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View of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome and Bridal Veil Falls.

August 22, 2000
Yosemite Valley and Final Thoughts on the John Muir Trail
A regular "nobody " in a SOME PLACE ...

0300 — Yosemite Valley

          About 0300 the camp peace is disturbed by clanging pots. Seems we have a visitor. The tell tale "hey!", "shoo!", "GET!!", "get out of here" are followed by a couple blasts from a fog horn and a flashlight show inside a tent. Two guys pop out of their tent throwing light all over the camp. I see the bear silhouette as he sneaks away down the path between the lights and us. The guys return to their tent and all is quiet once again except for the faint crackle of a single cellophane wrapper nearby.

          The hysteria repeats when the bear returns for more. I am awake now, my camera at the ready in case the bear comes our way. People stir all over camp some head for the restrooms, there are whispers and lights here and there. I keep scanning the camp. Sure enough, the big bear is still roaming around. I see him silhouetted now against the light from the restrooms. He is big as a bear box and about thirty feet away, beyond the range of my camera. Silently he glides around amongst the camp sites, sniffing here and sniffing there and then passes right by the snoring dad bivied outside his kids' tent. The show is over; I drift back to sleep.

0600-0645 — wake and break camp

          I awake early. The dad guy is up making coffee and jabbering to his kids still in the tent. There is another pots & pans commotion. I see a younger bear this time has found those same pots in camp No. 1. More useless shouts and foghorn ensue. And then, the dad in site No. 20, like some half crazed lunatic, goes flying across the campground yelling at the top of his lungs, chasing the little bear off into the woods. Proud of himself the guy returns mumbling something about hating bears. I don't have to but I do share with him his really big bear encounter earlier in the night which he slept through. More mumbles; he slept through my comment, as well. "... if a war of races should occur between the wild beasts and Lord Man, I would be tempted to sympathize with the bears." — JM

          I get up and visit the restroom. When I come out I see that little bear is now on the opposite side of the camp still snooping around checking everything for freebies. This is bear country; people are just an occasional nuisance.

0715-0845 — Breakfast Buffet

          We hike back to Curry Village to feast on the excellent breakfast buffet. We rationalize our gluttony with the idea it will be our only meal all day. It is a twelve hour bus-train-bus-train ride home. Never mind we probably consumed more calories at this one meal than we had the entire past three weeks.

0920-2230  — Bus-train-bus-train-car home

          The 0920 bus pulls into Curry Village at 0918. We load and are off (don't be late to catch this bus). Walter, our full time bus driver and part time comic makes the three hour bus ride from Yosemite to Merced very entertaining and informative complete with a great video chronicling the 1997 Valley flood. Walter pays well enough attention to his driving to get us to Merced on time; however, the southbound train is forty-five minutes late.

          The double decker train to Bakersfield is fun although the Central Valley scenery is pretty monotonous and flat relative to where we have been the last three weeks. At the end-of-the-line Bakersfield train station, we all disperse to our designated bus connections. Our bus driver gets us through LA traffic to our downtown train connection with all of ten minutes to spare. As per our plan, Irene dashes off to hold the train (right!) while I follow as fast as I can with the two packs. The last train leg of our trip departs right on time (there is no holding this train) and delivers us to Oceanside by 2115. Daughter Sheilina shuttles us home to Escondido.

 Photo montage of Greg and Irene at Happy Isles and on the train.

Photo montage of Greg and Irene at Happy Isles and on the train.

Final Thoughts

          I was apprehensive when we first talked about hiking the John Muir Trail (Irene has talked about it for years). I questioned whether I could do it and wondered if I would get anything out of doing it. It is after all, two hundred and twenty or more miles of rigorous hiking with your "house" on your back. Most days you gain and/or lose over a thousand feet of altitude. All you have to eat is nuts and berries (and Ramen). You are exposed to the great outdoors, that is, to heat and cold, dry and wet, sun and wind, dust and dirt, the hard ground ... Sure, it must be beautiful, what with all the mountains and lakes, but once you've seen one, aren't they all pretty much the same?

          Besides, can I afford to miss work? I should really be doing something constructive. I'll fall behind. There are so many chores to do around the house. Won't I be miserable and bored away from the comforts of home? I mean, how much fun can it be? No music, no computer, no television? (I won't miss the phone). I'll be out of touch with the "world." No news of who's who? Can the world turn without me for three weeks? This all seems to me, bottom line, to beg the question: why do we strive so much to be "somebody" in an artificial "no place" world, when wouldn't it be just fine to be a regular "nobody" in a SOME PLACE? How often have we heard the expression, "in the right place at the right time." Well, this may be the time and place for me.

          Irene needs adventure like most of us need air. I, on the other hand, adventure in my head and my art. I am not compelled to see the world and meet new people (are not most places and people generally the same deep down?) So my primary motivation to trek the JMT was to give Irene the gift of adventure. I can afford three-weeks away from the comforts of home and endure the elements to make her happy (although, I know none of us can really make anyone else happy. We must believe ourselves to be happy). She would eventually take this trip herself (she has left me at home before) but I knew she really wanted this for both of us. All said and done, the gift was not mine it was hers to me. I am enriched and blessed.

          Words and pictures can't tell this story. It is a love story. Love of two people, love for the ones left behind at home who you know love you from afar, love of the people you pass with the sparkle in their eye and joy in their heart, love of the land, the mountains, the rocks, the sky, love for all the little critters and fishes, the tiniest flowers and the mightiest trees, the sights, sounds, and sensations of a thriving, throbbing existence, love of life and meaning, love of being, forever, this is the story of God's Love. All this is manifest sure as can be here in the Sierra. And, it is everywhere else on the planet, even at home in the city. But, too much of the time this Love is not so obvious to us. I now have a better appreciation of "sacred" places. We imbue these temples, cathedrals, mounds of dirt with special meaning. They have become our sanctuaries from the hubbub, our only chance for clarity and attitude readjustment. Well, what if we could carry that feeling out into the everyday, everywhere we go, in whatever we do, all through our being. The Knowing, no matter who we are and what we do, we are all truly Loved and we are in a Divine place. All us "nobodies" are in this Divine place and God blesses us all whether we appreciate it or not. Life is so much better when you do appreciate that truth.

Pika Perch

Tiny pika perched in High Sierra overlooking Inyo valley

          "This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls."  — JM

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