for break time. It was easily thirty feet long and fifteen feet wide. We busted open the packs and lay back to enjoy the view with some snacks. A family came over and stood in front of us, then also decided this was the perfect spot for a break. Not nearby, not sharing the same rock, but sharing the exact same space. The ten of them sat down around and in front of us, all matching in brand new Merrill shoes. Price tags on their matching Osprey backpacks bobbled around, proof of this morning’s purchases. Proof that the gear store in the valley made a mint on this family alone. “Excuse me,” one girl said sweetly, moving my trekking poles to the side and sitting on the bottom of my pack itself. Aidan and I looked at each other. Lemmings. Tourists.
We got to the top of Nevada Falls when it neared sunset. We were wiped out. We found a beautiful illegal campsite nearby. We knew we weren’t supposed to stay there, but we just couldn’t make it further. We set up camp and made dinner. My husband busted out two Sierra Nevada Pale Ales in cans that he’d carried all day for us as a special treat. We rejoiced and went down to the water. We rinsed out some clothes. I lay right down in the river and let the cool water slide over my body. I watched the sky fade. We did some stretches, and crawled inside the tent to go to bed. We never saw the stars come out.
I imagined a park ranger looking at us in our illegal site and scoffing, “Tourists”.