Thursday, December 10, 2009

Yosemite Death March - Part Five

When last we left our intrepid heroes they had managed to stagger down the Mist Trail in the lowering light, as seen in the above photo, to the bottom of Vernal Fall and on to the Happy Isle shuttle stop. This is a shot along the Mist Trail that late afternoon, with Roy closest to the camera and Aida and Tina further down the trail. I, of course, was straggling behind, using the photo op to catch a brief rest. It didn't help.

Camp Curry was the place Roy and I started to go into shock. Both of us were drained to the core. We somehow ate our dinner - an unexpected challenge and probably our first clue that our bodies were shutting down for the night. We began to shiver uncontrollably and stiffen. When it came time to make the last push for the campsite we could barely move, much less walk.

At that point Tina and Aida decided to hike back to Housekeeping and get the car. There was nothing else to do. So they set out in the pitch blackness towards the camp. It was so dark they could barely see the road. Indeed, Aida said they only knew they were on it because if they drifted to the right or left they could feel the dirt of the shoulder under their feet.

Bears are a real presence in Yosemite. And they've basically lost all fear of humans. Park regulations prohibit any overnight food or drink storage in vehicles or unprotected outdoor facilities. Bears will open cars up like pop-top containers to get to the goodies inside. They even recognize that ice chests are food containers and will rip car doors and roofs off to get at them.

There is the oft-cited safety precaution in bear country that if you make enough noise they will hear you coming and back off. Bears may not be afraid of humans, but they don't necessarily like to meet them. At the same time, you don't want to startle a bear. Loud talking or even singing will be fair warning for all parties to avoid chance meetings.

As such, Aida decided singing at the top of her lungs was the best way to keep the bears away during the march back to camp. So picture this, if you will: two very tired and sweaty women marching down the middle of the road in the pitch-black night - one of them singing, "does your chewing gum loose its flavor on the bedpost overnight" very loudly and very off-key, over and over and over.

I'm glad I missed it and will be forever thankful that Tina braved the bears and Aida's singing to get the car. After what seemed like an eternity, they arrived and rescued us. I slept very long and very hard that night.

Next: the aftermath, debris photos and the Death March redux.

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