Saturday, June 17, 2006

Flood Waters

Flood Waters
Yosemite Tramp, Chapter One

Let me start by saying, this trip was made on a bourbon-induced whim. The decision was made with the flippancy of one who's been traveling for months, and had no qualms about finding a new destination to keep oneself out on the road.

That being said, things started out without a hitch. The flight went well, we found the hotel, and took the train down to San Jose much earlier than we had thought. The plans seemed so solid, and so perfect that I was confident that it would be a perfect trip.

Hold on, let me back up for a minute. Unlike the rest of my recent travels, this one is a bit different. It's a group trip, one planned by my Friends Rob and Liza and accompanied by her friend Jen and myself. I've hiked in the backcountry with Rob and Liza, so I know their personalities in close-quarters. Having never camped with Jen before, she was a bit of a wild card. I had no idea what to expect there. As it turned out, not a problem. Going into the trip, everything else seemed pretty well planned, and I had no thoughts that it would go otherwise.

After the strange experience of visiting a local Greek festival[1], we headed for the park packed in to a van driven by Liza's dad, David. David is an interesting driver[2]. The mountain roads wound and snaked through the southern half of the park, causing some of the passengers to go green. It was a damn fun ride: tight turns, too-close passes, and wicked accelerations. Who needs Disneyland?

We only had the option of coming into the park by the southern entrance due to a massive rock slide. This disaster closed off the Highway 140 under tens of feet of rubble. The delay easily added an extra hour onto our travel time.

Here's where the first of the minor hitches in the whole plan cropped up. First off, the ranger stations all closed at 5:30. We arrived after 7 pm. This prevented us from getting our permit, which would allow us to stay in the Backpacker's camp. So, for the first night in the park: no campsite. The trip was already starting to look a little less perfect in execution.

The second hitch was the fact that the Backpacker's camp was flooded out anyway.

The water levels in the park were very high, due to record snowfalls and rainfalls this Winter and Spring. Many of the walking trails near rivers were flood over with at least eighteen inches of water. This causes some serious routing problems for people who plan to travel about by foot.

With no one wanting to ford a stream, in the dark, with packs, we made the decision to abandon any attempt. Luckily, we were able to find an unused spot in the reservation campground nearby. We only had to hope that we wouldn't run into any rangers before morning.

[1] This was a little fund-raising festival for a local Greek Orthodox church. Damn good Gyros.

[2] I.e. nuts.

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