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Over the Top

(8/1/06) Photo credits: Jeremy M and Glen O

Blowouts and meltdowns and bears ... oh my. Our "Yosemite: the other side of the rainbow" backpack July 4th weekend was one incredible journey. Okay, it's a far cry from the Wizard of Oz, but you've got to admit if any two places earned rainbow ends, it would be the Grand Canyon and Yosemite.

We started the weekend off with a traditional July 4th barbeque at the beautiful June Lakes area with a car camp site right next to the lake. Views of alpine peaks and raging waterfalls dominated the landscape.

Our drive through Tioga pass the next morning was a little "rocky" as we experienced a blowout. It was actually kind of a turn-on watching everybody get down and greasy to change the tire. Isn't there a porn video that starts off this way?

I knew this was going to be a very challenging trip for us due to the late snow pack on the first half of the trail. This year was reportedly the 2nd highest snow pack in 128 years.

We reached the snow pack a few miles into the trip. It was such a strange yet delightfully twisted treat to be surrounded in a winter wonderland in the dead of a hot summer. There was barely a soul in the area (despite the swarming July 4th crowds down in the valley) and it was one of the most beautiful wildernesssssssss I've ever stepped foot on.

Andy tried to coax me into jumping into one of the ice-filled Cathedral Lakes with him and Jeremy. I really wanted to but I had to shoot the video and none of the other guys knew how to work the camera ... ;) Brrrrggghhhh.

The next section of the trip was really fun because we got to practice our navigation skills. The trail was buried under about 20 feet of snow, so it was pretty much find-your-own way. We actually picked up a couple piggybackers to help them navigate through the winter wonderland. One of them was a really sexy dad. Children were present so we tried to control ourselves.

Once we got to some snow free ground, hottie daddy and son raced on ahead of us. The snow pack picked up again as we ascended into Sunrise Lakes. When we reached Sunrise Lakes, we had a lunch break on a breathtaking overlook atop the lakes. That's when I had my mini-meltdown. You would think there was enough snow on the ground to prevent the core from reaching stage 3. Nope. As much as I loved Perfect Pace, I was burnt out. At that point, I was resolved to cancelling the rest of the season. So I cried. I didn't want to share this information so that we could enjoy the rest of the trip. I did share one of my frustrations which was with myself for not planning a more realistic trip. The trip was aggressive enough without snow, but with the snow, it was over the top. So we had to dramatically change our route and itinerary. It was time to move forward. We continued on.

We encountered quite a few challenging stream crossings. One required jumping several feet from rock to rock, and another doing a log jam routine. We reached our first wilderness camp near Cloud's Rest. It was awesome. It took a little navigation to find this cute little lake, but we found it. On the other side of the embankment was an amazing view of the valley -- quite the perfect campsite despite the deluge of mosquitos.

The next day we started to run into more folks as we ascended Cloud's Rest. Cloud's Rest was so high that we actually looked down on Half Dome. The 360 panoramic views on Cloud's Rest were spectacular.

After glazing over the top of Cloud's Rest, we hiked down to our second wilderness camp at Sunrise Creek, which was another great site, next to a fabulous creek which we jumped into and cooled off. It was so refreshing. A few of us then took off for a Half Dome ascent. The hike kicked my butt. I went a little too fast the first couple miles and never quite got my breath back. Climbing the cables was definitely an experience. It was also a crazy experience being at the top, at the point of this ledge that soared thousands of feet above the valley floor. Can you say vertigo?

After passing the question around of which body part would you let a bear run off with if you had a choice, we all tucked into our tents before sundown for an early morning descent into Yosemite Village.

That night we had visitors.

At 4:45am my alarm went off and I groggily walked to the "kitchen" to make some coffee. When I got there I noticed everything was turned over and the bear canisters were in odd distant locations. I thought hmmm... was it that deer slut that kept coming by or was it a bear? A few minutes later Byron came over and had me follow him on a tour. He pointed out the bear crap near the tent and also the trail of piss the bear left to mark its turf. Then he walked me over to the tent.

On the tent were five distinct tears left by a bear claw that just happened to be located slightly above Joe's head. Apparently, Joe felt the thud and started screaming. Bryon, in you're-just-dreaming-honey-go-back-to-sleep mode, said "You're just dreaming, go back to sleep. It wasn't a bear. Bears don't attack tents." With a sigh of relief, Joe took comfort in Bryon's words and went back to sleep. Shortly thereafter, there was a second attack. After Bryon and Joe investigated outside and saw the sharp claw tears embedded into the tent wall, Joe said, "I told you there was bear!".

Needless to say the bear attack was a source of endless entertainment for the rest of the trip. This was one trip I wish the video camera was rolling the entire time. We had enough material to compete with all the reality dramas on television. Blowouts and meltdowns and bears -- all in the magnificent backdrop of beautiful Yosemite.